Holiday Shopping, 2014

It’s just about shopping season! Last year, 19.2% of all retail sales were holiday sales – the stuff outside of food, gasoline, and other consumables that took place in the 28 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That’s a total of $597B. This year, there’s one more day in that period and retailers hope for a decent increase.

Will this be a good holiday season that finally shakes off the blues that have plagued retail for the last six years? We’re about to find out.

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Crude Goin’ Down

The sign out front reads $2.899 for a gallon of gasoline. Prices haven’t been this low for at least four years. What happened? Will the price stay this low?

The short answer is that a lot of things happened, some of them mysterious. And it can’t remain this low forever, but perhaps for a few months. It’s all about the market for oil and perhaps some pernicious politics that, as always, make oil prices a geopolitical game.

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Whither, Republicans?

The Democrats lost the election bigtime, far more than the Republicans won it. As a Democrat I naturally worry more about my own party and what we should be doing, but that’s far from the most interesting story. After all, the Republicans inherited the vacuum amid 37% turnout and approval ratings for Congress at around 14%.

That’s not a win, it’s a default. And it’s not good to have power without any strong mandate.

What on earth should the Republicans do about it? There are two main schools of thought. One is to show that they deserve to be in government by demonstrating competence, the other is to keep pounding the Democrats and show how bad the other guys are. Governing seems like the obvious choice, but the landscape that has to be crossed is full of landmines. This might be an interesting two years.

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William Penn and Religious Freedom

It naturally comes up in my family just before Thanksgiving every year.  The Puritans’ deliverance to America is billed as a search for religious freedom, something which is a core value of our nation. It’s good that we celebrate such a thing, but do the Puritans really deserve credit for it?  The short answer is no, they do not, because they were seeking to establish their own theocracy – and across the ocean where no one would bother them seemed like the perfect place.

Religious tolerance as a founding principle of America came from a different source – William Penn, the “absolute proprietor” of Pennsylvania.  The reason that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves is murky at best, but may have its origins in a prejudice that most of us wouldn’t even understand today.  I think it’s time to correct that.
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Progressive – In Every Sense of the Word

It was a tough election for Democrats. Welcome to a roughly biennial tradition of recapping where my party is falling down – and what we need to do to pick up the pieces.

This is clearly a work of opinion, but it will be as informed as possible. Naturally, you may disagree and have your own additions. Please, by all means, this has to be a conversation about the future – of our party and our nation.

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