Thursday, January 09, 2020

How bad governance botched needed bail reform in New York

The shambolic implementation of needed bail reform in New York is a great example of the state government's dysfunction and how its abysmal processes lead to embarrassments like the governor admitting a law needs revamping only a few days after it takes effect.

Far from being a new development with the Democrats taking control of the state senate, this has been the depressing status quo for decades.

Some of the good things are being misrepresented by political hacks or flat out misunderstood by well intentioned folks, no doubt. Some of the reforms were needed. Some were bad ideas. Some were good ideas badly implemented. 

But why was this reform implemented so chaotically that the governor is conceding the need for changes only a week into the law's existence?

The process.

The reforms weren't passed via the normal legislative process that first world governments use to pass important legislation. Which is by holding hearings seeking feedback from all of the stakeholders, using that feedback to make tweaks to the initial bill and get rid of previously unforeseen consequences and then holding a public debate and vote on the stand alone bill.

Instead, the reforms were shoved into the unrelated budget with no separate debate while constituents were focused on the countless other things that might or might not end up into the budget.

No democracy. Whatever the legislative "leaders" and governor agreed on. The other 221 legislators are useless. This is nothing remotely close to the good governance that candidate Andrew Cuomo promised us in 2010.

The tactic of shoving policy into the budget, used on many issues, is designed to shield the other legislators from constituents opposing or questioning whatever is being passed. It's designed to protect rank and file legislators from having to do their job.
Process matters. And the state's processes have always been horrible. It takes good ideas in principle and ruins them in implementation. Even the good laws that come out of Albany seem to arrive despite the process not because of it.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Why climate activists have been failing and how they can succeed?

I'm a big believer in the premise that people who want to effect real change can't just tell people to say no. You have to offer them something to say yes to. In politics, something, no matter how awful, nearly always beats nothing: witness Trump vs Hillary. The nihilistic Republicans vs the corporate Democrats.

I've been thinking about this is relation to denial of the reality that climate change has been massively accelerated by human activity.

 I think that most climate change denialism is not really based in actual belief that there is no human component. Most don't reject the science because they actually disbelieve it. They do so because accepting the science would imply action... action that might well be, in the short term, nothing less than self-harm. Climate change activists given little thought to addressing this narrative.

Such denialism is largely based on the belief that getting rid of - or at least shrinking the fossil fuel industry -  will cause major economic damage, given the absence of other jobs to take their place. This is not, in fact, an irrational fear. 

I feel that one of the areas that climate change activists have failed is in developing alternative economic opportunities for people who work in fossil fuel industries or who live in regions whose economies are dominated by said industry. Or rather, in pushing politicians to do the above. This is indispensable to softening opposition to needed environmental actions. Instead, climate change activists have largely opted for the tactic of shame and that's clearly not enough.

People aren't going to voluntarily abandon their way of life and their often already meager wages for the vague promise that maybe some unknown alternative economic sector might be realized at some indeterminate point in the future. 

They see how the deindustrialized northeast and midwest have largely been left to rot.  And it's wholly irrational to expect them to do so. And wholly counterproductive to shame them for not doing so.

Climate change activists need to recognize that those affected by their desired shrinking of the fossil fuel economy are real people with real bills to pay and that if they want those people to go along with serious action to repair the climate crisis, activists have to ensure they have some other way to feed their families.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Are Democrats really stupid enough to delay the impeachment trial?

Let's be clear. Impeachment is a political act. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a political act. The Republican impeachments of Democrats Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were political acts. In those two cases, all votes to remove the president from office came from Republican senators.

That impeachment is a political process is what the authors of the Constitution intended. That's why impeachment and its resulting trial are conducted by politicians, not judges.

But it's hard to imagine the Democrats would be so incredibly stupid to follow this advice (I almost am hestitant to say it because they tend to take such things as a dare). The guaranteed

Republican response is fairly simple: "Democrats claim that Trump's presidency is a mortal threat to our republic but are indefinitely delaying the trial that might remove this supposedly mortal threat from office. This proves that impeachment was just a sham designed to embarrass him" (as though he doesn't do that to himself on an hourly basis). Trumpists couldn't hope for a better script, one that, for once, is actually truthful.

We all know the Senate is going to acquit him no matter what. Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham have already promised publicly that the Senate jury will not conduct a fair trial. And they're not going to vote on any of the countless bills the House has sent them.

But Democrats still have to go through the motions of trying to remove Trump, otherwise what was the point? It wouldn't be any different than the pointless "censure" that they gave to Bill Clinton.

This cockamemie idea is neither good for the country nor good politics.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Trump regime is not 1984. It's much more clever than that

In terms of obscenity, this photo of President Trump with an infant survivor of the El Paso massacre is fairly minor in the whole scheme of Donald Trump's moral crimes - to say nothing of his legal crimes. But it's emblematic of his sociopathic regime. (You can't called it an administration because governance is not its point)

Trump may not be particularly smart in the intellectual sense but his instincts for advancing his own personal self-interest is nothing short of malevolent genius. Long before he entered politics, he was a great con man.

The malevolent genius of his regime is its full scale assault on the senses. It's one moral outrage to disgust honest, decent Americans after another. You're not even done reeling/raging about one scandal and another pops up.

The children in cages meant we stopped talking about the avalanche of impeachable offenses. The gun massacres meant we stopped talking about children in cages. The Epstein death meant we stopped talking about violence. The ICE raids is Mississippi meant we stopped talking bout the Epstein death. The green card rule changes meant we stopped talking about the ICE raids. Declare open season on the bald eagle and other endangered speices and we stopped talking about the green rule changes. Pervert the Statue of Liberty Poem and we stopped talking about the attack on endangered species.

This would be enough for two years to stagger a normal nation. In America, this is just the last 10 days.

In a column for The Guardian in 2017, Aldous Huxley's son pointed out that Trump's regime was not Orwell's 1984. It was his father's Brave New World.

I'm not quite sure how an opposition candidate breaks through against this relentless, overbearing obscenity but  I'm certain Trump is hoping he gets a corporate centrist help his con job along.

During the last round of GOP primaries, Trump bragged that he could stand in the middle of Manhattan and shoot someone and he wouldn't lose any voters.

That might be the only thing he's ever said that we ought to have believed.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

People need to (be able to) work for a living

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Most recipients of SNAP (food stamps) work. And yet the president wants to further slash their already meager benefits. Some "Christian  nation."

I’ll say it til I’m blue in the face.

If you want people to work for a living (and not receive taxpayer funded benefits) then you have to ensure a system where people can actually make a living while working.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Overturn Citizens United

Recently, Senate Democrats introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn to Citizens United abomination. Any candidate for federal office of whatever party who refuses to support this amendment will not get my vote.

Progress on any "bread and butter" issue you can name will continue to be stalled until we can start limiting the effect of legalized bribery, particularly by non-humans.

This is far more important to the future of our republic than impeachment of a particular president or publicizing tax returns.

The system was rotten long before Donald Trump and his fellow gangsters infested the White House.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Right-wing ideology is literally killing our country

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

I saw this really interesting essay in The Boston Review entitled 'Dying of Whiteness.'

It gave some examples of how some people would rather die - literally die - by not getting  treatment than accept the help of medical services provided by 'Obamacare' (which was developed by a Republican governor and inspired by a conservative think tank). They would rather die than than accept help from a 'liberal' program.

It shows the extent to which the right-wing nihilism has taken our society hostage.

I don't know what kind of public policy can be developed when neither the two foundational cornerstones of governance - the greater good and pure self interest - are considered valid.

The right-wing notion that social progress is a zero sum gain - that my prosperity is entirely dependent on harm to you - is killing this country, both figuratively and literally.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hillary Clinton passes the buck

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

In an interview with the UK Guardian, Hillary Clinton claims that immigration "lit the flame" of right wing extremism in Europe.

Fascism always rises when the ruling elite is revealed as corrupt and dangerously out of touch.

Yes, sometimes the arrival of immigrants who are fleeing violence or seeking a better life for their families serves as the perfect scapegoat to "light the flame". The Other is always the most popular villain. But it only works if there is kindling to light.

Western Europe is governed mostly by centrists, like Mrs. Clinton herself. Many large countries are run by grand coalitions that cannot or will not make tough decisions for fear of the government falling.

Europe could've found a way to accommodate the migrants in a way that respected international law without undermining national societies. But this coordination required the leadership that Europe's centrist coalitions were lacking.

It's no surprise that as Europe's non-leaders dithered, the far right seized power in places like Poland and Hungary and is rapidly expanding in places like Sweden and Germany. Politics abhors a vacuum.

And that's how the far right seized power in the US. The ruling elite was revealed as corrupt and out of touch and a charismatic demagogue filled the void. Who was the standard bearer of the ruling class when this happened? Centrist Hillary Clinton.

Much of what African migrants are fleeing to Europe about are economic morasses and wars created or exacerbated in large part by European neo-colonialism. Just like much of what migrants are fleeing from in Mexico and Central America are similar collapses caused by American neo-colonialism... including those helped by Barack Obama's first secretary of state.

Hillary Clinton giving a nod to xenophobia is really just her making excuses for her own role in the rise of the US far right. The fascists needed a shady, out of touch ruling class member to vilify and the DNC obliged them. Hillary Clinton was hardly unique in that but just happened to be in that role at the wrong time. But it does make her supremely unqualified to lecture others about how to combat right wing extremism.