Jan 242017
 

It’s here, folks. Everything we dreaded.

Today, the contemptible excuse we have for a President froze all EPA contracts and issued a blanket media ban on communication by federal scientists with the public. It’s not hard to see why: our environmental protections are being dismantled wholesale. 

Don’t kid yourself. This is not a drill, nor a false alarm, nor a scare. This is deadly serious.

Congress is lining up the legal framework for privatizing or divesting to states our federal lands, too.

The human horror show in the Oval Office has one very consistent personality trait: if you tell him he can’t do something, he will do it. That means that all those “third rail” programs, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., are very much on the chopping block. He will take particular delight in destroying them.

So what does this mean to us activists? What on Earth can we do?

I would suggest that we are in a war. And we are the underdogs—the insurgents—in that war. We are not going to save everything. We’re going to lose a lot, and the best outcome we can hope for is that out of the rubble left behind when the war is over, a more sensible and less meanspirited nation will arise.

There can be no spectators now. And for many of those who have been active, a radical change in priorities is required: a principle known as triage.

Triage means choosing which patients to treat based not on how badly in need they are, but on how likely they are to be saved, and how important to the war effort they are. It is an ugly business. It cuts against the grain of our sense of equality and fairness to choose that some will get medicine and others will not, that some will be rushed into surgery and others will not. 

Yet it must be done. Noble sentiment has no place in the prosecution of a war. And I repeat: make no mistake about it, this is a war.

For local activists, I think this can be a particularly challenging time, because frankly, the issues many of us have been working on pale in comparison to the stakes of the issues now in play in our nation. And I am here to say that, ugly as it may be, now is the time for those of us with the inclination and the skills and the commitment to reassess our political priorities.

Local fights over quality of life issues aren’t very high priority in the triage of 2017. I’m sorry, but they just aren’t. If you’re battling fiercely over something that boils down to whether you will experience more traffic and noise at your home or potential undesirables in your neighborhood, I urge you to take a long look in the mirror and ask whether that’s really what needs fighting over right now. You’re an activist, and that is a precious resource; surely, you can apply yourself to the issues that are truly life-and-death for our citizenry and our environment, rather than what you’re doing now?

Please think about it.

These are not normal times.

If we don’t want to lose everything, we must be willing to let the small stuff go.

At publication, the Dragon was DEADLY SERIOUS

Dec 282014
 

It’s pretty evident by now that this President isn’t afraid of the so-called third rail. In fact, he has shown a willingness to contradict the prevailing wisdom on issue after issue: DADT, tax increases on the wealthy, financial reform, health care, immigration, regulating carbon emissions from power plants, Israel, Cuba, and many other do-not-touch political quagmires which have been assiduously avoided by his predecessors.

As he is now clearly looking at his last two years as an opportunity to make major changes to address entrenched problems, I have one to add to the list.

Today, the President declared the war in Afghanistan over. There is a Status of Forces Agreement and we’ll leave behind some trainers and counterterrorism people, but that will be a tiny fraction of the 140,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan when he took office.

In 2011, similarly, he drew the Iraq war to a close. Of course, Iraq has since proven unable to govern itself or to defend itself against ISIL, but that’s another story. The boots-on-the-ground war there—Bush’s shame—was finally dispensed with.

My hope is this: that before leaving office, President Obama will declare the war for which the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Miltary Force provided legal authority has been completed. I hope he will specify that the people who are conspiring against us through the lens of Islamic extremism are not the same people, nor the same organizations called out in the AUMF, and that the AUMF is therefore now null and void.

The 2001 AUMF has been used as a blank authorization for military action anywhere in the world so long as it can be tied to “Al Queda or its affiliates”, but that language does not appear in the legislation itself. It would be a strong move on the part of the President to rein in the dangerous precedent that the Presidency may use 9/11 as a pretext for a broad range of future military actions.

Today, the Dragon is CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

Aug 202014
 

Lately, it kinda feels as though the wheels are coming off the bus, doesn’t it?

Psychopaths openly voicing deranged and bigoted nonsense are a growing voting constituency, have hijacked one of our political parties, and are fighting madly against such evils as equality and health care and contraception, fer chrissakes.

Maniacs are murdering their way across swathes of the Middle East…including one such entity which is a major beneficiary of US taxpayer support. Cops are out of control and killing people–especially black and brown people–on a whim. A man who millions knew as fundamentally decent and warm-hearted and generous kills himself, and voices from said aforementioned crowd of psychopaths stand up and cheer.

Oh, and one of the most lethal diseases ever known to humanity is loose in West Africa, where it doesn’t make the front page most of the time because…well, you know…Africa.

And then there’s the carbon thing. Enjoying the hottest summer on record, are we?

It’s all pretty dispiriting. Even though great progress has been made on some fronts in recent years–and overall violence in the world is down considerably from, say, a century ago–the past couple of months have made reading the news something you have to psych yourself up for. And then go take a shower, or wash your eyeballs with bleach, or something.

It’s outrageous. It’s all simply outrageous.

And I think that’s why outrage is exactly the wrong response right now. The bad actors in most of this mess are the ones who specialize in outrage. They’re the Anger Kids, and we have to be something else.

It’s hard, I know, to see the fear behind the awful behavior, and find empathy for it. Doesn’t mean we should be any less firm about opposing the behavior, but for pity’s sake let’s turn the heat down rather than up, shall we?

Somehow?

At publication, the Dragon was APPALLED

Oct 082013
 

Republicans, as has been widely recognized, have painted themselves into a corner on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.

They’re not going to get any of what they’re demanding. Instead, they’re going to be humiliated after having been revealed as incompetent fanatics. A Continuing Resolution will be approved, the debt ceiling will be raised, and—because, thankfully, even in what has become the Party of Crazy-Stupid there are still enough marginally reality-tethered people to understand that crashing the world economy might be a wee bit bad—the hostage (meaning, all of us, at a global scale) will not be shot.

The result will be the worst possible outcome for them: the Republican Party as a whole has crashed in the polls, and there is now a legitimate possibility that they could lose the House instead of sewing up both houses of Congress as they had hoped. That’s in the swing districts. In the safe ones, members of the Evil Semi-Lunatic Caucus risk primary challenges from the Batshit Caucus, meaning we could see more of this down the road if they do retain the House.

I said this was coming ‘way back, and I am certainly enjoying it now that it is here, despite the fact that I, like everyone else, happen to be sitting atop the powder keg over which these idiots are waving matches.

Today, though, I just want to make one brief observation, which is about True Believers and effectiveness:

They do not go together in the slightest.

Zealotry is about insistence on How The World Should Be. Typically, it is built on axioms about How The World Is. These are generally simplistic, absolutist, and without nuance. If you’re on the right, it’s Jesus the Mean-Spirited Fascist, and Obama the Kenyan Muslim Antichrist, and sociamalism causing Teh Gay and feminazism and science and other Bad Things, and the War on Christmas. Oh, and Tax Cuts Create Wonderland.

When you believe stuff like that, you are incredibly hampered in your ability to get anything done. No effective path—even one that moves things in the direction of your goals—can be charted that doesn’t involve some aspect of soft-pedaling, deferring, or deprioritizing some of your agenda in order to advance some other part of it.

Which is why we have the spectacle of the House sending a ransom note to the White House consisting of a demand that basically every hard-right wet dream that was repudiated by voters in the last Presidential election and could not possibly make its way through Congress be surrendered  before the GOP will agree to fund the government.

Because, to hell with the legislative process in the Constitution, right? What we want is The Right Thing, To Be Had By Any Means Necessary.

It’s a losing strategy, and they’re going to rue the day they decided to let Ted Cruz use them as tools for his imaginary ascent.

My point, though, isn’t so much about that as it is about the zealotry. The noisiest grief I get from friends on the left (supposedly) is rooted in exactly the same kind of black-and-white oversimplification and fanaticism. If it wasn’t single payer health care, it was Obama and the Democrats being corporate stooges and selling out to the insurance industry. If it involved the possibility of killing anybody, it was off the table as a military/diplomacy strategy…even though that’s exactly what it takes to force an enemy to stand down.

You’ve heard something like this from me before, but I’ll say it again: principles are easy. Principles, in fact, are like opinions, which are like…

Well, in any case, everybody has them, of one sort or another.

The hard part is in making something happen in reality that conforms to some degree to your principles. And very frequently, that happens at the cost of something dear.

That’s why great progressive leaders are often criticized in some quarters because of the deals they had to make in order to achieve the strides they did. FDR’s salary cap on Social Security taxation, for example. Or Gandhi’s agreement to allow India to be partitioned in order for both of the resulting parts of it to be independent. Or Brower’s deal on Glen Canyon Dam.

Those actions, painful as they are to examine, weren’t outliers or aberrations. They were the cost of progress.

You cannot solve problems if you start from the standpoint of insisting on only one acceptable outcome and one acceptable path to get there.

100% or nothing really just means “nothing” here on Planet Earth. “No compromise!” is the motto of someone throwing himself into the wood chipper of history. It ain’t heroic. It’s just dumb. It doesn’t work.

The nutjobs holding the world hostage right now won’t learn the lesson even as they go over the cliff of their own making, because they are mentally ill.

But the lesson holds both for right and left: it isn’t True Believers that make things happen in the world. It’s problem-solvers with values, heart, and creative flexibility.

At publication, the Dragon was STUFFED WITH POPCORN