Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Washington Post just reviewed Unreasonable Men

    As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, “Unreasonable Men,” it was “the greatest period of political change in American history.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-unreasonable-men-on-p...

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Valkyries' Lament

    There is something odd about the chorus of criticism against President Obama's foreign policy. Normally, the age-old debate over military intervention revolves around a particular conflict. From WWI to the Iraq War, hawks and doves have always squabbled over the ethics, efficacy, and necessity of attacking a particular enemy at a particular time.

    But Obama's critics haven't focused on any particular conflict or enemy. They speak of the peril in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine, and the South China Sea. They warn of threats from Putin, Khamenei, Kim Jong-Un, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, or, more generally, dictators, fanatics, and terrorists. George W. Bush's Axis of Evil has become a Legion of Doom with new enemies, like ISIS, regularly joining the pantheon of international bad guys.

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    Eating Eric Cantor

    If revolutions eat their children, then Eric Cantor is the plat du jour. Just a couple years ago, he was the supposed leader of the right-wing House insurgency. The press waited hungrily for him to revolt against John Boehner and claim the Speaker's crown for himself. But Cantor chose to wait it out, and now the same insurgent spirit that bolstered his ambition has tossed him out of the House entirely.

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    Unreasonable Men: First Book Review

    From Publishers Weekly:

    From 1904-1912, the American political system underwent enormous growing pains, and political writer Wolraich (Blowing Smoke) gives this decade an exhaustive, detailed examination, from the first “creeping sense” of a new political body into a “war with only two sides” that birthed America’s enduring bipartisan identities.

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    What Would Teddy Do? Theodore Roosevelt on Net Neutrality

    “Above all else,” President Theodore Roosevelt admonished Congress in 1905, “we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”

    Roosevelt could not have imagined digital computers and fiber-optic cables. He was talking about railroads, the highways of commerce in his day. But though the technology has changed, the principle TR expressed remains as essential as it was a century ago. We ignore it at our peril.

    Until now, our digital highways of commerce have been open to all on equal terms. Media conglomerates and big-box retailers transmit information through the same pipes as bloggers, startups and boutiques. This principle of equality, known as net neutrality, has stimulated competition and spurred innovation since the Internet began.

    But it might not last much longer.

    Read the full article at Reuters

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    Bloomberg's Gun-Control Campaign: Right Idea, Wrong Guy

    Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has a bold plan. He hopes to single-handedly revive America's comatose gun-control movement with a $50 million cash infusion and a fresh political strategy. He has money, connections, and an astute appreciation for what it will take to counter the gun-rights mania that has hijacked national politics. Too bad he's not the guy to pull it off.

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    Your Top Ten Anti-Christian Acts of 2013

    The title of this post comes from the subject line of an email that I received from Dr. Gary L. Cass, head of the "Christian Anti-Defamation Commission." If you read on, you'll notice that none of the "top ten anti-Christian acts of 2013" represent actual discrimination against Christians. Most of them are about Christians' "right" to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Dear angry American who has to pay more for better health insurance,

    Bummer. I know the premiums are steep. I've been there. I remember when I moved from Philadelphia to New York City, and my rate jumped from $200 to $800--without even changing my plan. I received a letter saying that my premium might rise. The next thing I knew, boom, $800 charged to my credit card.

    At least you get better coverage out of the deal. I still had to pay for my ER visit because it fell under my $3000 deductible. But what could I do? This America. Private companies are supposed to wring people out like dirty washcloths. It's called a free market.

    But this is different, isn't it? It's not the free market that's squeezing you dry. It's the government. Government isn't supposed to squeeze people. It's supposed to get out of the way and let the free market squeeze people.

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    Kamikaze Logic and the Republican Insurgency

    The Republican effort to defund “Obamacare” is like playing chicken with a wall. The Senate Democrats will never vote against health care legislation they spent decades to pass. The voters will punish Republican legislators if they shut down the government or default on the debt. Whether the Republicans crash or swerve, this game has no positive outcome for them.

    So why are they doing it?

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    Russia Offers Asylum to Russian Dissidents

    On Thursday, Russian officials announced that Russia had offered asylum to dissidents suffering persecution from the Russian government.

    The group includes Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger sentenced to five years in a corrective labor colony; Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Russian oligarch imprisoned since 2005; members of punk rock protest band Pussy Riot, imprisoned since 2012; Russia's gay population; and the Chechen Republic. Russia also offered posthumous asylum to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent assassinated by Russian agents after receiving asylum in Britain.

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    Waiting for the GOP to Die

    Demographics, we've heard, are pro-Democrat. In a few years, a wave of young Latinos will swamp those dastardly Republicans in their southern redoubts, and then the donkey will soar again. Huzzah!

    But wait, it get's better. According to Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast, "even working-class white people" are preparing to join the glorious Democratic demographic revolution. He discovered a Brookings poll that proves, "White working-class millennials are fairly liberal!"

    In short, all we have to do is wait a decade or two for the new golden age of Democratic hegemony to come roaring back to Washington, courtesy of the aging process.

    I call this the Wait for the Old Farts to Die strategy.

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    Snowden, Prism, and Us - Food for Thought

    "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

    -- Edward Snowden, June 9, 2013

     

    Media References, June 9-30, 2013

      Google Dagblog
      News articles Blog posts News links Comments
    Prism 155,000 0 4 45
    Edward Snowden 637,000,000 10 14 313
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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Better Gun Control

    Last February, I wrote what columnists like to call a "think piece" about an alternative approach to gun control (with the implication that most punditry does not involve thinking).

    My proposal was to tax gun manufacturers and retailers based on the lethality of their merchandise, as measured by crime statistics. The hope was to incentivize companies to create their own safeguards against misuse, in essence to financially discourage them from making weapons that appeal to criminals and from selling to customers who are likely to use the guns for crime.

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    Iran's Last Chance

    Hassan Rouhani, Iran's newly elected president, will serve for four years. By the end of his term, Iran and the U.S. will either reach an agreement, or they will go to war.

    Last March, Obama told an Israeli television station that it would take "over a year or so" for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, the first time an American president stated a timeframe on the record. The dates coincide with a U.S. intelligence estimate during George W. Bush's administration: "sometime during the 2010-2015 time-frame."

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    I Don't Give a Damn About Privacy

    Go ahead, collect my phone records, track my websurfing, analyze my email.  I don't give a damn.

    I do not write this out of any loyalty to Obama or because I worry about the Terrorist Threat.  I simply do not care about my data privacy and never have.

    Why should I? My buying habits are ordinary, my emails are pedestrian, my phone calls would bore any spy to tears, my political opinions are very public and published under my own name. As long as no one spams me or steals my identity, why should I care what they do with my data?

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    Obama Scandals: The Quest for the Perfect "Gate"

    At last! Republicans have been awaiting this moment for five long years, the day that Obama finally gets his gate. You see, every two-term president has a defining scandal that renders him permanently villainous and/or ridiculous. By hallowed convention, the scandal must end with word "gate."

    Nixon started it with the gate to begin all gates, Watergate. Ronald Reagan followed up with Irangate. Bill Clinton enthralled us with Monicagate. George W. Bush gave us Plamegate.

    And now Obama has got his own gate...or rather his own gates. Since no single scandal is big enough bring him down, Republicans and pundits are eagerly gathering them up in a big stinking pile of nefariousness: IRSBenghAPgate!

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    Don't Cry For Background Checks

    Supporters of gun control lost yesterday. It was not a terrible bill. Expanded background checks would have stopped some future killers from buying guns. It should have passed. But it would have done little to reduce gun violence in America.

    "Fighting" Bob La Follette, a progressive senator from Wisconsin, once wrote, "In legislation no bread is often better than half a loaf. I believe it is usually better to be beaten and come right back at the next session and make a fight for a thoroughgoing law than to have written on the books a weak and indefinite statute."

    La Follette became famous for championing "radical" legislation that had no chance of passing--corporate regulations, labor rights, lobbyist restrictions, and popular election of U.S. senators. He took up his colleagues' time with "pointless" filibusters. He ran three times for president and never even came close to winning.

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    A Real Death Tax: Let the Killers Choose, Let the Profiteers Pay

    Premise 1: Killer Knows Best

    What makes one gun more lethal than another? Ever since Sandy Hook, the media has bombarded us with gun jargon. We've learned about flash suppressors and high-capacity magazines, threaded barrels and pistol grips. We've heard that these features are bad features, dangerous to children and other living things. The expired federal assault weapons law used to ban any gun with two or more of them. The new New York law bans them all.

    But we've also heard that gunmakers find ways to skirt these constraints. For instance, some manufacturers evaded California's quick-reload restriction with a "bullet button" that allows shooters to release a magazine with a bullet tip instead of a fingertip. It's hard for plodding legislatures to keep up with eager manufacturers, who have every incentive to invent the most lethal legal weapon possible.

    So if not the legislators, who should determine which guns are too deadly? Who in America most appreciates a gun's killing potential?

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    Evaluating the Teachers

    Unlike New York City teachers, most Americans have no say in how their employers evaluate their job performance. The process, if there is a "process," usually emerges from an obscure H.R. task force that bases its guidelines on whatever trendy corporate gobbledygook some associate vice president read in the latest issue of Human Resources Executive.

    Once the process reaches its lofty conclusion, the employee has to live with the consequences. A glowing evaluation may mean a raise and promotion. A scathing report may trigger demotion or even termination. The processes are not necessarily fair. Bosses often use them to justify whatever they wanted to do all along. Good bosses treat their people fairly. Bad bosses exploit their power for petty politics.

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    The Republican Suicide Strategy

    A suicide bomber walks into a bar. He shouts at the bartender, "Gimme the money, or I blow this place to bits!" The worried bartender hands him a wad of cash, and the bomber departs.

    The next day, the suicide bomber returns to the same bar. He shouts at the bartender, "Gimme the money, or I blow this place to bits!"

    "Are you nuts?" answers the bartender. "If I give you money every day, I'll go out of business. Plus, you're scaring away the customers."

    "I tell you what," replies the bomber, "Gimme the money, and I won't come back until the day after tomorrow."

    Welcome to the art of negotiation, Republican style. Since the election of 2010, the United States has narrowly averted three Republican-built suicide bombs: one government shutdown, one debt default and one fiscal cliff. We have two more scheduled for February: across-the-board spending cuts and another debt ceiling expiration.

    Read the full article at CNN.com

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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Boehner's Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad New Year

    John Boehner has a situation. A week ago, he failed to reach a deal with President Barack Obama to avert the dreaded Fiscal Cliff.

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    What Should We Do to Stop Massacres?

     

    Maybe Wayne LaPierre is onto something. So suggests DF in his latest blog, What Can We Do to Stop Massacres? Isn't it at least worth considering, he asks, LaPierre's proposal to station armed "responders" at our schools?

    It is worth considering. An armed officer presents a defense and a deterrent. It seems indisputable that LaPierre's proposal would help protect our schools against violent attacks.

    But would it stop massacres? Not unless we placed multiple armed responders at every park, playground, pool, day camp, playing field, Sunday school, daycare center, shopping mall, or any other place where children gather.

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    Susan Rice, America's "See No Evil" Ambassador

    Forget about Benghazi. The whole imbroglio was little more than an election gambit gone sour. Republican leaders, frustrated that their charges failed to wound Obama in November, have vented their fury on his choice for Secretary of State.

    But Susan Rice's record as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. raises other more serious concerns. The New York Times published two articles today, a news story and an op-ed, which question Rice's judgment concerning several African dictators.

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    China's Corruption Conundrum

    "We must be vigilant," proclaimed Xi Jinping, China's new paramount leader. In his inaugural speech to the 25-person Politburo, he warned that rampant graft and corruption would "doom the party and the state" if it continued unchecked.

    He has a point. From petty graft in far-flung villages to the regime-shaking Bo Xilai scandal, rampant corruption has fueled the social unrest that the long-toothed oligarchs fear so much. Payoffs have bumped China's vaunted high-speed trains off their shoddy tracks. Graft has nibbled away the roots of its famously fertile economy.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Change We Weren't Waiting For After All

    The pundits are pondering. They mention mandates and movements, margins and maneuvers and meetings in the middle. They wax wisely on who won and why they won and which way the wind will waft on Wednesday.

    We love to mock them, these prattling experts and prognosticators. And yet we listen, we read, we react. We can't help ourselves. We want to know what it all means and what will happen next. We are determined to squeeze great meaning from great events. We are all pundits.

    But the truth is that the great election of November 7, 2012, was all but meaningless. It represents neither a pivot point nor a portent. A poor candidate lost to a strong candidate, as as he was expected to do. A diverse majority of Democrats in the Senate will continue to play a weak hand weakly. A militant majority of Republicans in the House will continue to obstruct, ignoring calls for moderation as they have done for two decades. The federal government will hobble feebly along.

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