Oct 082013
 
Goposaur_xlg

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

Nov 082012
 

“We need Latinos”.

That’s the only consensus conclusion being drawn by Republican talking heads after watching their candidates walloped on Tuesday. Seeing the Latino vote climbing steadily, GOPers today all seem to be nodding soberly and agreeing that, yep, they need them some Latinos.

(Well, okay, except for Viagra Rush and Bill-O the Clown. Those guys are just fulminating about the end of “traditional America”, apparently simply shattered at the prospect of a pluralistic society not ruled by old white guys.)

So: what’s wrong with that? The thing about the Latinos, I mean.

Well, to begin with, Republicans who are soberly talking about the urgency of getting with some brown people today are seemingly operating out of a stereotype of the Latino voter as Juan Valdez: a simple, hardworking and basically conservative Catholic, who is only backing Democrats because of the immigration issue.

They don’t seem to understand that Latino voters are Americans. In fact, millions of them were born and grew up here. They went to American schools, grew up in American society and, remarkably enough, they are not bewildered and amazed by smartphones and indoor plumbing. They have opinions on issues other than immigration. They’re no more stupid or gullible than any other segment of the population.

So that’s the first problem: your cutting-edge assessment that maybe you should be, I dunno, a little less racist, maybe, is rooted in assumptions that are…racist.

Not to mention the strategic problem, of course, that budging on immigration policy will make the Tea Party and Southern white racists’ heads explode. But on that, I just say boo effing hoo: you cultivated them, now you’re stuck with trying to keep them.

As I see it, the real mistake the Republican hand-wringers are making is in completely ignoring the real lessons of having lost two Presidential elections in a row and failed by every standard in this one despite a weak economy and limitless money faucet: their policies are unpopular and don’t work, and they have been deliberately deluding themselves that this isn’t so.

Republicans are in a bubble. They are only talking with or listening to people who think exactly like themselves, surrounded by an infrastructure of fable-tellers—conservative media, right-wing think tanks—which feed them a constant stream of fauxformation that reinforces their delusions about policy alternatives, about Democrats, and about what voters really want. That’s why they are all so danged shocked that the polls turned out to be right, that Nate Silver’s math outperformed Peggy Noonan’s gut feeling in predicting election outcomes.

If the Republican Party wants to remain viably competitive on a national scale, they have to become more like Eisenhower’s Republican Party: preferring a market-based, private-sector-centric approach to economics while recognizing that there is a legitimate role for governmental oversight and public works, and meanwhile standing for the liberty of the individual so long as that liberty doesn’t hurt anyone else. But rather than looking at this most fundamental of political problems and realizing that their dreams of a libertarian paradise or Jesusland or whatever the hell they’re trying to do are never going to happen, they just keep doggedly clinging to their increasingly discredited and unpopular policies, hoping to find some magical marketing strategy that will help them to sell America a s**t sandwich.

You don’t solve that by “getting some Latinos”. You solve it by facing reality. America is an increasingly heterogenous society. Women are a majority of voters. Young people are engaging in politics again. The middle class really has been nuked by Reaganomics. Climate change is real. Acceptance of civil equality for gay people is rising fast, and isn’t going to stop. Most people support abortion rights.

These are facts. Throwing a bone at a demographic while continuing to deny that your entire worldview is based in delusional fictions is not going to win you elections any more. Blithely lying about anything and everything is no longer persuasive: the public has caught on.

Predictably, however, the prescriptions being offered by leaders of the various Republican factions this week boil down to: get some of them Latinos, and move more in the direction of [INSERT FACTION HERE]. To head further into Crazyland.

You are now on the wrong side of both history and reality, Republicans. You can’t resolve that with some pretty packaging targeted at a group of people you have treated with naked hostility and contempt for decades. You solve it by starting to offer a product that seems to voters as though it might be useful in some way, instead of a pointless and irrelevant widget.

If you want to become nationally competitive again, you need to face facts, and tough your way through the inevitable civil war you must endure between your Plutocrats, Theocrats, and Teahaddists to a new agenda not rooted in delusion. Otherwise, the most you can possibly hope to do at the federal level is to serve as a spoiler now and again.

You don’t “need Latinos”. You need to wake the hell up.

On publication, the Dragon was KEEPING IT REAL

Oct 242012
 

Hurry up, please, gentlemen, ladies: it’s time.

Here…let me get the good stuff from under the bar and pour you a shot. This is serious work, this democracy.

Every couple of years, as the elections approach, a number of my friends ask my opinions about candidates and ballot measures. Now I have an online megaphone, so those suggestions go here, for what they’re worth.

There are gaps here. I haven’t paid as much attention to Sonoma County municipal races this cycle, for instance, and will not endorse where I don’t feel I know what I’m talking about.

Federal Offices

For President of the United States: BARACK OBAMA. This is such a no-brainer I don’t feel I need to say more. If you have questions about this endorsement…well, wake the hell up, for one thing. But you could also look around this site for other posts on the race.

For U.S. Senator: NO ENDORSEMENT. Dianne Feinstein is going to mop the floor with the Republican nominee, and given that, I can’t bring myself to put my name behind hers. She’s just been wrong so very often. Though I feel confident she would never have followed the California GOP down the Tea Party rabbit hole, I have always believed that if Feinstein had emerged from any other California political context than the San Francisco Bay Area, she would have been a Republican.

For U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District: JARED HUFFMAN Jared is the real deal. He has progressive values, a sterling voting record in the State Legislature (particularly on environmental issues), and a demonstrated ability to shepherd good ideas into law. Jared is not a symbolic-gesture guy; he’s a make-it-happen guy with a strong, liberal set of core principles. We will be lucky to have him representing us in Congress. (Disclosure: I did some work for Jared’s campaign this spring)

For U.S. House of Representatives, 5th District: MIKE THOMPSON. Thompson is one of the House of Representatives’ last surviving Blue Dogs, an effective campaigner, and in a safe seat: he’s not going anywhere. On most issues, he’s been a reliably good Democratic vote. However, I will say that I have consistently been disappointed by his reflexive water-carrying for the wine industry, which has led him to position himself against policies that would be best for our watersheds, wildlife, and groundwater. At the end of the day, he is a vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, and that is enough for this cycle.

State Offices

For California State Senate, District 3:  LOIS WOLK. A solid Democrat in every sense of the term, with a great record on environmental and social issues.

For California State Assembly, District 2:  WES CHESBRO. Chesbro is an experienced Sacramento hand, an effective legislator and a rock-solid vote on environmental issues, particularly in relation to solid waste and recycling. Hailing from Arcata, he served at both the municipal and county levels and has a good grasp of the challenges facing local governments.

For California State Assembly, District 10:  MICHAEL ALLEN.
I’ve known Michael for quite awhile, and he’s a solid advocate for working people and the disenfranchised. His voting record in the Assembly has been great. He made a couple of boneheaded misjudgments in the past year, frankly, but particularly when looking at the rogues’ gallery that is funding his opponent, Mark Levine, it’s pretty clear who the good guy is here. An easy call.

(State ballot propositions below)

Sonoma County Offices

For Sonoma County Supervisor, District 1: SUSAN GORIN.

I’ve known and worked with Susan since before she went onto the Santa Rosa City Council. She is a thoughtful, open-minded, public-spirited person who cares about the interests and quality of life of ordinary people and Sonoma County residents. I do not believe the same can be said of her opponent, John Sawyer, who during his tenure on the Council has been prickly, inaccessible to citizens who don’t have insider juice, dismissive of environmental and neighborhood concerns, and a guaranteed vote for whatever the development community happens to be pushing this week.

This endorsement is not a close call. Sawyer has received nearly $50,000 in donations from a realtors’ PAC in Los Angeles, and is backed by the usual self-interested gang of grind-Paradise-into-money kingmakers who fancy themselves the owners of Sonoma County. Having him on the Board of Supervisors would be a huge step backwards in the effort to safeguard Sonoma County’s future. He’s the wrong man for the job. Vote for Susan Gorin.

Municipal Elections

Cotati

City Council: JOHN DELL’OSSO. A park ranger and longtime terrific vote on the City Council. An asset to the City.

Measure U (Bans Roundabouts): NO. Reeeeeeaaally dumb idea. Roundabouts are cheaper than traffic lights and actually facilitate traffic flow-through faster than traditional metered intersections. This measure is entirely a fear-of-the-new thing. Dump it.

Healdsburg

City Council: TOM CHAMBERS. I may not agree with Mr. Chambers about everything, but I think his heart is in the right place and he brings a collegial tone to city deliberations. He deserves another term. I also encourage you not to vote for Gary Plass, who has been a terrible vote on the Council and seems to see his job as facilitating as much building as possible.

Measure W (Reauthorizes Urban Growth Boundary for another 20 years): YES. One of the proudest accomplishments of my career was Conservation Action’s involvement in passing UGB measures throughout the county in the 1990s. They’ve worked: they’ve reined in urban sprawl, and they’ve forced cities to make better planning decisions. Santa Rosa and Petaluma have already extended their UGBs for another 20 years; Healdsburg should join them.

Petaluma

City Council: NO ENDORSEMENTS, but don’t vote for Mike Healy or Gabe Kearney. Both have been simply terrible.

Measure X (Park & Recreation Projects): YES

Santa Rosa

City Council: CAROLINE BANUELOS, JULIE COMBS and GARY WYSOCKY. Yes, there are four seats open. I encourage you only to cast three votes. These are three candidates who will genuinely represent the people of Santa Rosa, rather than its entrenched interests and their own ambitions. Particularly, I encourage that you don’t vote for Ernesto Olivares, who has been a terrible vote and dismissively divisive on the Council, or for Erin Carlstrom, who claims to be running as a progressive but cut a mutual-endorsement deal with Olivares, helping him to green up his image while advancing her own prospects and signalling to Santa Rosa’s Powers That Be that she is willing to play ball with them. I tend to vote values over ambition, so: Banuelos, Combs, Wysocky.

Measure Q (District Elections): YES! Read this for my analysis

Sebastopol

City Council: JOHN EDER. Eder served on the Cotati City Council with a great voting record, and I’m confident in supporting him in his new—but quite similar in size—municipal home. I don’t know any of the others well enough to make a call, with two exceptions, who I recommend you do not support: Kathy Austin, who was a terrible vote on the City Council previously, or Colleen Fernald, who…well, put it this way, seems to live on a very different planet than I do.

Measure Y (temporary sales tax increase): YES. Sebastopol has cut as much as it possibly can from municipal spending. It needs more revenue simply in order to deliver basic services. It’s a tiny town, with a tiny tax base, and needs this temporary boost.

I know that’s only 5 out of the county’s 9 cities, but I don’t feel I know enough about what’s happening in Cloverdale and Sonoma, and Rohnert Park and Windsor don’t have City Council elections this year, because only as many candidates declared as there are seats available.

State Ballot Propositions

Proposition 30: YES. This is the real increase-state-revenue-for-education&c-by-slightly-increasing-taxes-on-the-wealthy measure. Prop. 38 is the fake one.

Proposition 31: NO. A two-year budget cycle is a good idea, but the zero-sum requirement for all expenditures of $25 million or more, additional gubernatorial powers make it clear that this is yet another attempt right-wing attempt to tie the hands of the state government to gather revenue and deliver services. I was initially fooled by this thing, and a reader brought it to my attention. Vote no.

Proposition 32: NO NO NO NO NO. This is a power grab by corporations and the Republican Party to try to take away the last deep-pocket source of campaign funding for Democrats (from unions)…leaving the field to corporate spending under Citizens United. It is a terrible idea and needs to get spanked at the polls.

Proposition 33: NO. California’s regime of watchdogging the auto insurance industry is one 0f the best in the nation, and this proposition is a push by auto insurers to pull its fangs. It will result in higher rates, more uninsured drivers, and less public accountability for insurers.

Proposition 34: YES. Whatever you think about its morality, the death penalty doesn’t work. It doesn’t deter crime, it costs taxpayers a fortune, and it is inevitably applied disproportionately to the poor and minorities who don’t have access to top-drawer legal protections. States kill innocent people when they have the death penalty. Let’s stop, save ourselves some cash, and be better able to look ourselves in the mirror.

Proposition 35: NO. This measure isn’t really about human trafficking. The effect of the measure would be to turn law enforcement against prostitution into another drug war, complete with asset seizure, which creates incentive for police corruption. It so broadly expands the definition of pimping that those even remotely connected with a person arrested for prostitution—landlords, roommates, children, parents—could and would be ensnared…and then it brands those people as sex offenders forever, including controlling and monitoring their use of the internet. Headline-chasing prosecutors and police departments who want to seize houses, cars, and other assets are drooling over the prospect of this passing. Yes: forced sex work is a problem. This is not a solution.

Proposition 36: YES. The “Three Strikes” law, like nearly all rage- and fear-driven public policy, is a serious mistake. It destroys lives over small offenses, and because those it affects are nearly all poor, no one speaks for them. This measure corrects many of the wrongheaded ideas in the original measure.

Proposition 37: YES.  How, exactly, is it harmful to let people know the content of their food? Enough said.

Proposition 38: NO.  This is the wealthy pushback against Prop. 30, choosing to raise additional revenue by instead drawing nearly all increased state tax from middle class taxpayers instead of the undertaxed rich. It contains a provision that says we can’t amend it—even with another proposition—until 2024. It’s a scam. Vote no.

Proposition 39: YES. This measure raises an additional $1 billion annually by ending a backroom, sweetheart deal for out-of-state corporations that was a part of the 2009 budget deal. Also funds some energy efficiency programs. We need the money, and the deal was a bad one. You can tell by the hysterical tone of the arguments against this in the voters’ pamphlet that they are blowing smoke.

Proposition 40: YES. There is no longer organized opposition to this measure. It ratifies the new State Senate districts, and keeps in place our new nonpartisan redistricting system, which seems, so far, to be working.

Sep 182012
 

As y’all know, I have been posting quite a bit of analysis and opinion about the status of the Presidential race. But with yesterday’s comedic revelation of Little Lord Fauntleroy’s contempt for 47% of the American citizenry, let’s just draw the curtain, shall we?

Between the Keystone Kops announcements of “reboots”, the abortive attempts to hijack tragedy for political gain, and now His Royal Highness’ pooh-poohing of nearly half of the country on tape to his similarly rarefied supporters, I think we can say that the 2012 Presidential is all over but the GOTV.

It isn’t just this latest event, the way the Palin choice doomed any chances McCain might have had. Romney just doesn’t have ANY bright spots. His policy positions—to the degree he has any beyond “Mitt Romney should be President”—are so unpopular he’s had to deliberately obscure them; his supposed business qualifications have been revealed/framed as questionable and morally filthy; the man is personally an awkward, deeply unlikeable, priggish gaffe machine; his running mate is Iago as played by Jim Nabors, and the two of them can’t even come up with a straight story on which of their appalling budget visions they embrace; the foreign trip and his cheerful eagerness to try to score points off the murder of American diplomats has revealed him for the cold-blooded shark he is; his convention combined the excitement of “Waiting for Godot” with the spectacle of Clint Eastwood losing an argument to an empty chair; and his party’s steady pandering to angry, white, low-education males at the expense of all other demographics has left him with a universe too small to win under the best of circumstances…which these are NOT, because despite the best efforts of his party to torpedo the American people’s economic prospects for political gain, it isn’t entirely working.

Meanwhile, they are running against an incumbent with an arm-long record of achievement, against a crew that has a better understanding of how to run a national campaign using today’s tools and media context than any other on the planet, and against a guy who has already had every lie, every distortion, every calumny the right has been able to imagine thrown at him for four years, and is still viewed positively by most of the country. A man who beat *both* national party’s machines in 2008. A man who is almost certainly one of the giants in the history of the American Presidency.

And whose policies appear not only to have pulled the country back from the edge of the disaster teed up by Romney’s party, but also to be slowly helping it to recover. While Romney and Ryan offer only more of the same failed policies, on steroids.

We’re seven weeks out as of today. The perceived narrative of the Romney/Ryan campaign is that they are in disarray, panicking, and throwing the kitchen sink. I do not recall any challenger to an incumbent in a widely-watched election EVER to survive that perception so close to the election and win.

There just aren’t any bright spots for Circus Romney. Obama’s narrow edges in the battleground states have begun to solidify and move out of the margins of error. Now it’s all about how much the headliners of the Greedy Obnoxious Party can drag down the chances of their compatriots downticket.

From here through Election Day at the sign of the Green Dragon, I’ll focus on local politics and Congress. I’d be surprised if I feel a need to say much more about the Comeuppance of Mitt Romney…except perhaps to gloat a bit.

At publication, the Dragon was EXPERIENCING SCHADENFREUDE