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Seven Million - Check. Untold Millions - Unchecked.

April 3, 2014 by Living Liberally

Politics, government, healthcare, news, political news

The healthcare push led to 7 million sign-ups, surpassing the Administration's targets, and giving a boost to this new program, while getting more Americans covered.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court struck down limits on individual overall campaign donations, giving a boost to wealthy contributors, letting millions more dollars flood our elections.

Obamacare gets our government working for the many. McCutcheon gets our government working for the few. This week may see Americans get healthier, but also witnesses our democracy get more diseased.

Seven million Americans - check. Untold millions in contributions - unchecked. A few million steps forward,
an unlimited number of steps back.

Share healthcare tales, swap Court gripes as you trade drinks and thoughts through the night at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Results or Process: How Should We Evaluate Judges?

March 17, 2014 by gawilliams14

Politics, government, healthcare, news, political news, law

A few days ago I was asked which of the Justices on the US Supreme Court I admire the most.  My answer shocked the friend who asked the question: Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer. His reaction was almost immediate. "How can you admire two justices who are so different (i.e., conservative and liberal respectively, though the use of the political terms is somewhat inaccurate)???  I would like to take a moment today and explain why I feel we (the general public) have a tendency to look at the wrong aspects when evaluating our judges.

For decades Judges, especially Supreme Court Justices, have been labeled either liberal or conservative, judicial activists or practitioners of judicial restraint, strict constructionists or living constitutionalists….  The list goes on and on.  Oddly enough, none of these terms are accurate in terms of what judges actually do, or rather, the processes by which they do their work.  As a result, there is a very skewed perception of what is being done by the courts (see my blog on judicial review posted in February of this year).    Read more

They Raised the Ceiling, Now Raise the Floor

February 13, 2014 by Living Liberally

Politics, government, healthcare, news, political news

Boehner's buddies bucked the Tea Party to lower the insanity and raise the debt ceiling. Could they show the same courage to lift up our nation by raising the minimum wage for millions of workers?

McConnell's crew crammed down their crazies to avoid a destructive, dubious debate over debt. Now can they repel their radical right-wing to renew relief for unemployed Americans?

The Democrats avoided a manufactured meltdown to preserve the country's full faith and credit. In addition to the debt ceiling, it is time to raise our standards for what counts as progress.

Kudos to Congress for not creating a crisis. They raised the ceiling - now raise the floor: our basic quality of life, our safety net minimum our low expectations and baseline belief in democracy.

That would be a success worth toasting.

Meanwhile, toast small victories & share small talk as you enjoy a big night with big ideas at your local progressive social club.

Not snow, nor sleet, nor icy rain shall keep us from our appointed rounds!

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Thankful for Nuclear Options and New, Clear Options

November 27, 2013 by Living Liberally

The Senate addresses historic obstruction by dealing with dramatic filibuster dysfunction, enraging the GOP and engaging democracy to move forward on Presidential appointments.

Iran talks turn into tremendous opportunities to pause their path toward nuclear armament and to showcase the power of diligent diplomacy.

We hold our breath for the healthcare site fixes, while half-a-million Americans are already headed toward comprehensive, affordable coverage and millions more finally have more options.

The Senate surprised us with one strong choice, Iran is surprising us by choosing a new path and Americans are finally getting choices too.

From nuclear options to new, clear options, there is much to be thankful for this holiday.

There is also much more work to be done to create a just and equitable society for all so that every family can celebrate a safe, sound, sustainable Thanksgiving.

Tonight, if you're thankful for your options to share ideas while sharing a pitcher or two, come by your local, progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY Find - or start - a chapter near you.

When Non-civil Disobedience is Just

September 25, 2013 by Jay Ruckelshaus

The world weeps for Syria. To the growing list of atrocious statistics achieved during the Syrian Civil War, we may now add the 100,000th death. While the West twiddles its thumbs, weighing its fear of being embroiled in a prolonged conflict against some moral imperative to intervene, Bashar al-Assad and his regime continue to pass bloody milestones.

When your neighbors are taken prisoner or murdered and your schoolmates are tortured at the whims of the regime, it's hard to sit by… so many Syrians are not. But the rebels who wage war on Assad have also committed violent acts in their fight against the government that, when viewed in isolation, may be considered extreme and even cruel. And yet we do not view them in isolation. Many of us intuitively consider the rebels’ use of violence to be justified in light of the violence committed by the other side. So, the argument might go, it is only appropriate to judge the cruelty of the rebels’ actions in the context of the greater battle and in reference to the violence that Assad is currently using – violence justified in virtue of reciprocity, what I call "reactive" violence.    Read more

The Danger of Political Labels

September 25, 2013 by Jay Ruckelshaus

I recently had a conversation with an Australian student in which neither of us knew what the other was saying. We were both speaking English, but it was probably the most unproductive conversation you can imagine.

We were ostensibly discussing the merits of the liberal commitment to supporting the welfare state. It was one of those moments I was looking forward to while signing up for the Duke in Oxford program; here was my chance, I thought, to attain enlightenment in an oak paneled room while discussing a subject whose pretension matched that of my environment. And with a foreigner!

But it was not to be. I became increasingly confused because he said there was no commitment at all – liberals are only concerned with supporting the free market. I tried explaining that liberals generally favor expanding the welfare state and otherwise checking the unregulated market. After several minutes of fruitless efforts we decided to change the subject.    Read more

Citizens United and the Perils of Super PACs

September 3, 2013 by mstinnett311

Michael Stinnett - 9/03/2013: Legal rulings such as Citizens United and lax campaign financing laws have undermined the democratic process allowing wealthy donors to buy elections; so-called Super PACs are a pernicious influence on society and should be abolished. A Super PAC, or independent expenditure-only committee, “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis – the Super PAC's choice – as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates” (Super PACs). The recent ruling protects political spending by corporations in candidate elections, citing the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. In justifying the ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that “'If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech'” (The New York Times).    Read more

God Colors Outside The Lines

September 1, 2013 by Ted Frier

The subject of Father Scott's homily on Sunday was "tunnel vision," something our local parish priest knows a lot about since it was not until he was in his twenties and well out of high school that Father Scott finally got his driver's license. "Tunnel vision," said the state trooper who flunked him. "Stop focusing on the straight lines in front of you and see everything around you."

But it wasn't to whine about being the only kid in his senior class who still rode a bike to school that Father Scott brought up the subject of "tunnel vision." Instead, it was as a prod to urge the rest of us to stop fixating on the bright lines defining our own narrow prejudices, or tribes, or self-imposed prisons so that we might see the larger world around us.

That is because, as Father Scott explained, "God colors outside the lines."

Mine is a parish, as I have mentioned before, that lies on the outskirts (and mostly under the radar screen) of the larger Boston Archdiocese. It's a town that is predominantly Jewish but which has a protestant church on three of the town square's four corners and also a mosque all our own.    Read more

Should Judges Be Elected?

August 26, 2013 by gawilliams14

When Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court in January of 2006, one of the issues she felt very strongly about was the increasingly common call for federal judges, and state judges, to be elected as opposed to appointed. She was decidedly against the idea, and has put a great deal of her time, outside of hearing cases on various federal courts of appeal and encouraging greater civics education, to fighting efforts in various states to turn to an elective system of placing judges on the bench. A number of states already have an elective system in place, or variants of it, but at the Federal level the Constitution in Article 3 creates the appointive process of nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate. The question I have been pondering more and more lately is whether it is really desirable to have elected judges. I will attempt to answer that question with this article.    Read more

A Secret Democracy Doesn't Secrete Democracy

August 22, 2013 by Living Liberally

A secret court rebuked the NSA's secret program which collected secrets of countless Americans -- yet this report was, until now, secret.

Bradley Manning revealed secret messages that educated the public, shed light on corruption, contributing to our understanding of our government -- and he was sentenced to 35 years.

Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, telling Americans about invasive operations that sacrifice our liberty in the name of security -- and now he himself is being deprived of both.

A government with too many secrets lead to abuses, violations, arrests, intimidation, humiliations, divisions and forms of authoritarianism.

These are the secretions of an ill government, not the symbols of a vibrant civil society.

A secret democracy doesn't secrete democracy.

Share frustration and share a libation while you trade news, views & sips of booze at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Moderate Republicans In Denial

August 10, 2013 by Ted Frier

Mickey Edwards steals a page from those early Progressives who believed the cure for democracy was more democracy. Joining a long list of Republican "reformers" who are trying mightily to help the GOP avoid a rendevous with hostile demographics, the one-time Oklahoma Congressman wants to scrap the two-party system altogether in favor of a more participatory "nonpartisan" democracy able to govern itself without party labels.

It's an appealing vision of a restored "civic republicanism" that Edwards offers in his latest book, The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans. Appealing to me, at any rate, because it reflects my own belief that it is far more important how a party or a country thinks than what it thinks - since, as Edwards says, "democracy is not about policy but about process" and "how we select our leaders, how we deliberate, how we decide" are what really determine whether Americans are fit for self-government.    Read more

Putin on the Fritz

August 8, 2013 by Living Liberally

Putin granted Snowden asylum so Obama's canceling his Russia trip. The Cold War's over, but the Big Chill is on. Russia's fierce & frightening anti-gay laws spark global outcry against the Olympics. Instead of "From Russia With Love," the world's feeling "From Russia, No Love."

In the face of growing democracy movements, Putin's been jailing dissident political rivals. One of them is now running for Moscow Mayor.

Sochi 2014's supposed to be Putin on the Ritz. His Presidency's intended as Putin on the Blitz. Yet facing protest at home & backlash abroad, it's looking more like Putin on the Fritz.

If you have an opinion, we'll hear it, and if you have a pint glass, we'll beer it as we share a night of democracy & drinks< at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY< Find - or start - a chapter near you.

It's Politics Stupid!

July 24, 2013 by Ted Frier

In May 2009, former International Monetary Fund chief economist Simon Johnson wrote an important essay in The Atlantic on the origins and implications of the 2008 financial collapse, called "The Quiet Coup."

The financial gloom that swept over the US economy at the twilight of the George W. Bush administration was "shockingly reminiscent" of other Third World, emerging economy crises Johnson had witnessed during his days at the IMF.

In each case, he said, concerns that the financial sector could not pay off the debts it had accumulated caused capital markets to seize up, forcing firms like Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy as fear of insolvency became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Weaknesses in the banking system "quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy," said Johnson, "causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people."    Read more

We've Seen "Stand Your Ground" - Now, Let's Stand Ours

July 18, 2013 by Living Liberally

When the justice system awards no justice after an innocent 17-year-old boy is killed, it's time to stand our ground to change the laws, and challenge the racial codes in our culture.

When our surveillance community assures us that domestic spying is legal, necessary & limited, let's stand our ground and insist our democracy has transparency, privacy & new legal protections.

When an obstructionist opposition party refuses to seriously tackle our country's problems or even to debate & vote on affairs of the state, let's stand our ground for a functional government.

As Americans, we stand on common ground: a nation promoting safety, security & liberty, a society pursuing general welfare & opportunity.

We've seen what "Stand Your Ground" gets you. Let's see where "Stand Our Ground" can lead.

It's been a sad week in our country. Whether you need a drink to keep from crying or good company to lift your spirits, join your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Defending the One Percent

July 12, 2013 by Ted Frier

It seems puzzling that Harvard University would grant tenure, let alone appoint someone to be the chairman of its economics department, who fundamentally doesn't believe in economics. But there it is, all spelled out in a much talked about new paper, "Defending the One Percent," by Harvard economics professor and former Mitt Romney advisor, N. Gregory Mankiw, in the June issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

After summarily dispensing with the arguments offered by those on "the left" for greater income equality, specifically those of Joseph Stiglitz who condemns today's yawning wage gap as not only unjust and obscene but economically inefficient as well, Mankiw concludes his 25-page apologia for the bulging portfolios of today's plutocrats by asserting that taxing the wealthy to support socially useful purposes is just plain "wrong."    Read more

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