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    • 2020 Fundraiser Update
      We’ve raised just under $6,000 so far, which means we’ve reached the first goal at $5,000 – five linked articles in a series about political concepts and how to actually use them. Most people learn political and economic concepts, but the knowledge really does them no good, since they no on explains when they work […]
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Damn you, Ken Burns

You’ve created another maddeningly addicting documentary, this one on The Roosevelts.  I’m going to be tied to this computer for every spare moment until the final minutes of the whole fourteen hours.  I have rooms to paint and lawns to mow.

How did you get George Will to talk in favor of government regulation?  Did you torture him first?  Was it a trick of clever editing?

Highly recommended.  Check your local PBS station for scheduling or watch it online at pbs.org.

Happy ThanksBirthGiving Day!

(Part of this post has been cross posted at the site For Democratic Reform.  It’s time to get a new party started.)

Yes, it’s that odd alignment of the calendar where Thanksgiving falls on my birthday.  Yay!  Whoop! Whoop! Maybe *this* year, we’ll get fewer fauxber reflections  on where people were on the day Kennedy was shot.  {{yawn}}  (You know who you are. It’s boooooorrrrring and it ruins the birthday for millions of us so knock it off.) Well, a girl can dream.

One of the things I like about Thanksgiving feasts is that they are actually pretty inexpensive when you think about it.  The most expensive item on the menu is the turkey.    You can feed a bunch o’people for way less than $100 on turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, stuffing*, green bean casserole and pie.  And if you assign a different dish to each guest, it might be the cheapest dinner party you ever threw.  Which makes me wonder…

Why do we only have Thanksgiving once a year?

So, what are your big plans today?

And do you remember this guy?  This is FDR giving his Four Freedoms Speech.  The Four Freedoms are Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.

Not bad for a rich guy who didn’t have to worry about the 99%- but did anyway.  We live with his legacy today with the social insurance policies that he helped create and that president and both parties are busily trying to undermine with the urging of the pundits.

What exactly is it they hope to accomplish by allowing companies to reneg on their pension obligations while reducing the social insurance programs to the status of welfare programs?  Something about the sick arguments for killing these programs off reminds me of the dads who don’t want to pay child support because their former wives will just spend that money any way they want.  Like paying the rent or mortgage and feeding ourselves is some kind of frivolous luxury we can do without if we just tighten our belts.  Or that we’re too stupid to know that we can make a LOT more MONEY if we stash it in a 401K.  Wow. It’s like they think we just fell off the turnip truck and haven’t seen what happens to 401Ks when the smart young things play with our funds like its Monopoly money.  Don’t we have a right to say where we want to put our nest eggs?  Maybe we need a new Freedom.

I’m going to call it, the Freedom from Exploitation.  That is, the freedom of all working people, regardless of class, to reap the fruits of their productivity, to have their contracts and expertise honored, to have their success measured in terms other than how big their bonuses are, to be paid a living wage no matter where they live so that they might be able to afford a decent roof over their heads, healthcare and savings for their retirement, and to invest those savings in a guaranteed and safe retirement program that elected officials will regard as a moral obligation to protect as if it was a treaty between nations.

And anyone who argues against the Freedom from Exploitation or  for the dissolution of social insurance programs because they don’t feel an obligation to be honorable human beings, or simply in order free up those hard-earned savings as new funds for the global casino, should be hung up by their balls and ruthlessly shamed.

And now, for the greatest speech:

Have a great Thanksgiving!

*STUFFING.  Not dressing or filling.  As in, thaw the bird completely, stuff lightly and check the temperature. Jeez, get with the program. 😉

Tim Geithner; Herbert Hoover – Depression revisited

Unlike fellow Conflucian “headliner” Dakinkat (see her must-read post), I am not an economist, and I do not purport to have expertise in the field. I offer this post based on the claims of Paul Krugman and Barack Obama that the fiscal crisis facing the United States and its citizens today is more comparable to the conditions of the Great Depression than any other crisis faced since then. If that is true, no wonder I find the details of whiz-kid tax evader Tim Geithner’s newly dubbed Financial Stability Act (this is NOT the TARP redux bill just passed by the Senate) personally depressing. So, by the way, does Wall Street.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced a vast new rescue plan for the financial sector. Stocks plunged following the unveiling of the program to use $1.5 trillion or more in public and private funds to bail out banks and financial institutions and thaw frozen credit markets. The plan would create a $500 billion fund to buy up toxic bank assets such as bad real estate loans and commit up to $1 trillion to reopen lending markets for consumer, student, small business, auto andcommercial loans.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 383 points in afternoon trading. The tech-heavy Nasdaq plummeted 63 points, and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropped 43 points.

(source)

Here are the highlights of the Geithner plan, according to The New York Times:

0210-biz-GEITHNER-web

Now, read these excerpts from an overview of the Hoover administration’s approach to the Great Depression, which set in 6 to 8 years before Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first elected. Continue reading

“FDR: A Democracy-Builder”: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, democracy, and liberalism

[cross posted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri]

I am against the beatification, secular or otherwise, of politicians past or present. But some politicians have a record of greatness, some a record of achievement, some no record of anything, others a record of which to be embarrassed.  I believe that Franklin Delano Roosevelt has a record of greatness – not, not perfection, but greatness, that in part stems from his firm footing in the values of liberalism. Democracy, self-government by citizens, is a form of government that can further liberalism, so long as citizens and elected leaders appreciate the connection between each individual’s  autonomy, the need to permit others their autonomy, and the need to collaborate in the grand effort of self-government. Franklin Delano Roosevelt appreciated these connections, recognizing the value and dignity of the individual. Roosevelt appreciated the state’s affirmative obligation to do more than simply stave off threats to individual autonomy. He understood the state’s role in ensuring a social safety network that enabled the exercise of autonomy. While he experimented with the means to keep American democracy liberal, his programs were consistently aimed against absolutism and in favor of individual self-determination.

The selections below come from an article printed originally in 1995 (emphases mine, the link takes you to the full article). I find these selections as apt today as they were when first written, more than ten years ago.

What did Franklin D. Roosevelt accomplish? It is vital to understand it now, as we Americans consider making fundamental alterations in his legacy. Essentially, he preserved and enlarged the promise of human freedom in our time. Or, as Joseph Alsop put it, “On a very wide front and in the truest possible sense, Franklin Delano Roosevelt included the excluded.”

The America of 1933, racked by four years of depression, was all but exhausted with democracy. Every bank in the country was in the process of closing its doors. Thousands of square miles of farmland had become a desert. Between one-quarter and one-third of the work force was unemployed, and millions were being evicted from their homes and their land every year.
Depression was neither a natural catastrophe nor an isolated event. Things had never been quite so bad, but every 5 to 10 years, for the better part of a century, the country had suffered a wrenching economic collapse, much worse than any recession Americans have endured since World War II. Bank failures and Wall Street panics were common, and usually led to nationwide meltdowns.

Most elderly Americans lived in abject poverty. Working men and women worked six days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day. They were routinely joined at the job by their children; few people ever finished high school, let alone college.

A system of apartheid, rationalized by bad science and enforced by lynching, ruled in the South. Another system of quotas routinely kept blacks, women, Jews and ethnic whites out of the best jobs and schools.

Farmers could rarely make a living; more and more were reduced to the serfdom of share-cropping. Nine-tenths of rural Americans did not even have electricity.

The root causes of these conditions were basic, long-standing flaws in American democracy. More shocking than the conditions in which Americans of 1933 lived was how little say they had in anything that mattered. Banking and investment were dominated by a small circle of self-interested, often dishonest men. Politics in every large city was usually controlled by corrupt political machines. In the South, millions of blacks and poor whites were kept from the ballot box by poll taxes, literacy tests and force of arms.

The power of landlords and large corporations was rarely contained. Unions were small and powerless. The courts repeatedly struck down the most basic minimum wage, child labor, consumer protection and worker safety laws.

The Depression only brought these ongoing social crises to a head, yet few at the time saw more democracy as an answer. The very idea of democracy seemed to be outmoded in the swift and steely industrial world. Hard new nostrums abounded in the 1930s and ’40s: communism, fascism, socialism, technocracy, corporatism.

What Roosevelt possessed was the essential flexibility of mind for a democracy. It was indicative that during his first presidential campaign he promised above all “bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Not everything he tried worked well, and some things did not work at all, and many of the New Deal’s innovations have required revision. Roosevelt himself would have been baffled by the notion that they would not, for he was not erecting a Marxist utopia but a viable, modern democracy. What he did was to turn his entire administration into an ongoing debate on democracy. ….

Best of all, he extended this debate into the living rooms of every home in America. FDR gave the press unprecedented access to the White House, and there were the “fireside chats.”
….

Yet for all [Roosevelt’s] democratic pragmatism, we look for something more. The life of Richard Nixon provides an example of what can come from expediency ungrounded in any deeper principle. Was there any guiding spirit, anything more to Franklin Delano Roosevelt than tactics and timing, to account for the great outpouring of grief 50 years ago? [note from Heidi Li: The original article was published on the anniversary of FDR’s death]

There are at least two stories from his life that I think are telling. One was the account that he was unimpressed by the Grand Canyon: “It looks dead. I like my green trees at Hyde Park better. They are alive and growing.”

“He responded to what was vital, not to what was lifeless; to what was coming, to what was passing away,” wrote Mr. Schlesinger. “He lived by his exaltation in distant horizons and uncharted seas.”

The other story is from when he was first trying to win back some use of his legs after the attack of polio that crippled him. He would try, every day, to make it the quarter of a mile from his Hyde Park home to the post office on his crutches.

It was a torturous journey for a man with no working muscles from his hips down. Sometimes he would fall – and have to wait, lying face down in the road, for someone to come along and help him back up. “For better or worse, I believe that the Roosevelt who could not walk was in most respects very like the one who could,” writes Geoffrey Ward, and most current biographers would concur. It was Roosevelt’s strong, optimistic – and deceptive – character that got him through the loss of his legs to polio, and not the polio that built the character.

Yet what better training has any president had – in patience, in humility, in building a basic sympathy for the human condition? Franklin Roosevelt understood the clumsy, halting progress of us all, and nurtured it, and the American people loved him for it as they have loved few men since.

Friday: Geezers

Who is this man?

He is OLD, dude.  He’s 88.  And he is one of the only things that stands between you and the loss of your constitutional rights at the present time.  This man is John Paul Stevens, appointed to the US Supreme Court by Gerald Ford and, ironically, one of its more “liberal” members.  (Think about that.)

For some reason, no one is refering to John Paul Stevens as old.  Nope.  We keep hearing about how he still plays tennis a couple times a week.  No one is suggesting that JP Stevens is too old to sit on the Supreme Court.  In fact, I’m guessing that many of us would be perfectly happy if he stays on when he turns 100.  Heck, if he dies, what would be the harm of having his law clerks taxiderm him and roll him into chamber on a dolly?  Maybe they can wire him so they can make it look like he’s asking questions, sort of like Disney animatronics.  That would be fine with me.  One of the senior clerks can write a suitable Stevens-esque opinion.  Can I get a show of hands to see who would be cool with this?

Jeez, John McCain’s practically a young whippersnapper. *

In other news:

  • The Clinton’s are busily upstaging The Chosen One.  I can almost hear the Obamaphiles now. “They’re only defending equal pay, reproductive choice and malarial drugs because they know that Obama won’t and they want to make him look bad.  Damn, Hillary Clinton!”  Bill Clinton is getting some major global pharmas to bring down the cost of anti-malarial drugs and provide mosquito netting.  Wait for it… {{Clutch pearls}} “He’s grandstanding!  He still thinks he’s president!”  Well, he *could* stop doing all of those things and campaign with Obama.  He said he is just waiting for the call, no doubt sitting beside the phone between global conferences and conferring with his wife about the nasty machinations of the Bush executive branch.  Ahh, yes, I can see him nervously tapping his fingers as he waits for that phone to ring, “Ring, Dammit! I need to feel relevent again.  Obama has to know that I would do anything, *anything* to bask in his reflected glory.”  That magical day will someday soon come when the last successful two term Democratic president of the United States will stand cheek by skinny jowl with the Dauphin to whom he will pass the torch of responsibility for the mightiest nation of the world.  The Big Dawg will drape his powerful arm around Obama’s fragile shoulders and grin at the assembled throng and say, “You will be lucky to get Barack Obama to work for you.”  Any day now, I know he’ll call any day now.
  • I found this history lesson on LadyBoomerNYC.   It seems that this year is not the first that the Democratic party has endeavored to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Like, where would the country be if Al Smith or Nance Garner had been nominated.  Holy Hemiola!  Did you see how many delegates Smith had compared to Roosevelt?  I’m amazed they let him be nominated at all.  And here’s Hillary Clinton who is virtually tied in pledged delegates (if you strip Obama of his ill gotten gains in Michigan, Texas and many of the other caucus states where the mysterious Hillary caucus goers whose intentions we can fairly estimate were not counted) and she’s having problems getting the evil triumvirate to even put her name in nomination.  Let’s think about that for a sec: an African-American male is all but anointed because his candidacy is historic but the female who came in second in a squeaker can’t get nominated at all because she came in second in a squeaker?  This after frickin’ Al Smith who had a lousy 201 delegates to Roosevelt’s 666.5 (that half delegate just barely saves him from accusations of backing by demonic forces) puts FDR through *FOUR* ballots.  PLEASE.  This is just fucking nuts.  Put the lady’s name up for nomination and quit embarrassing yourselves, DNC.
  • Alegre has this fascinating post on Choosing Girls in math and science.  I have some recent first hand experience with this subject.  Brook is in the top 2% nationally in math according to her recent NJASK and SSAT scores (perfect score or 24/24 in Algebra and Geometry facts for the lower school test).  But headed into seventh grade, she couldn’t get her teacher to recommend her for enriched algebra.  In fact, her teacher wouldn’t recommend her for Algebra at all next year.  She has to repeat pre-algebra in spite of the fact that she cosnsitently scored in the 90’s on her quizes and tests.  It gets worse.  The only students recommended for the enriched algebra course were… wait for it… boys.  Yep.  Don’t tell me what avenues to pursue.  I’ve done everything I can short of throwing a fit at the next board meeting (scheduled for July 21, 2008.  I have my alarm set.)  I’m trying to get her in a private school that won’t wait list her for lack of space (already happened at two of the best in the Princeton area).  So, if anyone out there has any connections and wants to help a gifted but mouthy 12 year old who hates homework but has a wicked sense of humor and is really a very nice girl, please let me know.  Other than that, if this is something Hillary Clinton would like to take on in the Senate before Brook becomes a classic underachiever, I would be forever grateful.  If anyone reading this can pass the message on to her, that would be very helpful.
  • Friday FAST is back. Here’s the deal: give up breakfast, lunch and dinner, send your savings to Hillary.  Click on the lunch bag in the side panel to participate.  If you can only skip one meal, that’s OK too.  If you can give a little more, consider sending it to America’s Second Harvest to help poor families feed their kids.  You’ll feel full all day.  I promise.

*I’m not voting for John McCain.  I just think the “old” argument is lame.  It’s like, “He’s  ollllld”, that’s all you’ve got Barack?  He’s old?  {{sigh}}