I just heard about Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-somethings Can’t Get Ahead, via the Oregon Bus Project‘s dandyslick email list. My response to most of the reviews I’ve seen and the quick facts on the site were “Oh good, I’m not completely insane.” The author says this is happening to 60% of people my age, which jives well with what I’ve observed. Among my group of friends maybe it’s a little less, as I would expect given the number of techies.
But this terrible, knee-jerk, straw-man review from Slate sums up a broad alternative response pretty neatly in it’s subhead: “Twentysomethings who can’t stop whining about how the economy is screwing them.” How bad is it, really? Click for the extended entry…

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Moral cowardice vs. strength of conviction

Josh Marshall on the Deadeye Dick flap

…all available evidence suggests that the Mr. Cheney is a man of deep moral cowardice. Makes a mistake and shoots his friend; blames the friend. Only he won’t do it directly. So he gets underlings to do it for him. Forced to speak out publicly, he appears before a ringer-journalist guaranteed not to press uncomfortable questions.
It’s all of a piece with the man’s record. He’s afraid of accountability. That’s why he’s such a fan of self-protecting secrecy. That’s why he’s big on smearing government whistle-blowers. It’s really just two sides of the same coin. He’s afraid of accountability. It’s the same reason why he’s such a notorious prevaricator — lies to avoid accountability.
These are all the hallmarks of a moral coward.

Last Monday, Jen and I caught sometimes-progressive Clinton Boom era economist Gene Sperling at the Commonwealth Club. He gave a good talk, and I gave him a copy of the high road. But there was one point that rang a little hollow: someone asked about the failure of the Clinton administration to successfully negotiate labor and environmental agreements into their trade agreements. His answer centered on the developing countries feeling that the US is too heavy-handed in it’s approach, whether it’s trade or our militarism. A friend pointed out that this an obvious and transparent dodge: surely their inability to negotiate these had nothing at all to do with multinational corporate campaign contributor’s wishes to avoid these sorts of regulations. Mmhmm.
But giving Mr Sperling the benefit of the doubt and taking his point at face value, the question this raises is about the strength of our convictions. If the leaders of the United States can’t level with other countries and say, look, we want you to develop your internal markets and economies and not screw up your environment so that you won’t have massive health and emigration problems ten years from now, that isn’t leadership. Regardless of where the pressure was coming from, the only right answer would have been to make the case for these kinds of policies and use the power of our tremendous consumer market to move things in the right direction. Markets are tools, not ends in themselves.
The Vice President’s behavior is both far more personally repulsive and an example of the much broader, deeper and scarier problems with this adminstration than any Mr Sperling’s answer, and oddly enough, his answer to my question (“this is great, but how do we move this agenda?”) was excellent and focused on exactly this issue; he talked movingly and at length about the economic vision that President Clinton had been developing for decades before he was elected to run the country. Strength of conviction and moral cowardice lie along the same axis and play out in our every day decisions. We’ve somehow gone from “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” to “the guy stepped in front of the barrel of my gun.”

This explains so much.

Living in Rep. Pelosi’s congressional district, I don’t bother filling out too many natioanl-focused action alerts. I try to focus on ones that go to folks other than her, like this one from People for the American Way demanding the DOJ appoint a special prosecutor to do it’s job and investigate the President illegally wiretapping his political opponents. The entirety of the response from the DOJ?

Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 17:02:28 -0500
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: We demand oversight.
I will be out of the office Friday 17.

Verrry nice.

Here’s the beef.

There’s been some very real danger that the June Democratic primary for Governor race was going to turn into a mud fest. Comments from both campaigns, bolstered in the press, seemed to indicate that they were going to try to make it about irrelevancies like personality, rather than ideas.
But today there is some excellent news on this front: Phil Angelides’ campaign took a big step today in moving things away from that direction by releasing a bold vision for where this state can go, including a twenty-five percent reduction in gasoline consumption over ten years. After the state Democratic Party convention last year, I was thinking that someone running for Governor should run on energy independence, not just as an environmental issue but as a matter of national security. Just like this:

President Bush and the Republican Congress remain locked in denial about the security and environmental risks of our reliance on oil and about global warming. They have refused to raise vehicle efficiency standards or vigorously pursue clean energy alternatives. Governor Schwarzenegger has offered rhetoric about greenhouse gas targets and hydrogen highways but no real plan or substantial change of direction. His massive infrastructure proposal, rather than encouraging smart growth and reducing oil use, fuels sprawl as usual by directing less than 5 percent of its proposed $100 billion in transportation funding to transit.
This is exciting stuff. President Bush’s paucity of leadership on this issue and Governor Schwarzenneger’s pavement-filled vision for the future of our state have never looked more lame. To our friends in the corporate media: this is exactly the kind of thing we want this campaign to be about. Please do not impose your “personality” driven storylines (or whatever it’s going to be) on this race.

C’mon in, Mr. Lucas, the water is fine

George Lucas is visiting DC

“Lucas, who has never been identified with political causes, said Tuesday that his visit to Washington was strictly nonpartisan…
Lucas is not listed as a political donor to any federal candidate for office or party in the past few election cycles, according to Federal Election Commission records.”

but, there is this…

Asked about the role of democracy in Star Wars’ imaginary Evil Empire, Lucas said, “In the Empire, Congress is irrelevant. They come, they talk, they rant, they rave, they vote, but it doesn’t mean anything because the emperor controls it all. He doesn’t care about the democracy part of it.’

It’s a little horrifying to consider that someone as outstandingly and phenomenally wealthy as George Lucas has never given so much as a dime to participating in the democratic process, but, like a lot of people, it sounds like he’s starting to wake up. Glad to see he’s apparently taking the political message of Episode III – “So this is how liberty dies, to the sound of thunderous applause” – seriously.

Give me a break

The Governor’s advisors are divided about Prop 82, the preschool for all initiative.

Richard Riordan, the governor’s former secretary of education, and his wife, Nancy Daly Riordan, are among Proposition 82’s leading supporters. Some of the big donors to the governor’s campaigns – Robert and Elizabeth Lowe and Warren Hellman – are also lending their names to the campaign to tax high earners to pay for universal preschool.
On the other side, the campaign against Proposition 82 is relying on advice from some consultants who have worked for Schwarzenegger’s political committees or Citizens to Save California, a coalition of business groups that supported Schwarzenegger’s November 2005 initiatives. Two of the governor’s staunchest allies are heading up the campaign against Proposition 82: California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg and Small Business Action Committee President Joel Fox.

Hence the Governor can’t take a position. Nevermind that very prominent pro-business groups, such as the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, have given him perfect cover by endorsing it. This guy just has no set of values guiding him when it comes to anything that’s fundamental or important. He has very strong convictions about exercise programs. That’s about all we’ve seen so far. He can’t take a stand if any of his crony corporate contributors or right-wing advisors behind the scenes have a problem. That is not the kind of person who deserves to lead a state like California.

Frankly, we don’t give a damn what Microsoft likes

Kevin Drum met with candidate for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, and had this to say (in an otherwise very positive report of the interview)…

She explained why legislation to require open source software for voting machines is likely to fail (Microsoft doesn’t like it)…

I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to it than this, but we’re not going to get top-level secure and reliable voting machines because Microsoft doesn’t like it? I think not. I’m not even a Microsoft hater. (chalk it up to reading Galbraith) But they most certainly do not get to decide policy on this. What’s the rest of the story here?

No free lunch

Dan Walters makes no sense today:

What no one – not only politicians of both partisan stripes but the larger public as well – wants to acknowledge is that when it comes to state spending, there’s no free lunch.

If you filter out the cynical journalist-speak from this sentence from the paragraph before, you’ll see that thi sis actually exactly what Treasurer Angelides has been saying:

Angelides has uttered the usual bromides about closing corporate tax loopholes and imposing higher taxes on the rich but has been vague about fully financing what he and other Democrats are advocating.

So what Mr. Walters is really saying is “well, my back of the envelope calculations don’t match with what the State Treasurer has come up with. He must be wrong, and I must be right, and it’s better just to be cynical about these things anyway.” He mentions the Governor’s addiction to free-lunch thinking (lets $220 billion on the credit card! whee!) in passing towards the end, but wouldn’t that have been a better topic for a column?