Archive for December, 2011

2011: revolutions in ideas

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of other, or strikes out against injustice, he send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

–attributed to RFK (I’m assuming Bobby Kennedy) in The Ides Of 2011 – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

Andrew Sullivan sums up the year in social change around the world, and pays a good amount of attention to the rippling revolutions in our nation and elsewhere – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya; Occupy Wall Street, the normalization of gay rights. It’s a good post; it covers a lot of ground in just over a thousand words, because it covers a very tumultuous year. And I think his invocation of Kennedy’s “million different centers of energy,” the sum of which can move great mountains, is a great characterization of the many movements for social change this past year.

Sullivan captures it thus: “This was an inspiring year for human dignity and freedom. Know hope.”


A post at Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog this morning brings up an ongoing concern of mine:

Consider a negotiation in which both sides agreed on extending the payroll tax cut: Republicans would propose extending it for a year, every Democrat in the House and Senate would vote “aye,” and President Obama would sign the legislation into law before the week is out. But that’s not the negotiation we’re having.

Rather, Democrats and Republicans are arguing over the price Democrats are willing to pay and Republicans are willing to accept in order to extend the payroll tax cut for a full year. Republicans want, among other things, the Keystone XL Pipeline and further cuts to discretionary spending. Neither of those things, you’ll notice, is “a payroll tax cut.” Democrats oppose resolving big environmental questions through a rider to a must-pass tax bill, and they’re against some of the cuts Republicans are proposing. Neither of those concerns, you’ll notice, are concerns about a payroll tax cut.

via The ‘payroll tax cut’ debate is not about the payroll tax cut – The Washington Post.

It seems like business as usual in the Congress is to attach all kinds of unrelated issues to bills in order to get them passed more quickly – a piece of legislation about health care will have amendments which related to energy use, or a bill focused on military spending will also include something about national park funding.  I’m making those examples up off the top of my head, but you get the idea.  My understanding is that this has been done in the past to move legislation through more efficiently – less floor time debating, voting, whatever.

But in our current Congress, such attachments seem to have more to do with negotiating, and not always in good faith.  The latest example – payroll tax cuts, which everyone seems to think are a good thing to extend, being tied to the Keystone pipeline – seems to have more in common with holding folks hostage in exchange for something the other party doesn’t really want to give up, and less to do with efficiency.

Does this really make sense?

I’ve often wondered – other than the efficiency angle – why in the world proposed bills are allowed to include unrelated concerns.  If you have legislation about health care, for example, should all the stuff attached to it have something to do with health care? If the bill is focused on taxes, why in the world would it include items about energy use, or abortion, or even benign topics like the naming of post offices or commemorating events? I have often thought legislation should be more cohesive, but the latest antics of the Republicans in Congress make me think it should actually be required that a bill’s components all be related to one concern. Where it might have once been a courtesy to include unrelated topics in a bill to move things forward, now it has become a hostage negotiation.

As Steve Benen and others often say, This is why we can’t have nice things.

I asked, in my previous post, why it mattered that Palestinians might be an “invented” people – I probably should have phrased that differently, asking instead whether it mattered. Here’s an answer, not in response specifically to me of course, but to that idea:

…. you know what? It’s irrelevant as a political or a moral matter. Millions of Palestinians now sincerely and deeply see themselves as Palestinians. It genuinely forms part of their identity. It’s not a pose. To tell them that they are all living under some form of mass false consciousness and that thus they have no claim to national rights is profoundly unethical. Gingrich converted to Roman Catholicism just a few years ago, in order to marry his third wife. (Insert joke here). No one would dare say that Gingrich’s newfound religion is fake because it is new or because he “invented” it himself. (They might say that it is false because the man is a massive hypocrite and fraud, but that’s not about timing: that’s about Gingrich).


In 1782, Thomas Jefferson could call Virginia his “country,” and only a few people in what were formerly the American colonies would have identified themselves nationally as Americans. So that’s invented, too. Are we happy now?

via The Washington Monthly – Ten Miles Square – Newt Gingrich is Right about the Palestinians….

So, the current favorite evil villain character in my small world states what many think is true, that folks in Palestine are an “invented people” – for example, as reported here: Newt Gingrich: Palestinians are “invented” people – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.  He really made a splash with this statement at the Repub debate the other night.

Okay. Two questions:

Why does this matter? and,

If Palestinians are “invented,” aren’t “Americans” also more of a construct than a People.

And, a third question, coming back around: Why would that matter?

Just wonderin’……………………. Newt? anyone?




Why I read Jason Linkins’ “Sunday Talking Heads” blog nearly every week (except when he has the audacity to take a weekend off, the heel!): he brings the balance to the boredom of the mediocre Sunday line up, adding a little spice to the mix. In this particular excerpt, he takes aim at bad metaphors.

Oh, remember, Michele Bachmann has been “on the tip of the spear” fighting Obamacare, and just needs voters to grab the shaft. And then more mixed metaphors! She’s the “proven candidate who’s been tested by fire in the lion’s den of Washington, DC.” Seems to me that the key feature of lions’ dens are the lions, and not fire. I’d call that the “fire room,” or something, and I’d be like, “Lions! Get up on out of there!” And the lions would be all, “Sweet Lion God! We were just in our den, denning it up, when some raving woman came in with all this fire, yelling about Obamacare.” And I’d be like, “Damn, lions! That sounds awful traumatic!” And then I’d take the lions to the Rodeo Drive of Washington and tell them to “TREAT YO SELF.” Then the lions would devour a bunch of lobbyists, and I’d probably be prosecuted for aiding and abetting that.

Anyway, Michele Bachmann has faced the fire of the lions den, the slings and arrows of the racetrack, the guillotines of the Library of Congress, and the poisoned ping pong balls of that Starbucks that just opened on K Street, the Rodeo Drive of Washington.

via TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads.


back to normal life, now.

In Less Than A Minute Alan Grayson Explains Occupy Wall Street To The 1 Percent – YouTube.

I keep talking to people about both our local Occupy movement, and the Occupations in various cities around the country. I’m curious what folks think, and have found it ranges wildly, from those who are supportive and involved, to those who are confused, to those who are dismissive, to those who are just plain pissed off.

The question I invariably get from everyone who’s not supportive or involved is this: What do they want? That question is stated haltingly by the confused, and angrily by the offended, but it’s the common theme. And this surprises me. I think that’s been obvious from the beginning what inspired OWS and the other occupations, and I tell people that in addition to whatever local issues each city’s Occupy folks have shouldered, there are two issues.

The first is two-fold in and of itself: Accountability by the financial sector for crashing the economy, and setting up safeguards to keep it from happening again.

The second is jobs, and that’s not at all unrelated to the first concern.

Simple, yes? Big issues, but in essence it boils down to some very basic concerns.

So it was that this short clip from Bill Maher’s show, featuring Alan Grayson summing up the same points in a nice, quick delivery really struck a cord with me.  Thanks, Mr. Grayson.

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