Category Archives: Political

Fighting the Good Fight

Joan Walsh of Salon made an apt observation today, when commenting on Rush Limbaugh, who is currently hospitalized. She thinks it’s impolitic to hit Rush on this, even though he’s never shied away from hitting others when (literally) down:

“There’s no liberal Rush Limbaugh, because most liberals don’t have a taste for cruelty as entertainment or political sport.”

I think she’s right, though such high-mindedness does pose a challenge for progressive and/or liberal people. I think that good causes can be promoted with humor and the sharp side of the tongue. Florida Rep. Alan Grayson gave a great example when he argued that opposition to health care reform was “pro death.”

I hope that some day soon our own humorist-turned-Senator Al Franken can find his voice.

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Reading Alcott

My secret vice is that I read adolescent fiction on my smart phone. This awful habit started years ago. I have the collected works of Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery and I pore over them when stuck in line or waiting for food at a cafe.

Now I find that Bear is likewise reading reading Eight Cousins on her smart phone.

This is particularly interesting because the womens’ roles in Alcott’s fiction tend to be super-traditional, while Bear’s politics are “progressive” to put it mildly. I generally agree with both Bear’s attitude on womens’ rights and her attitude towards Alcott: who cares if her female characters are so traditional!

I think we both appreciate Alcott’s underlying themes: the pursuit of moral ideals over superficial values (despite the difference in moral values) and the fundamental rights of women to self-determination (despite the different view of womens’ roles). Alcott portrays “strong minded” women as positive role models despite the negative reactions of conventionally attractive male characters.

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What? A Sane Defense Policy?

The Obama administration has taken a whole series of steps towards a sane defense policy. This is diametrically opposed to a foolish and expensive policy that believes any defense action or spending is good, especially if it looks aggressive.

So now we’ve eliminated a few hundred billion of spending on missile defense shields that don’t work. There’s a reason we called ballistic missile defense “Star Wars” back in the 1980s: it’s never been more than science fiction. At least Newsweek is getting it right – it may look good on a TV news graphic, but that’s not the same as working in the Real World.

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Making Absentee Ballots Work

During the recount of Minnesota’s US Senate race, both campaign committees contacted our daughter about her absentee ballot. It turns out that her ballot had been rejected because “the signatures didn’t match.”

This is one of those arbitrary ballot challenges that can probably apply to anyone. It makes me wonder if absentee ballots are a wasted effort for activist college students. A knowledgeable campaign worker may know of her political leanings and disputed the signatures on that basis.

How do we prevent such things from happening? Is this an authentication problem? How arbitrary are the challenges made against absentee ballots?

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Finally – A second Minnesota senator

The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Al Franken, and Norm Coleman has finally abandoned his legal challenges. We have a senator.

Short term I know there are people who are put off by Franken’s history as a humorist and his loud contempt for pundits of the radical right. Long term I think he has the smarts and public demeanor to be a successful senator. If this is true, then he’ll be reelected easily. At that point he’ll have a true mandate from the people of Minnesota.

Meanwhile, we can’t pretend that the outcome is anything more precise than a coin toss. The votes are so close that we’ll never be able to figure out who “really” got the most votes. It’s technically impossible to count votes that accurately.

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Scary Economic Observation

Glenn Greenwald, a commentator in Salon, posted a scary observation in which he compares the U.S. economy to Russia and Argentina. He quotes Desmond Lachman, an IMF expert on emerging markets and former Salomon banker, who notes how we’ve seen the same thing in those emerging markets.

In an emerging market, a banking crisis like this looks like a liquidity crisis, and the government tries to shore things up with an injection of cash. In fact, it’s a solvency crisis. Outsiders like the IMF generally recommend to fix such things with transparency not with cash. Otherwise the local oligarchs will manipulate the crisis to get rich off the ‘recovery’ money. Meanwhile, the IMF and such require the government to reduce spending on social programs to pay for the enrichment of the fat cats.

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