Time to unshackle from so-called "bipartisanship"

Here's what "bipartisanship" really means right now:
  • For a Republican, in power: Political cover. ("See - they supported it too.")
  • For a Republican, out of power: The ability to derail.
  • For a Democrat, in power: Spending forever arguing vs. getting something done.
  • For a Democrat, out of power: Compromising - usually, your beliefs. ("I got what I could.")
  • If you're anyone else: A train wreck that means you'll likely not be heard.
(You may have noticed that I put them in order of most powerful to least.)

Let's be clear: What's being called "bipartisanship" now, makes as much sense as a scientist accepting a debate with a creationist - at *best* it's a waste of time.

Though it can be more insidious; an attempt to mire, delay, drag down, suck the energy out of... - just look at our so-called "debate" about healthcare. There certainly are critical things to debate, though the vast amount of energy spent is not debate at all, but a naked attempt to maintain the status quo - of healthcare's overriding goal being, not healthcare, but profit.

So, what to do?

Here's what not to do: What the Bush (II) administration did; bulldoze anyone who wasn't 100% signed on to your version of the truth. They certainly got things done - in the same way Mussolini made the trains run on time.

So what's the "happy medium"?

Certainly everyone should have a chance to be heard - for a time. And after that time, it's necessary to take stock and move to the next phase - actually getting something done.

There's nothing impolite or non-inclusinve about this - we have limited time in the same way we have limited money.

This is what governing is: Actually getting something done.


yet another way we can help - or hurt - each other

yes; we are all wired differently.

and yes, something that *seems* completely reasonable (necessary even!) can in fact be detrimental to someone else.

bonus blast-from-the-past link: Caring For Your Introvert (Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic).


Help Governor Douglas

I've lambasted the Governor - lately, for his vocal opposition to the gay-marriage legislation making its way through the Vermont State Legislature.

While being angry can lead to angry words, it's not productive. So I just wrote him a much more positive note; it's copied below.

I hope you'll find yourself motivated to do the same; nothing good ever came of negativity. However, we can help each other, even - and especially - when we disagree.

Dear Governor Douglas -

You've made a mistake.

It's OK; we all do - maybe you got some bad advice; it happens.

However, as with most mistakes, it's correctable - and, here's the great part: When you rise to the occasion by doing the right thing, you end up in an *improved* position - even relative to *before* the mistake. A beautiful thing "enlightened self-interest" is.

So, please *do* the right thing: Do not veto the gay-marriage legislation.

You might refer to the "will of the people" - which I'm sure is making itself extremely clear right now. You might wait until the bill is presented to you, agonize over it a bit, and then graciously and humbly admit that allowing it is, after all, the right thing to do - and it will correctly be viewed as courageous. Obstruction never is.

It is not only the right thing to do, it is also the best course politically.

Thanks and good luck,



Hearings on same-sex marriage need a bigger room

So, they ran out of room on the widely-publicized first day of hearings, regarding same-sex marriage in VT.

They got a bigger room the next day - and hardly anyone showed.

What's it mean? Most of us have figured out that same-sex marriage makes perfect sense, and have moved on to other crises.

Update: 1,000 people showed up the next day - overwhelmingly in favor. Then the Senate panel approved it - 5-0.


What's the Biggest Drag on the US Economy?

The current US health care "system".

Dig down far enough, in almost any budget battle - federal, the cost of a college education or a local school budget - and one cost that has continued to rise, driving virtually all others, is health care.

The US has, as has been so often stated "the best health care system in the world" - IF, of course, you've got the cash.

If you don't, you either roll the dice or find a way to pony up. See this National Coalition on Health Care article on health care costs - interesting tidbit: "50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses."

This, as we listen to the ever-increasing whine of US industry about how they're being dragged down by the cost of health care. Certainly, health care costs continue to increase beyond anything rational. The problem however, is not that people need health care.

Is there perhaps a silver lining in the current economic crisis? In how it drives more of us to be entrepreneurial? Well, Bad Times Spur Entrepreneurship, But There's a Catch - the money quote?

America's health-care system makes it all but impossible for an older worker to try something new.

Even younger startup owners who are relatively healthy and have insurance are just a half-step from disaster.

So the bulk of our wisdom is hamstrung from the start. And the rest of us, well - step right up and take a spin. You may win big! Or just learn to live under a bridge.

So what is it, exactly, that's "best" about the US health care "system"? One might be forgiven if one were to conclude that it's best at redistributing wealth to the rich, from the rest of us. (As so many things are, in our new Unfettered Capitalism society.)

What to do? Let's go the the Wall Street Journal: Why Obama's Health Plan Is Better.

And as we begin to address the real issues facing us - rather than this quarter's (or this minute's) stock performance - we will see real long-term benefits spread.


The other shoe drops - and it too is an axe

The specifics are out (link above), and to no one's surprise, the people that Gov. Douglas (R) wants to axe are overwhelmingly in Human Services - an appalling 61% of the total.

Just when those services are needed the most, Douglas wants to reduce the already-overstrained personnel at AHS - and of course, add to the folks needing those services. This makes no sense - unless of course you were simply looking for an excuse to do it.

Bye-bye safety net; hello pavement.

Governor Scissorhands indeed. (We miss you, Peter Freyne.)

(Thanks to Dan Barlow at Vermont View for pointing out the document, at the Times Argus.)

IRV solves the right problems?

Apropos my recent IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) post:

Terry Bouricius writes to VDB (Philip Baruth) in response to Tony Gierzynski's article against IRV.

Bouricius' article seems to very strongly address every one of Gierzynski's concerns, and then some.

It seems to me that the argument against IRV is narrow and ignores important factors; it's reactive and conservative. It's "anti".

While the argument for IRV is inclusive and constructive; problems were identified and great effort was spent to solve them in a careful and broad way - including checking the results afterward. It's "pro".

I know which way I tend to go: pro.

(BTW: For those inclined to bring up so-called "pro-life": It's just a label cynically chosen to seem positive - when that reactionary movement is virtually always very negative.)


Sympathy for the Devil?

It's time for this "idea" to be taken out back and put out of our misery.

The story goes that "a receding tide lowers all boats" and it's as ridiculous as Reagan's so-called "supply-side economics".

We're supposed to feel bad for the rich, because they've lost so much more than we have. Or maybe we're supposed to feel like "we're all in this together".

Let's look at the big picture, shall we?

When Bill Gates lost about a third of his wealth in the past year, he was left with "only" $40 Billion - and as the economy recovers, it will regain value. He took quite a hit, but he doesn't really have to tighten his belt.

However, when the average just-retired Baby Boomer lost a third of their savings, that left them in the position of cashing those investments in at exactly the worst time; when they'd lost much of their value. Many now face the very real possibility of not having enough to last their retirement.

So here's a more apt image: The rich have their yachts out in deep harbor and the rest of us in our rowboats just got beached.

And here's the real punch line: We're still expected to pony up to bail out the "too big to fail".

On Liberal "in-fighting"

It's a truism that liberals can't get their act together; that they are always arguing amongst themselves.

(And because it's a truism, that should be a tipoff.)

So it's better to march in lockstep, like Republicans since Reagan? Where dissent is handled swiftly and decisively. Like when the formerly-respectable McCain kept standing for his principles - and getting taken to the Republican woodshed for it. The worst was when came out strongly against torture and got "re-educated"; sad and the last time I trusted a word he said.

So what's better? Arguing about principles or being so regimented (and scared) that you end up with the abuses of the Bush junta? Obvious.

Economists Give Obama Failing Grade (Isn't that like Military Intelligence?)

So the "pros" - who got us into this mess, and are asking the rest of us pay for it - don't like the way things are working out?

Perfect - looks like Obama and Geithner are on the right track.

IRV solves the wrong problem?

Interesting post at VDB (Philip Baruth) today, with an article from political scientist Tony Gierzynski.

The gist of it is: IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) adds too much complexity; he says it tries to solve one problem - more than two parties generally results in vote-splitting - but creates a larger problem of disenfranchisement due to the added complexity.

It all makes sense - however leaves me wanting more: Is the two-party system best?

If so, Gierzynski's suggestion makes sense; that vote-splitting be solved by those parties coordinating to offer a single candidate.

However, what of a multi-party system?


Looks like Fogel = Douglas = Bush = "Some are more equal than others"

Interesting news coming out of UVM these days - seems like Fogel too (like Douglas) is using the excuse of the economic crisis to wield the ax selectively.

Even as we learn that the circle of power not only widened during his tenure, but their salaries (and bonuses, just like Wall Street) increased far ahead of any rational measure. Just, apparently, the tired old whine of "If we don't keep up with the (Dow) Jones', we won't be able to attract top talent!" And look what that's done for Wall Street - and the world.

As this info comes out, Fogel's response is that those salaries have been frozen, making it sound heroic. Sounds more protective to me.

And in the mean time, positions and people (at lower levels of course) are being eliminated directly - or indirectly, by choosing not to fill openings.

Fogel says he'd leave if UVM cuts executive pay? Perfect; let the healing begin.


America's Two-Party System

[Republicans] continue to insist on maintaining in the twenty-first century every ounce of the poverty, ignorance, prejudice and class apartheid that marked the eighteenth.
- David Michael Green, AlterNet. Posted March 3, 2009

But don't the rest of you gloat; for example:

The Democratic Party -- especially of the last decade -- is a shameful thing...
So, to business:
This is the first major politician in my lifetime who talks to us in living color, in three dimensions, and without a subtle but sickening constant pandering of built-in contempt. I doubt we can underestimate the effect this alone will have in raising permanently the quality of our discourse. There will be no going back after this...
There is our challenge: Whatever our beliefs, let us - all of us - discuss them as adults, come to some conclusions and move forward.

Whether we do that in a two-party system or create something new, we have work to do.


Interestingly enough, I say this from Vermont - almost the last bastion of direct democracy, the Town Meeting. Perhaps we should reclaim this from the movement toward Australian Ballot.

Admittedly, Australian Ballot has a theoretical advantage in that each voter can have their say, at a time that's convenient for them (ex: regardless of work schedule).

However it's only for those few issues that make the ballot. And the theoretical advantage is balanced against a real and tragic loss.

Town Meeting is the active making of law by way of face-to-face discussion with one's neighbors; the ballot box is not even a shadow of this.


Keeping Promises

I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I.
- President Obama, Weekly Address, 2/27

Thank. God.

And thank god for a president who doesn't stoop to something as silly and provocative as "bring it"; this is not a challenge, but a simple statement of fact: I'm undeterred by the challenge.

The interests who are (they think*) threatened by these changes, are powerful. Or, think about it, were...

They are by no means powerless now, however they are not nearly as powerful as they have been - and now is the perfect time.

Not for retribution; not at all.

Now is the time for everyone to lay their cards on the table and discuss a rational way forward that benefits us all.

* And that's why I say "they think", above - the astute among us will see that this situation is a singular opportunity.

The call is clear: Carpe diem; let's get to work.


Douglas is no leader

The difference between the two proposals is that the union asks that the cuts be for the moment, the governor asks that they be permanent...
What we have now is not sustainable and if left intact would present a ruinous situation two years hence when the stimulus money fades to a trickle...
(From a Vermont Tiger article.)

This is exactly the crux of the matter:

The governor is using this crisis as an excuse for the right-wing agenda of slashing state government in order to conserve their own wealth and power. He says in effect that the crisis itself is permanent - how sadly lacking in leadership.

The union on the other hand, showing great leadership, sees this as the historic crisis it is - a problem to be overcome, not merely adjusted to and settled for.


Douglas spin

Current Vermont Governor, Jim Douglas (Republican) has taken to saying the he has "received more votes than any other person in Vermont history".

Why that's amazing; he must be amazing!

Almost as amazing as saying the Vermont's population has increased over the years.

Ah, the joy of spin.

Douglas is an astute politician and certainly knows that he has been elected for one reason only: Vermont liberals (Democrats, Progressives and others) have been beating each other up enough that he slips in.

A win is indeed a win - however let's be honest about it, shall we?