Meet the New Democrats, Same As the Old Democrats

Human beings are naturally drawn to bold statements, and, concomitantly, to overstatement. Nowhere is that more visible than in politics, and nowhere is politics more prone to it than when it involves the President of the United States. Such overstatement is dangerous no matter who it comes from, as it reinforces illusions about the world in which we live. Even if the result is more CNN than FOX News, it’s still dangerous.

Bombast like that of the outgoing president is easy to spot and criticize, especially when you vehemently disagree with the person spewing it. More moderate overstatement is just as damaging and common, but it is less obvious. This more subtle bombast has gone into overdrive in 2020, in large part as a reaction to Donald Trump’s term in office and savage attempt at reelection.

As liberals sigh with relief at Joe Biden’s imminent assumption of the Oval Office, we see comments such as this, from J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami (full disclosure: I have known Jeremy for many years, and, despite significant political differences with him, I like and respect him): “I know you’ll agree: January 20, 2021 cannot come soon enough. Beyond that lies hope inspired by broad vaccine distribution, economic recovery and a new day for our nation marked by new leadership and new direction.”

I certainly agree that January 20, 2021 can’t come fast enough. The reasons are obvious, and virtually all of them have to do with Trump’s exit, not Biden’s entry. But he does not symbolize hope, he is not “new” in any way, and he does not offer either a new direction or a way out of our current morass.  

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True Unemployment Is Much Higher Than You Think

On October 2, 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued its latest employment report and it wasn’t good news. Unemployment, BLS said, stood at 7.9%. It marked the fifth straight month that unemployment dropped, after the enormous jump from 4.4% in March (itself a significant increase over February’s 3.5%) to 14.7% in April.

But the September decline was only 0.5% and still left the United States well above February’s level when the labor market was extremely healthy. Or was it?

Most of what we hear about the economy, from journalists, politicians, economists, and pundits, is that we need to get back to where we were before COVID hit. But mid-way through October, that seems an unlikely prospect.

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Racism Is About A Lot More Than Hurt Feelings

The debacle of the first presidential debate left no real substance to talk about. What little there was got buried under the ninety-minute spectacle of Joe Biden fighting to maintain some composure and dignity under the onslaught of childishness, boorishness, and general Trumpishness of the sitting president.

But one thing Biden said caught my attention. I think it demonstrates a fundamental problem that we have in confronting racism in this country. Nearly an hour into the circus, moderator Chris Wallace (who is getting far more criticism for this disaster than he merits—people are criticizing him, but no one can control a president who is intent on disrupting things. But I digress) asked Trump about his new attack on racial sensitivity training.

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Narrow Space to Prevent a SCOTUS Coup by GOP

Some key recent quotes from Republicans who some think might vote against rushing to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, just yesterday:
“I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election.”

Senator Chuck Grassley in May:
“You can’t have one rule for Democratic presidents and another rule for Republican presidents.”

Senator Susan Collins very recently:
“I think that’s too close, I really do,” when asked about appointing a justice in October. Continue reading

#RBGRIP, But McConnell is Wasting No Time. We Must Act.

The news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death had barely broken when Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would move swiftly to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. As of this writing, President Donald Trump has issued a statement on RBG’s death (which he obviously didn’t write), but not about his plans for replacing her. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the glee with which he received the news.

Doubtless, in Trump’s mind, the foremost question is whether it is more to his advantage to push for her replacement before the election or hold out until after. McConnell is likely pondering a similar question. Pushing hard for a quick replacement could be seen as securing more goodwill among potential Trump and down-ballot Republican voters. Holding off until after the election could motivate more votes from conservatives wishing to ensure that Joe Biden does not have the chance to nominate a new Justice. Continue reading

The Death of David Bowie

By now, most of you will have heard of the passing of David Bowie.

I write this as I sob uncontrollably for the death of a man I never met. But through his music and some other parts of his public persona, he had the single greatest effect on my life, on my spirit, and on my sense of self of any person outside of a very few family members and close friends.

I first fell in love with Bowie at the age of only nine years old, in 1976. I listened to his recently released compilation album, ChangesOneBowie.  I was captivated by Space Oddity, and my interest held through several more songs. But it was Suffragette City that really caught my nine-year old heart. I bought the album the very next day. By the time ‘Heroes’ came out, in late 1977, I already had all his albums to date. I didn’t have any idea what to make of Low or of ‘Heroes’ but I would learn, and eventually recognize them for the incredible works of genius they were. Continue reading

Don’t Make a Hero of Snowden — Yet

Edward Snowden must not be made a hero! That probably comes as a surprise to anyone who read my previous two pieces on PRISM,

This guy gets it

This guy gets it

but it’s a genuine concern. The question of Snowden as hero or traitor threatens to derail the much more important conversation that we need to have in the United States.

Bipartisan attacks on Snowden are already being leveled. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bill Nelson, both Democrats, and the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner have all called Snowden a traitor. Others are praising him as a hero. And, as the go-to newspaper for lobbyists, POLITICO has already pointed out, the debate itself is precisely what President Obama wants. While we debate the pros and cons of Ed Snowden, we’re not discussing PRISM. Continue reading

Star Trek: Into Darkness: A Fun Film That Could Have Been So Much More

The release of a new Star Trek movie is my opportunity to geek out. I started watching Star Trek when I was just three years old, so I’ve been following it for 43 years, through TV series, movies, books, games of all sorts and way more trinkets, clothing and paraphernalia purchased than I care to admit. That should establish my street cred for this review of Star Trek: Into Darkness.


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Cheapening Our Bodies, Male and Female

So, apparently the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch has a really big problem with bigger people. A&F will not sell larger sizes because, as CEO Mike Jeffries tells a Business Insider reporter, “…we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”beauty-comes-in-all-shapes

So, not only does Jeffries want us all to believe that someone with some meat on her/his bones is unattractive, s/he is also “not cool.” Is there a clearer example of how shallow and incipid the image-driven world is?

I also found it interesting that the article that criticized this focused only on women’s sizes. I get, of course, that body image is a very serious problem among women, with the associated insecurities, eating disorders and daily judgments based on their appearance. Continue reading

We Can Be Heroes

This article originally appeared in Souciant, where I maintain a weekly column. Please support our work, we depend on you. 

Leftists often bemoan a perceived lack of progress on the issues they work on. Fighting economic injustice, war or discrimination can feel like a thankless task. On top of the

difficulty of the work, too often we fail to celebrate success and lose a longer historical view of how the world has changed for the better.

That’s why this week’s revelation by National Basketball Association veteran Jason Collins that he is gay is so important. Collins is the first professional player in a major US male team sport to come out while he was still active, and the media as well as most other athletes who have spoken publicly have been extremely supportive. It’s worthwhile to stop and realize that only a few short years ago the response would have been very different. Continue reading