Tag: Republicans

For the First Time Ever, I’m a Single-Issue Voter. You Should Be, Too!

I’m about to cast a ballot in my 14th Presidential election. And at the ripe old age of 70, I’m breaking two long-held traditions for voting in my family and in my life. The two changes are closely related.

First, as you know if you read this blog regularly, I’m bolting the Democratic Party this year. This will mark only the second time in my life I’ve backed a candidate from a party other than the Democratic Party for President, but this time around I’m backing the Green Party candidate. I anticipate it will be Jill Stein but I am confident of one thing: whoever the Green is, he or she will be right on the only issue I care about this year.

And second, as you probably deduced, I’m a single-issue candidate. The march toward planetary collapse is the only issue worth considering or voting on in 2016. Because if a candidate who is anything less than fully committed to and engaged in reversing that march is elected and if U.S. politics continue with more of the same when it comes to minimizing the effects of and reversing where possible the disastrous consequences of, global climate change, there won’t be a planet, let alone a United States, worth fighting over in 50 years or less.

No one who has even been whispered as a possible candidate for either of the major parties — with the solitary exception of Bernie Sanders and he’s not a real Democrat and therefore has no chance of getting the party’s nomination — has a formal position or platform plank on the subject that is anything more than lip service.

Green-Party-Values-LogoThe Green Party has been front and center on this issue for years. It has a strong, massive and detailed plank in its current platform on Ecological Sustainability of which Climate Change is the primary consideration. The platform has only five major planks and this is one of them.

In its recitation of the party’s 10 key values, here’s what it has to say about “Ecological Wisdom”:

Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature.  We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.

It is my sincere belief that only by forcing the “two” major parties to at least have an honest debate on this central and critical issue can the 2016 Presidential election mean anything to future generations. The question we will ask as we choose our next national leader is whether we actually care how we leave the planet for our children and our grandchildren. I have both and I must say I’m ashamed to leave them the mess we’ve created. It may well lead to the extinction of the human race or, at the very least, to a paring back to a sparsely populated, technology-primitive, factionated world of 200 or 300 or more years ago, with a long path to rebuilding.

From now until the end of the 2016 election cycle, I am committed to frequent updates of this blog focused only on the issue of a sustainable environment and the politics attendant to that issue.

I invite you to join me and to get your friends and neighbors and colleagues to join you. Corporate America along with their Corporatist Republicrats and Dempublicans are arrayed against us. They have the money. But we have Wisdom, Spirit and Voice with us.

The stakes could literally not be higher.

Let’s march!

Key to Democratic Party Future: Learn to Capitalize on GOP Blunders and Stupidity

The Democratic Party has for many decades — since the 1930’s in fact — has apparently been unable to respond aggressively and clearly to repeated horrific governance decisions made by the Republican Party. I don’t know if the Democrats are afraid of not playing nice and thereby offending someone who might be not quite a Republican or if they’re just inept. Probably some of both.

But a footnote to an insightful piece appearing today on Huffington Post brought the problem into stark relief for me. The article was about Fox’s George Will’s “firing offense” uttered during an interview about the economic policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930’s. During the interview, Will, a right-wing polemicist whose primary claim to fame is a good vocabulary, made this comment about the way the depression was handled and the cause of a recession that took place for 9 months during the depression:

There is a serious argument to be made that Roosevelt stopped too soon. Far from being bold, he wasn’t bold enough, because the recession within the depression that came along in 1937 came because they prematurely declared victory.

In other words, in the context of both the interview and the history he was reviewing, Will suggested that a good argument could be made that cutting government spending (stimulus) too soon caused the recession and prolonged the Depression.

This kind of thinking, as the article points out, is right-wing heresy. And while Will still has his job at Fox, it’s safe to bet that high-level conversations about his future with the network are being conducted as you read this.

HuffPo columnist Paul Abrams placed a footnote at the point in the text when he was discussing Will’s heretical comment. Here’s the footnote itself:

Note how nothing has changed on the Right. Despite their opposing all of FDR’s spending in the first place, despite calling for even more precipitous cuts in spending that would have made everything even worse, they had no embarrassment, no twinge of intellectual dishonesty, calling it the Roosevelt Recession. Today, they [falsely] accuse Obama of cutting Medicare, whereas they would destroy it, forever. The difference is today’s Democrats are so inept, they cannot make hay of it, whereas FDR did. (Emphasis added)

The Democrats, if they are to regain any sort of legislative control nationally or in the states, must call out Republicans when they make outlandishly ridiculous, historically inaccurate, ignorant comments such as can be heard and read on all of the mainstream and progressive news media in great numbers every day. As distasteful as I find it, name-calling may well need to become the Order of the Day.

Climate change deniers’ comments are in fact unsupported by the science, self-serving and incomplete, but those high-falutin’ judgments don’t win voters. Let’s call them what they are: dangerous, selfish, ignorant, and flat-out wrong. The people who espouse such views are not well-meaning, misguided individuals, they are selfish, narrow-minded bigots interested only in political pandering. They either know they’re wrong in which case they are immoral pursuers of power at any cost, or they don’t realize they’re wrong in which case they ought not be qualified to hold public office. There is no sense in which this subject comes down to different ways of accomplishing the same goal. The planet is in danger. The human race really could become extinct. And as my favorite video on this subject argues, even if 97% of scientists are wrong, fixing the problem is less expensive than not fixing it in any case.

Democrats need to be bold, to call foul when confronted with willful ignorance or political pandering. To use clear, unambiguous language to call out the opposition and force them to defend their positions with facts and science, not ancient holy books and centuries-old prejudices.

I don’t expect this to happen. I expect the Democrats to continue to try to out-Republican the Republicans, to tread lightly when describing their opponents despite the ugly language used against them, to turn the other cheek and to cede control to the Party of No. That’s one of many reasons why I’m a Green.

Let’s Hear it for the ‘Nones’!

Good piece on HuffPo today about the possibility that both Democrats and Republicans could make some real gains in upcoming elections by pitching a values message to those people in the voting public who characterize themselves religiously as “none”. (Which leads to an interesting play on words when we refer to them collectively as “nones”.) 🙂

The nones, of which I am a dues-paying member (well, I would be if we had dues), are a substantial demographic, accounting for 20-33% of the electorate depending how you define them and whether you look at the younger end of the age range or the totality of it. Having just turned 70, I’m at the upper, upper end of that particular scale.

We are not motivated by party labels or affiliation or history (thus my 2014 switch from a lifelong Democrat to a Green) but rather by the understanding that it may be possible but is a bad idea to divorce politics from personal values. We understand budgets are moral documents, that how you choose to deal with global climate change and income inequality and the death penalty will be based not on your political label, no matter how much you protest that it will be, but on your personal values. Note, this is not a discussion about “family values”, whatever that turns out to mean to any one individual. Even “family values” are held by individuals and are thus individual in nature.

It happens that most of us nones are also progressives. That is due, at least in part, to the fact that we have chosen to investigate for ourselves the religious teachings and traditions of our parents and grandparents and sometimes found them wanting. It is also in part due to the fact that change is anathema to conservatives while it is embraced by progressives. But there are some positions that conservatives take with which we nones can and often do align. Those members of the conservative movement such as Rand Paul, e.g., who dislike the idea that America should go to war at the drop of a hat and become the world’s policeman, are people with whom we can identify, at least on that one issue.

But many nones would embrace a more conservative political label if it were more viable today. If, that is, the Republican Party hadn’t become the TEApublican Party and many (most?) of its prominent elected officials lost their moral compass in a sea of re-election fears. In fact, it would not surprise me if by tapping into the nones who are inclined to adopt some key conservative (but still rational) policies, the GOP could regain its status as a legitimate and badly needed alternative party.

Progressives who view some of the extremist views of the Democratic Party as a bit too big a reach might also help reign in some of its policies to be more accountable on the basis of meaningful personal values.

There is less difference every election between mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats. This is in part what has created the right-wing backlash that takes the form of the Tea Party (a “party” that doesn’t actually exist, isn’t on any ballots, has no stated candidates and takes no independent positions). And it is what has given rise to an increasingly viable splinter party group on the Left including the Greens and the Socialists.

To us nones, what really matters isn’t the detail of every policy you stand for, every vote you make. It’s the fundamental principles and values by which you live. As we begin to flex our spiritual-political muscles in coming months and years, we will become a force to be reckoned with. And that will mark the time when America begins to return to some sense of civility and respectability and governance, a situation in which a viable two (or multi-) party system is vital.

I Clearly Don’t Get It With Netanyahu

If the United States and Israel had Facebook pages, the status of their relationship would certainly be, “It’s complicated.”

Is it ever!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is engaged in what appears to be a tough re-election fight coming up next month, has committed the diplomatic equivalent of a turd in a punch bowl. He accepted an ill-conceived and hugely insulting (to the Administration and standard diplomatic protocols) invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress. The invitation was extended by John Boehner and his House Republicans rather than the usual and expected State Department.

As haughty as it sounds (diplomacy often does), this kind of thing just isn’t done. Not in civil society. But then, civil society is something about which the current crop of conservatives in power in the GOP continually demonstrate they neither understand nor care about. So I guess I sort of understand their invitation to Netanyahu, an increasingly isolated ruler in his own country.

What I really don’t understand is his acceptance of the invitation. I guess there’s some domestic political edge that he perceives but he risks alienating his main protector and big brother without whom the Israeli state would likely not last a year, at least without launching nuclear missiles.

Secretary of State John Kerry has openly questioned Netanyahu’s judgment. He and VP Joe Biden have deliberately (it seems) planned to be out of the country while the Israeli chief is in the U.S. for his undiplomatic mission. President Obama has made it clear he won’t meet privately with Netanyahu. Senate Democrats declined an invitation to meet separately with him. A growing number of Democrats plan to boycott his speech to the joint session. It’s almost as if he was a saber-rattling warmongering outcast of a leader. Which increasingly seems to be his desired public perception.

Netanyahu certainly knows he won’t suffer any loss of support among American Jews who have always stood by Israel through thick or thin, regardless of how much of a rogue state they’ve been and completely irrespective of international sanctions and condemnation, including by the United Nations. Many of them will probably see this latest act of poor manners to be some sort of statement of courage and independence.

But my guess is that the Israeli leader may be underestimating the negative impact his ill-considered decision — to make Americans draw partisan lines in their overall support of his nation — will have on future support for his tiny country. At some point in the future, the realpolitik of the Middle East will strike some American president and his team as being skewed far too much in Israel’s favor. If and when that day comes, Israel will be forced to concede that Netanyahu’s planned unofficial U.S. visit was the beginning date for the deterioration of relations that will force Israel to play a more sane and cooperative role in world affairs.

I hope but do not expect that Netanyahu will yet have a change of heart and cancel this very bad plan.

The Next Decade of Titanic Constitutional Power Struggle in America

It seems to me that the following broad outlines of the American political scene are clearly visible and likely to remain in place for at least 10 years:

  • The Republican Party, dominated by its ultra-conservative wing, will continue to hold majority positions in both Houses of Congress.
  • The Democratic Party, dominated by its centrist wing and largely ignoring its progressive base, will continue to carry the White House.
  • The Federal Government will, as a consequence of the above two conclusions, continue to malfunction, staggering along with very little actual governance, which is precisely in accord with the agenda of the conservative movement broadly.

Tactically, if the Progressive Movement in this country hopes to regain any of its former power and influence to carry out policies with which broad swaths of the population concur when polled on the issues themselves outside the context and baggage of labels, it must immediately shift its emphasis away from attempting to regain control of the Congress and toward regaining control of state governments. Only by doing so will the Democratic Party and its coalition partners (see below) be in a position to take advantage of the 2020 Census. That Census, reflecting as it inevitably must the broad shifts in demographics taking place in this country and which further enhance the governability of the Progressive Movement, will determine the makeup of Congress from 2022 and beyond.

Near-Term ‘Governance’

During the next 8-10 years, a struggle of increasingly titanic proportions will be waged between the conservatives and the progressives. Unlike previous such struggles, the center will not hold as it continues to be diminished in economic and political power by virtue of its own fatigue with a stagnant holding action that passes for governance. In stark terms, the Presidency will seek to take on more and more authority via Executive Orders and other direct execution tactics while Congress attempts to assert its power by using the purse strings and veto overrides to impose legislatively what the Framers intended to be done by the Executive.

That will be the underlying theme of politics in America in the next 10 years.

liberals-vs-conservativesAs a result, the political process in this nation will continue to fragment. The two-party system cannot hold. The centuries-old idea of Republicans and Democrats will realign into Conservative and Progressive. I predict a viable three- or four-party system with coalition governments reminiscent of the Europe of the last century.

The Tea Party will either take over the Republican Party completely or splinter off into an alternative conservative power. On the Left, the Democrats will either expand their tent to embrace Greens, Working Families Party members, and Socialists, or those parties will create their own leftist party. I see this as inevitable. If this shift happens, as I believe it will, before the 2020 Census, then party realignment will completely reshape the governing landscape within four years after that Census.

The two-party system is an anachronism. It is not possible — if indeed it ever was — to define the spectrum of American political opinion into two camps. The current system will crack under the strain of a global problem set that neither wing of the political parties can solve without aligning with elements of the other.

The Longer View

Eventually, this country must shift its energy and its governance from “me” to “we”, from a completely selfish form of capitalism to a regulated and managed form of social democracy with heavily modified capitalism. Short of that, America will either fall of its own weight as the needs of the less fortunate overburden the hoarded means of production or open insurrection — not necessarily but possibly violent — will topple its systems and chaos will rule for some period of time before an adjustment takes place. I do not see any other alternative. The system is too fundamentally broken.

The likelihood of the peaceful insurrection — a more or less sudden transformation — increases to the exact extent that leaders emerge who govern with compassion, vision, a clear understanding of the vital necessity of the Middle Class, and the ability and willingness to be bold in implementing extensive and fundamental change in the underlying structure of things. And the likelihood of that happening is directly connected to the degree to which progressive social policies can be brought to bear to solve the immense global problems of poverty, climate change, sectarian warfare and violence. Note that these are all problems that the conservative elements in our society do not value as serious problems worth solving. Indeed, they either argue for their non-existence, claim they are overstated or explicitly support them for selfish economic reasons.

Nothing less than a spiritually based evolution of consciousness provides any hope for humanity here. The good news is that there are many indications that such a transformational tipping point could well be in the offing. It is incumbent on each of us who would prefer that we all rise together to greatness to take an active role in this process.

 

More Conservative Anti-Science Poppycock

The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed a bill that would ban subject-matter experts from advising the EPA on regulations while opening the door to such advice from industry representatives with no specific expertise and a clear political, anti-regulatory agenda.

You can’t make up this kind of stuff.

As reported by Lindsay Abrams at Salon.com, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. She went on to explain:

In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest.

Or, as Union of Concerned Scientists Director Andrew A. Rosenberg said in an editorial for RollCall:

“In other words, academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, along with two others designed to interfere with the EPA’s work. One of those bills would ban what the GOP calls “secret science” by which it means science that hasn’t undergone testing beyond that required by accepted scientific practices. The other would put a rush on permit applications for permits by bypassing provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The trio, wrote Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill, represents “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

Obama Must Either Veto Keystone XL Or Look the Fool on the World Stage

Keystone XL Pipeline MapComing fresh off a stunning announcement of a new agreement on global climate change with China, President Obama was almost immediately faced with the biggest environmental bugaboo of his Presidency: the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The House passed a bill approving the environmental catastrophe that would make it more difficult for the United States to meet the obligations it just made in the deal with the Chinese. The bill now goes to the Senate where passage is unlikely in this lame-duck session.

If the bill does get through the Senate — now or next session — President Obama should not wait more than 10 seconds before vetoing it. It is bad policy from every angle. It will create relatively few new jobs, most of which will be temporary. It raises the possibility of a horrendous leak along a huge swath of America’s mid-section. And it results in our facilitating bringing to the surface a huge amount of oil that all scientific thought insists ought to stay in the ground.

Should the President decide against all of those reasons to sign the bill (perhaps in a misguided attempt to help Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in her Louisiana seat runoff), he will lose significant face and credibility with the nations of the world who are more primed than ever to respond in a helpful way to global climate change in the light of the US-China deal. That deal, whatever its weaknesses, is a huge political deal internationally because it removes the biggest excuse other nations have had for not engaging the issue.

Here’s hoping that President Obama puts the fate of humanity ahead of petty politics and does The Right Thing here.

 

Sorry, Mr. McConnell, I Don’t Believe You

I was listening to NPR’s post-election coverage this morning. I didn’t catch Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky) press conference but I was staggered by some of the commentary I heard.

I don’t know what makes some people think that the new Congress is going to work in a bipartisan way with Obama just because their new Majority Leader makes comments that  sound somewhat conciliatory. In my opinion, this President has been way too willing to yield his positions on crucial issues in an effort to seek what he calls compromise with an opposition party that has shown only hostility. I don’t see anything in the new makeup of the Senate or in the Republicans’ victory yesterday that suggests that they will shift further in the direction of being more cooperative and supportive; in fact, I see far more of the opposite.

Late Addition: David Corn agrees with me.

Sen. McConnell spoke in somewhat flattering terms about President Obama a couple of times during his post-election speech, but I don’t believe a word of it. It’s not that I think he is disingenuous; rather, I think he is trying to play to two bases at the same time. And I don’t think he’s very good at speaking to either clearly.

I think the American public tried to send two messages yesterday, if in fact there is a monolithic “they” that attempted to send a message at all.

First, I think they wanted to send the message that it’s time for government to start working again. It’s not even clear to me that they have any idea what that means any more or how that looks, but they’re sick of the constipation.

The second message they  sent, I think, is that they wanted to shift fiscal and operational control to the right. I am astonished by that, but I can’t read the landslide Republican victory any other way from this vantage point. Even though in states where Progressive issues like minimum wage and drug law reform were on the ballot they won, the overall message was, “We like the conservatives better.”

Of Course the Democrats-Lite Lost

Huffington Post's Headline in the Aftermath of Tuesday's Crushing Democratic Defeat

Huffington Post’s Headline in the Aftermath of Tuesday’s Crushing Democratic Defeat

In the aftermath of yesterday’s Democratic Party bloodbath at all levels of government, one White House aide summed up best why the party in power during a perceived economic uptick, however slight, managed such a crushing defeat. “We gave Dems no reason to run,” said an adviser to President Barack Obama. “We ran as Dems-lite,” according to the Huffington Post analysis from Sam Stein and Ryan Grim.

Exactly.

There were dozens, perhaps hundreds of tactical mistakes from local Congressional races to the Senate. The distrust of the Obama team for the Senate’s Democratic leadership became palpable (and will be a much bigger influence on the next two years than anyone yet sees). Americans’ ability to see beyond the watery statistics to the real economy was too keen and drastically underestimated. There were ten times as many reasons, explanations and excuses for what happened as there were offices up for grabs.

At the end of the day, we got the kind of government we wanted…and deserved.

Low voter turnout, an historic fact of midterm elections, was clearly a major factor. But we often treat low voter turnout as a separate cause of electoral defeat when it is actually the barometer of effects. As the Obama aide said in the HuffPo piece, the party gave Democrats no reason to turn out.

I don’t see a remedy in sight. Not for the rest of my lifetime. And that’s a tragedy. I’m not using hyperbole here; it matters only a little which of the major political parties is in charge any more. But on some issues, it does matter a little. And the overriding issue of the day in this world we’ve created is climate change. With Sen. James Inhofe in charge of a key Senate committee and science deniers all over Congress, it is all but a guarantee that the next two years will see no real progress on that front. We don’t have two years to waste. The American people last night all but sealed the fate of humanity. Barring a massive awakening by the grass roots all over the globe, the clock’s ticking is now virtually unstoppable. Within 100 years, humanity’s slide to extinction will almost certainly be a sure thing. And when that realization dawns, historians will look back on the midterms of 2014 as a key turning point in the defeat of humanity.

And it will be both major parties’ fault.

Fantastic Interview with Jon Stewart

I highly recommend you take the time to read this excellent New York Magazine interview with news comic Jon Stewart. It’s interview at its best with a guy who has a very clear idea who he is and what he’s doing and why it’s important for now.

My favorite pull quote:

So am I disappointed in Obama, am I disappointed in the Congress? Honestly, I think I’m just in shock. I think I’m a little stunned that we can’t do better than this, because I know we can. I’m a little stunned that Republicans continue to, if it’s not their ball, refuse to play. I’m a little stunned that Democrats, given their opportunities, haven’t been able to be more effective.

That is so reflective, well-stated that I wish I’d said that.

Stewart’s an icon who refuses to rest on his laurels.