Senate Shakedown

Will the Senate go Republican? Nearly everyone believes it is likely, and has for a long time. It’s hard to see how that will be any different from today, given the ability to filibuster absolutely anything in that body.

Beyond Democrats and Republicans, there is a third option that is growing – some kind of independent fueled chaos and perhaps a heavy dose of Joe Biden in the works. The possibilities are absolutely delicious for many reasons. Not only would it give us all something to write about, a Senate in chaos would probably more accurately reflect the mood of the nation. Here’s how it goes.

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Paralyzed

“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.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt

One of the key features of the time we live in is paralysis.  Uncertainty creates risk aversion, since risk is much more difficult to calculate.   After a few years living like this and people start to live day to day.  It eventually becomes “survival mode” when tomorrow becomes very difficult to imagine.  The result is nothing – and that often comes even when one person is calling the shots, let alone a system based on consensus among many.

The evidence is all around us that something unusual is happening.  Change is coming faster and in ways that are not often talked about adequately.  The economy is not simply recovering the way it has after any other post-war recession.  What should we do?  FDR had it right – try something and see if it works.  If that goes against every instinct you have right now, you’re not alone.  But let’s see if we can convince you that there are, in fact, some things that point to very different actions than we’re all used to.
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Global Policeman, Again

Another year, another war in Iraq. Like the sunspot cycle, they seem to come ‘round about every 11 years. But this is not a natural cycle – this is caused by the instability built into a planet that is closer than ever before. Artificial “nations” created by outside powers with inherent instability, such as Iraq, are a burden on everyone.

There’s little point going into the strange history of Iraq and other nations like them because as it currently stands there are few ways to fix the problem. The climate of constant war makes redrawing boundaries in the Middle East (or, for that matter, in Ukraine) hard to imagine without making the situation worse in the short run. It usually takes years of peace and stability to contemplate a peaceful transition, such as the one that Scotland will vote on next week.

One question we can contemplate is why the burden always falls on the US. The short answer to that question is that we are by far the dominant military on the planet. But why?

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Labor Creates All Wealth

As Democrats contemplate the possibility of losing the Senate, there are many ways we can handle it.  We could all sit in the back and throw stuff, much as the Republicans did for the last few years.  We could turn on each other and rip our own guts out in a festival of shame and blame.  Or, if we’re intent on really standing up to our principles, we can use this time away from being the responsible ones and understand what it is that we, as a party really stand for.

We have a lot to offer if we can only get it together for once.  But I, for one, think it’s going to take a much deeper understanding of our core values and what is really happening around us before we can make it happen.

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When Great Force Becomes Easy

The still summer evening was suddenly ripped apart by the heavy THWUP!-THWUP!-THWUP! of helicopters. In this part of St Paul copters are common enough as small emergencies across the state hurry themselves to nearby United Hospital. But this sound was different. It was heavy, immediate, and amplified by three of them flying low enough to sneak up on the otherwise placid city.

Then there was the shape. Medivac copters are small and light, but these were large and olive drab. Several low passes later they were joined by another sound, a gentle whoosh that might have been less disturbing had I not had the knowledge that this is what a Blackhawk sounds like.

Last Tuesday St Paul was the host to an unannounced training mission in urban warfare that included Navy Seals. Why? No one has been told why they did it here. Before, after, and during we all know essentially nothing. Our cities are being militarized and shown tremendous force behind a cloak of secrecy that is inappropriate – and naturally falls on the most vulnerable citizens of our community. But Ferguson, Missouri is hardly alone.

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The Opportunity Cost

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.  It’s a silly old saying with a huge dollop of folk wisdom hidden in the middle of it.  But money spent is sometimes more than just money gone – in an integrated world it’s a choice to make one connection when another one might have been a better choice.

Rather than just measure how much money is going in and out, it might be better to understand what we could buy with the same money.  The technical term for this is “Opportunity Cost”, or what we give up by making the choices we do.

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Stability

As the crisis in Iraq worsens nearly daily, a quiet calm seems to have come over US politics. Republicans want to blame Obama for this, but know that they can’t. More to the point, there doesn’t seem to be anything proactive we can do, at least not anything different from what we tried twice before. There is simply far too much blame to go around for it to land squarely on anyone here in the US.

What is different this time? Apart from the horrible loss of life a decade ago, apparently for little gain, there is a big change in the US. Our energy independence makes any arguments based on “strategic resources” much thinner than the blood of American soldiers. Between this crisis and Ukraine it has become clear that we have limits and have to learn to be OK with that.

But there is more to it. It should be obvious by now that US foreign policy can no longer be about control but stability. And that, by itself, should be a pivotal change.

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