Apr 152017
 

I have often disagreed with your party’s positions, but I usually could tell what they were. Although there were always some exceptions, there was a general coherence to them. You were the Sam the Eagles of American governance, statesmen above all else, and champions of a steady hand on the tiller of America, even when progress might perhaps have required a somewhat freer one.

That is not who you are now. You have put a mercurial, war-mongering clown at the head of your party, installed him in the White House, and are now standing silently by as he is aided and abetted by a team that, with rare exception, is at best incompetent if not also purposefully bent on undermining every institution that has protected the American people for generations. Far from being the conservative play, by letting his intemperate and frequently lawless behavior go unchecked you have been enabling the dissolution of every bit of stability – economic, political, and, perhaps worst of all, diplomatic – the nation and its security depends on. Stability that your own party has proudly claimed to have worked so hard to build.

While there are some among your ranks who appear to be gleeful for the GOP to suddenly be unshackled from the norms of decency, diplomacy, and competency, I have to believe that they are the minority. But as long as the majority is frozen in paralyzed impotence, the minority is redefining who you are, and who this country gets to be. Continue reading »

Apr 032017
 

As the nomination of Judge Gorsuch for the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court continues to move forward, I find myself, as someone who generally characterizes herself as liberal and who tends to “vote blue,” torn.

Given my policy predilections there are in fact some significant reasons to favor his nomination. In particular he seems willing and able to clip the wings of government power when it tries to act beyond its authority. In light of a presidential administration that seems inclined to flex its muscles far beyond the bounds of how the Constitution permits it to, those sorts of libertarian leanings could be an important check on executive abuse, abuse that often targets liberal values.

On the other hand, although his jurisprudence on the subject is thin, miscellaneous comments he’s made about reproductive freedom make me concerned that his notion of individual liberty does not extend to a woman’s right of self-determination over her own body. Similarly, the hearings suggested that he may lack sufficient empathy for the lives his jurisprudence will touch. While I don’t generally agree that all liberal policies are necessarily a good idea, or constitutionally permissible, the intent behind them has always struck me as inherently valid and consistent with what it takes to form this more perfect union. Too much pushback against these policies, particularly when rooted in obliviousness to how Americans of differing backgrounds find themselves needing to live their lives, will not lead to liberty and justice for all.

And yet Gorsuch is educated, capable, and presumably persuadable. He is not a rabid ideologue. Thus there remains the concern for what might happen if his nomination is rebuffed and the next candidate put forth is.

It is hard to know how to counsel Democrats to proceed. There is a significant risk in rejecting him. On top of tempting an even worse candidate now, the mechanics of resistance, of pushing the filibuster and daring it to be destroyed, may remove it as an option to use against a worse candidate in the future. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that it couldn’t be destroyed later, for that worse candidate.

Furthermore, Democrats still have two significant structural concerns about proceeding with Gorsuch’s appointment, concerns apart from qualms about his jurisprudence and that can’t simply be dismissed. Continue reading »

Jun 072016
 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth some more about whom I would vote for in the California primary today. It is in many ways an awful choice to have to make, choosing between two such supremely qualified candidates. On the other hand, it is also the best possible choice to have to make, to have one’s electoral cup runneth over with two such excellent choices. Given the way they complement, and the way they differ, I wish they were the principle choice for the general election in November.

But I have to make a choice today, and I’ve chosen to go with Clinton. It’s hard because there is so much I like about Sanders: I like that he has forced a public dialog about wealth distribution in the United States and championed having the fundamental underpinnings of modern American life – in particular health and college education – available to all. I like that he has been able to move the needle as far as he has as an outsider, and, indeed, that he has challenged the status quo that tends to benefit political insiders at the expense of important policy values carried by outsiders. I like him as a man, and as a refreshingly ordinary man for whom intense attention does not appear to have caused him to internalize his own celebrity. And, as a Jewish person in America, I like that he has been able to open doors I was not convinced were open to other Jewish people aspiring to serve the country in such an office.

Identity politics are not the basis by which I generally like to make political decisions, however. Choosing the “X” candidate without any other inquiry into the candidate’s qualification is not likely to lead to good governance. And in this primary they are of little utility to me in any direct way anyway, because while on the one hand I’m Jewish, on the other hand I’m also a woman. Either way my purely demographic interests are advanced regardless of which candidate wins.

At the same time, one of the reasons diversity is an important value is because everyone is both shaped and inherently limited by their own lived experience. Problems and solutions will go unseen when they fall into blindspots, which is why it is good to have a diversity of perspectives represented. And I was starting to see a problem.
Continue reading »

Mar 132016
 

When I was a young reader I used to read Nancy Drew mysteries. And they scared me: I couldn’t take the suspense, so I often found myself flipping to the back of the book, checking out the last page, just to know that somehow the good guys were going to come through ok. Once I knew that, I could enjoy letting the rest of the book unfold.

I find myself in this election wishing I could flip to the back of the book just to know if it’s true that everything will be ok. Continue reading »

Aug 262015
 

The Washington Post has a letter today signed by various generals opposing the Iran nuclear deal.  But as “Emptywheel” noted on Twitter:

That guy? John Poindexter, who was implicated in the Iran-Contra affair for having helped supply arms to Iran in the 1980s.

Which made me think today was a good day to post the Iran Contra Nursery Rhyme I wrote way back in middle school, so we could better remember why it is we currently find ourselves in this diplomatic mess with an over-armed country we helped make over-armed:
Continue reading »

Sep 082013
 

In light of the news of a proposal being floated to name the new span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge after former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, I thought I would repost what I wrote a few years ago about naming civic structures after politicians generally. Short answer: I’m against it, and I use another Bay Area bridge as an example of how civic structures should better be named. (Note also the post-script at the end.)

In the days where naming rights to every civic structure are routinely sold to the highest bidder, it’s nice to see things get named after a deserving and appropriate person.

California just completed a new suspension bridge (in the Bay Area, crossing the Carquinez Strait carrying eastbound I-80 traffic) and named it the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge. According to CNN (Update: link may no longer be active):

[The bridge] is named for an ironworker who fell from the Golden Gate Bridge during its construction in 1936 and survived to help build six more bridges in the Bay Area.

Zampa died in 2000 at 95, weeks after turning the first shovel of dirt for the bridge.

He sounds like a worthy recipient of the honor of having the bridge named after, and certainly much more worthy than others who’ve had civil engineering projects named after them like, say, Ronald Reagan. Someone wrote on the Internet somewhere (I forget where) that it was tremendously ironic to name an airport after the man who had fired all the air traffic controllers.

I think it would be advisable to make a rule (either codified, or simply as a hegemonically and tacitly socially agreed-upon tradition) not to name things after people until 50 years after their death. This would give us a chance to really reflect on these people’s contribution to society and decide if, on retrospect, we still feel highly enough about them to justify the honor. Also, particularly in the case of political figures, such a policy would prevent the naming of structures that everyone shares for people whose politics not everyone necessarily favored.

True, Zampa died only a few years ago, but it’s not like he was a political figure whose supporters called in political favors to have the structure named after him. And the story of his contributions to the Bay Area’s infrastructure makes naming a bridge after him seem very appropriate. Perhaps if it was a baseball stadium they wanted to name after him I would feel differently. But then again, if it would prevent another recurrence of an Enron Field…

The preceding was originally posted November 10, 2003. A few months later, on another post, came the following comment by Ronald Zampa:

I like your commentary regarding the naming of things. Alfred Zampa was my grandfather and a local legend. There never was a more down to earth individual. He started building bridges on the first Carquinez in 1926 and the rest is history. I wish more of the structures in America were named after the people that did the work to build this country.