Archive for the ‘Politics’ category

Congress FAIL

September 9, 2013

Those of you who know me–––that is, everyone who reads this blog who isn’t a robot–––will not be surprised to know that I’m opposed to the idea of using military force in the ongoing Syrian conflict. I suppose that makes me an “unserious” person, at least in the eyes of my Congressional representative.

I sent Nancy Pelosi a very strongly worded email, in which I expressed my views. It included the following paragraph, of which I was quite proud:

If, as reports indicate, you are about to vote yes on the President’s resolution to AUMF in Syria, I would ask you to reconsider. Have you learned nothing in the past 10 years? Have you not paid attention to the news from Libya even? It is certainly terrible to feel that one is “helpless” in the face of the unending stream of bad news we encounter each day, but Ms. Pelosi, let me be very clear. Right now, in Syria, there is a mother and a child who will be dead in a matter of weeks or days –not because you failed to act, but precisely because you DID act.

Today I received a response from her office. It began:

Dear Mr. Stewart,

Thank you for contacting me to express your views on protecting Social Security and Medicare. I appreciate hearing from you on this critical issue.

Social Security and Medicare are our nation’s solemn pledges to our seniors – a promise of a safe and secure source of retirement income and health care for millions of Americans. Protecting Social Security and Medicare, and strengthening these vital programs for future generations, are among my top priorities.

At least she agrees with me on that issue. [Sigh]


Count me … out?


Dear San Francisco restaurants

February 6, 2013

Suggested pricing structure:

cost of ingredients + desired profit = price per menu item

on the bill, itemize (as % or flat fee):

  • rent
  • kitchen equipment, etc.
  • labor
  • insurance
  • SF “mandates”
  • miscellaneous

plus tax = total amount


“We support Healthy SF and are proud to provide for the health care needs of all our employees.”

Where shall we eat tonight?

Where shall we eat tonight?

Please, Tennessee …

February 3, 2013

… let your legislators know you want to keep your children safe from bullies:

The Right would have us believe that this sort of legislation ensures that challenging social issues are addressed by parents rather than educators. It’s the same sort of flawed reasoning that has given us the catastrophic public health failure that is abstinence-only education.

In reality however, this bill only protects one class of people: school bullies. You see, if teachers saying anything “inconsistent with natural human reproduction” is prohibited, it becomes extremely challenging for educators to respond to the abuse of students who are, or are perceived to be LGBT. After all, if saying that there’s nothing wrong with being LGBT could cost a teacher their job, how can they come to the defense of a bullied LGBT kid?


Adults imagine the world. Youth can only understand it.

A snapshot of my favorite blog

August 10, 2011

They’re not very sensible

Back when Ross Perot was running for president, I marvelled at his apparent belief that all we needed was for someone to go to Washington and, I don’t know, put LSD in the water so everyone would love each other and get along? Really, his entire governing strategy, as he explained it, seemed to be, “I’m going to go there and make ’em all shake hands and get some real work done.” No recognition of the huge ideological gulf between the two sides, just this bizarre Woodstock Nation kind of philosophy that even in the ’60s you couldn’t have sold to a bunch of stoned hippies. But people who look kindly on Obama seem to think that he has the same weird, Sunshine Acid kind of thinking, as if it was all about needing his own special personality to make the flower-wreathed fairy circle emerge. Obama is “weak”, they say, because he didn’t anticipate that real idiological differences could create real acrimony, let alone that blood-and-guts partisanship was so natural to the GOP because they opposed our very form of government. Michael Tomasky seems to be following this line when he calls Obama “The Untransformational President,” neglecting to note that Obama has indeed been transformational beyond his wildest dreams, eliminating all meaningful distinction between the two parties and their policy goals, and ripping the mask of democracy from the face of America once and for all. No president, not even George Bush the Lesser, has done so much to show his contempt for the American people. And, for all his fine words about the hero he apparently doesn’t know anything about, Abraham Lincoln, there is no evidence that Obama is compromising on policy – he has never believed in liberalism and he doesn’t fight for it because he thinks it’s stupid.

Alternatively, there’s “The Sanity Defense“.

Robert Reich, “Why the President Doesn’t Present a Bold Plan to Create Jobs and Jumpstart the Economy: I’m told White House political operatives are against a bold jobs plan. They believe the only jobs plan that could get through Congress would be so watered down as to have almost no impact by Election Day. They also worry the public wouldn’t understand how more government spending in the near term can be consistent with long-term deficit reduction. And they fear Republicans would use any such initiative to further bash Obama as a big spender. So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama – to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington’s paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public’s attention from the President’s failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia.” The stupid-or-evil battle is over. We can see how callous such a calculation would be, and no “explanation” – including electoral calculous – justifies such behavior. If Obama wanted to improve the economy, he could fight for it, he could get up and tell the public what is really needed. He doesn’t want to because, at best, he doesn’t care that much. That lack of regard for the public welfare is evil whether it’s stupid or not. The only question is whether they can actually be this stupid.

Wisconsin: Republicans appear to have lost two seats, the minimum Dems needed to take to have more pull in the state senate. Three would have meant the Republicans lost their majority altogether, but that doesn’t appear to have happened. Of course, no one thinks Kathy Nickolaus hasn’t done some GOP vote-fixing again. Remember, these fights were all in Republican districts, but the battle over Scott Walker’s recall will be state-wide, and if his agenda can lose in even two of these districts this week, it doesn’t bode well for his future in elective office. Greg Sargent: “Whatever ends up happening, Wisconsin Dems and labor have already succeeded in one sense: They reminded us that it’s possible to build a grass roots movement by effectively utilizing the sort of unabashed and bare-knuckled class-based populism that makes many of today’s national Dems queasy. Their effort – whether or not they take back the state senate – could provide a model for a more aggressive, populist approach for national Dems in 2012.

An astonishing and timely truth, rarely described so well

August 2, 2011

“That is, the word ‘economic’ … in ‘economic development’ refers to a historically specific phenomenon. It means a particular way of organizing power in a society, and of simultaneously concealing this power arrangement––more accurately, of concealing that it is a power arrangement. If this formulation seems a surprise, that is a tribute to the effectiveness of the concealing function. If one were to say that the highest value of the economy is efficiency of production, no one would be particularly surprised. But this is only saying the same thing in a different way. The ‘economy’ is a way of organizing people to work efficiently, that is, to do unnatural kinds of work under unnatural conditions for unnaturally long hours, and of extracting all or part of the extra wealth so produced and transferring it elsewhere. This process is equally true of capitalist and ‘socialist’ countries. The economy is thus political, but pretends not to be. It is political in the most fundamental sense: it organizes power, distributes goods, and rules people. Aristotle called politics the Master Science … because it is the process by which the basic ordering of society is decided. In the ‘economically developed ‘ societies today, economics determines this basic ordering. We are taught to think of this determining relationship as inevitable. Even those who have never read Marx tend to see the economy as a substructure that develops according to its own Iron Laws and is beyond the power of human beings to change or choose against. Yet this inevitability exists only within the context of the ideology of development. Under the domination of this ideology, economics has replaced politics as the Master Science, but this political character of the economy is hidden. Through economic processes cultures are abolished or restructured, environments are destroyed or made over, work is ordered, wealth is transferred, goods are distributed, classes are formed, and people are managed. But the words for talking intelligibly about these things––words like ‘founding,’ ‘order,’ ‘lawgiving,’ ‘revolution,’ ‘power,’ ‘justice,’ ‘rule,’ ‘consent’––do not exist as technical terms in economic science.

Economic development means, then, the extension and strengthening of this particular mode of economic power, order, and rule. To say that economic development is antidemocratic is not simply to say that it tends to produce undemocratic forms of rule in what we now consider the political sphere, but that it is an undemocratic form of rule in its own sphere. And keeping the vocabulary of politics out of economic discourse is part of what keeps it undemocratic.”

from: C. Douglas Lummis, Radical Democracy (Cornell UP, 1996) [emphasis mine]

And the book only gets better!

The news intrudes

February 22, 2011

A wonderful collection of links from zunguzungu on the protests in Wisconsin and related matters. And because I love bagpipes. What is the altnernative, you ask? Maybe a democratic workplace?

Also, please spare a thought for Christchurch, New Zealand. Solidarity is not so strange when disasters strike.

Thoughts on the British election

May 7, 2010

I find it amusing how each party makes claims about what the “public” will feel if such and such happens. They will be outraged. They will be frustrated. They will be reassured. They will have confidence. The biggest whopper of all: the “people have spoken.” Right. If that’s so, then “we” clearly don’t know what they said. There should be a new paradigm: voting does not equal speech.

I also find it amusing that after 13 years in power, the Labour Party is suddenly describing the English (and American) style of plurality voting (aka “first past the post”) as “on its last legs,” or “creaking.” As in, it didn’t deliver the result we wanted. Calling Mr. Clegg?

I like the yellow bits.

p.s. I don’t mean to imply that Labour is wrong about plurality voting. The Liberal Democrat Party increased its vote share by 1% over 2005, but lost 5 seats. How can that be right?