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Nov 7 18

Ode to EML, Or…

by Editor

…Some thoughts on the Midterms. Principally on Congress, and on the Democrats in Congress.

1. The biggest challenge for the Democrats is avoiding overreach. Don’t know what the answer is, but finding the right balance between necessary oversight and industrious investigation will be crucial–crucial for near-term success, and for building towards greater success in 2020.

2. One good way to avoid overreach will be through bi-partisan action. Democrats: join Senator Ben Sasse in advancing his proposals for ethics reforms. (Is Sasse’s framing on this text partisan and anti-Clinton? Yes. But is he wrong in his analysis? Not even a little.) Bring similar legislation to the floor in the House. The benefits of Sasse’s item #2 should be immediately apparent, and this approach will be better than a House investigation.

2a. If Senator Sasse has changed his mind about his proposals, in light of the shifting politics, push harder. Any Republicans backing away from supporting ethics reform will subsequently have a good campaign issue hanging over them.

3. Drop the “Abolish ICE” nonsense, because we all know–even those of us who support greatly loosing restrictions on immigration–that some agency has to protect the borders. Here’s a better idea: follow Trump’s advice and make immigration a signature issue, into which fixes to ICE (or the creation of a successor organization) can be rolled. And to be clear: I am not suggesting taking Trump’s approach to immigration, only that it is clearly an issue that resonates with many voters, so voters should see you working to address it.

4. It’s still the economy, stupid. And despite all of Trump’s hype about it, it is clear that many aspects of our economic success are superficial (as Trump himself used to call out in the campaign, e.g., on the unemployment numbers) and paper thin. You have the power of the purse, so use it.

5. The abysmal Chris Christie did say one right thing on ABC’s News coverage on Tuesday night: this election also reminded everyone that the quality of the candidate still matters. A lot of cash and some hot button issues won’t help candidates who just aren’t appealing.

5a. With that in mind, Democrats: rethink and redo your leadership, top to bottom, House and Senate. And use that process to send some clear signals to potential spoilers for 2020 (looking at you, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders). One thing Republicans did right a few years ago? They ditched a formal seniority plan in favor of looking at other leadership qualities. Is it perfect? No. But it has ensured better transitions in leadership that have helped the GOP stay more nimble.


Thanks, EML (and you know who you are) for the kick in the ass.

Jul 27 16

Bernie & Ralph & Jesus

by Editor

I claim no great moral compass in saying, simply: I was wrong. At the time of the 2000 election, Gore v. Bush, I was wrong to suggest that the better vote was a protest vote for Ralph Nader.

It isn’t that I feel as though my vote, or my blog posts, cost Gore the election. Living in NYC, my vote for Nader had little effect on the state outcome in favor of Gore-Lieberman. And my blog’s impact? Oh, come on.

But it is impossible to ignore that history in light of the present situation of Clinton v. Trump. With so many Bernie Sanders supporters declaring they will vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or someone other than Clinton, the issue is relevant all over again.

If you want to vote for Stein or some alternative to the Clinton-Kaine ticket, then let’s just be clear about three things.

  1. A vote for someone other than Clinton is unambiguously a vote for Trump. If Trump wins, you will bear some responsibility, the same way that many others–including me–bear some responsibility for allowing Bush-Cheney to win. Do we need to recount those eight terrible years? I’d rather not.
  2. If your justification is that you supported Bernie–you’re a BernieBro, a BernieCrat, a Bernie-whatever–then you should ask yourself about what it is you really believe in, and how rational it is. When was the last time you believed that one human had all right the answers? Is Bernie the Messiah? Because if the answer to that second question is yes, then you have to wonder how he couldn’t overcome opposition from mere voters. And if the answer is no, well…
  3. You many not use the “I support a Third Party” defense. Because you didn’t; you supported an independent who decided to run as a capital-D Democrat. Because the history of third parties in the USA is very clear (Perot; Nader). And because Dan Savage is right.

Bernie Sanders did the right and honorable thing by endorsing Hillary Clinton, knowing that Clinton-Kaine represents a better political future for this country than any of the other options.  If the Sanders campaign has brought out in you a dedication to fix the political system–whether in the Democratic party or through a ground-up third party–great. You can do that work with Hillary Clinton as president, and live to fight again in 2020. But in the meantime…let’s not make the Nader mistake again.

Apr 9 16

NYSIF (Problems of Privilege)

by Editor

If you employ a regular babysitter, you are supposed to report their income and pay a portion of their taxes, or else. (Remember “Nannygate“?) It’s expensive but, hey, business opportunity! offers to ease the way, and if you can afford their services, they do just that. (Unpaid endorsement: they are great to work with.)

In New York State, however, you are also required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. And this is where both the bureaucracy and the law are what is politely known as a fucking mess. Not only do you have to have insurance or face stiff penalties…you then have to endure an endless stream of paperwork and reports designed for businesses with hundreds of employees, not a single household worker.

I just received the renewal for another year of coverage through the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF). And I once again find myself frustrated by the insanity of the process and the opacity of NYSIF. Which reminds me of a letter I sent to the Fund’s Executive Director and CEO, Eric Madoff, in 2014. It still says it all.

Look, I think worker’s compensation insurance is generally a social good. I support the idea of these social safety nets, and I pay my “nanny taxes” because I believe in these systems–in the abstract. But the practical application of them is the sort of thing that drives people to the cause of smaller government.

Oh, and the renewal price? $780. That’s a 27% rate increase in just two years. What’s the current rate of inflation in the U.S.? Never mind, don’t answer that.


P.S. Ron Lieber’s 2009 New York Times article on the subject remains relevant and worth reading.

Oct 13 13

Of Confederate Flags And Other Bullshit

by Editor

A rally on the National Mall, led by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, was intended to show that Tea Party activists — supporters of the House Republicans who forced the shutdown over their opposition to the new health care law — were in no mood to give in. Some waved Confederate flags and called for President Obama to be impeached.

Senate Leaders Talk but Fail to Reach Deal on Shutdown,” Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times, October 14, 2013

Is it OK for Southerners to carry a Confederate flag at a rally of like-minded people, the same way it’s OK for African-Americans (but only African-Americans) to call each “nigger”? I don’t think I approve of either of these things.

Oh, sure. The presence of the Confederate flag at this rally on the National Mall? Just a sign of “states’ rights.” No doubt! The linkage between the Confederate flags and calls for impeachment proceedings against President Obama? Surely just a reflection of these people’s anger that the Affordable Care Act imposes actual healthcare on millions of people without it.

If you believe all this, I have a bridge to sell you; please do get in touch.

The Affordable Care Act was deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. Note that no one is calling for five Justices to be impeached. After all, this is the same court that has loosened gun regulations, loosened rules on money in politics, and transmogrified incorporated businesses into individuals for the purposes of Constitutional rights. Was their decision about “Obamacare” just an aberration?

I digress. Here’s the thing: that flag–the Confederate flag–has connotations as clear as a swastika. Just like the symbol of the Nazis also embodied the German’s desire to get out from under the thumb of repressive post-World War I sanctions, and to re-arm and re-establish themselves as a true, powerful, independent European country … the connection to virulent anti-Semitism and the holocaust is hard to escape. In the same way yes, sure, the Confederate flag represents an era of very specific politics. And that flag also represents a war fought over the enslavement of millions of people and (following the Civil War) a century long, multi-generational period of sustained and often violent discrimination.

It is pathetic that people like Senator Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin do not denounce such activities. To do so would actually elevate the Tea Party and make clear that theirs is a movement not driven by racism–by a deep-seated racist hatred of an African-American president. But alas they cannot and do not repudiate such things, either because they, too, share those sentiments, or because they value too much the support of such people. Equally pathetic is our national news media which reports such details in passing, but fails–out of fear?–to delve too deeply into the underlying issues.

I’m no fan of President Obama. I admire his oratory, but frown on much of his politics, from the vast limitations of the Affordable Care Act to the vast increases he has sustained in our national “security” infrastructure. Still, I am not afraid to call out racism when I see it. And these people–people marching on the National Mall, demanding the president’s impeachment and waving the Confederate flag? These people are racists, and their motivations are of the most base variety. We must resist this behavior and the intellectually impoverished faux-ideology behind it.