Michael Wolraich's picture

    American Democracy - Not Dead Yet

    Thanks to Michael M. for highlighting Matthew Yglesias's Cassandra prophesy at Vox: "American Democracy is Doomed." In the piece, Yglesias warns that political polarization will sooner or later trigger "a collapse of the legal and political order" in the United States. "If we're lucky," he adds gloomily, "it won't be violent."

    You don't have to be a seer to see that the federal government is in crisis. We have been reading about congressional paralysis for five years straight. The immediate cause is no mystery--the American checks-and-balances system does not handle polarization well. The founding fathers, in their zeal to prevent totalitarianism, designed a system that empowers its various branches to sabotage one another for political gain.

    If Yglesias had limited his conclusions to these observations, the result would have been an interesting if prosaic political commentary. But where's the fun in that? Headline-grabbing doom prophesies trend much better than humdrum political commentary. Fortunately for the health of American democracy, they are invariably specious, and this one is no exception.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Democracy's Tricky Ending

    Over at Vox, Matthew Yglesias argues that American Democracy is Doomed.  The flaws that have taken down every other constitutional republic in the world will one day come for America, irrevocably altering the system and ending the experiment of 1776.  It's a neat essay.  He's also set up his argument so that you'd have to be an extremist American exceptionalist to say he's wrong.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Leonard Nimoy Open Thread

    I admit, it hits me whenever somebody from the original cast dies and I'll probably feel the same way about Star Trek: The Next Generation and Voyager.

    The whole Star Trek vision and, believe me, some of it has its problems, has always struck me as a bit of necessary hope in a society that can very easily turn cranky.  The whole show, and Nimoy embodied this, has always been about humanity overcoming its want for resources and its inane and unproductive tribalisms.

    Ramona's picture

    CPAC! A Fond Look Back on the Circuses That Were

    It's CPAC time!  I almost missed it!  (My invitation no doubt was lost in the mail.)  Since 2009, shortly after I first started writing this blog, I've been fascinated by the dizzy doings over at CPAC (Conservative Po
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    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Dagblog Hack Alert

    Hi everyone, I recently discovered that dagblog has been hacked. The North Korean government denies responsibility, but supreme leader Kim Jong Un has been known to harbor animosity against dagblog after we suspended his account for ad hominem attacks, hijacking comment threads, crimes against humanity, and other ToS violations. Homeland Security has been notified and promises to take unspecified reprisals against unspecified nations as soon as they figure out their funding situation.

    In all seriousness, the site was hacked. I don't believe that the hackers did anything other than use our server as a spam-generator, but as a precaution, I suggest that you make sure that you're not using your dagblog email and password on other sites that have more sensitive information. If you are, I recommend that you change your passwords on those other sites. There is no need to change your dagblog password. I don't think the hackers are interested is blogging here. But if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can change it here or go to My Account in the top bar.

    I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. I will add additional security precautions to prevent this from happening in the future.

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    National Adjunct Walkout Day (and Why It Matters to You)

    Today, February 25, is National Adjunct Walkout Day. The majority of college teachers in America today are not full-time instructors with salaries, benefits, or job security, but allegedly "part time" adjunct faculty members paid a few thousand dollars per course. Today, across our country, those adjunct faculty members will be walking out of their classes and holding events to raise awareness.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    How WalMart Fooled The World

    Yesterday, The Daily Beast asked me for my take on WalMart's big "wage hike." WalMart raised its starting wage to $9 an hour across all locations, with the goal of getting all of its 1.4 million employees to $10 an hour next year.  The company handled the PR very well.  From the press I saw, you'd think WalMart had grown a heart, that economic conditions had improved for our lowest wage workers and that the system basically works.

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    Ramona's picture

    Yes, Rudy, It Was a Horrible Thing to Say. Thank You

    According to an article in Politico, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani told a group of Republicans gathered to pay some sort of attention to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker that it's his belief that President Obama doesn't love them, him, or even the entire United States of America.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Why Don't Overworked, Underpaid People Get Involved In Politics?

    Adam Seth Levine, a professor of government at Cornell University, took to The Times this morning to promote his book American Insecurity: Why Our Economic Fears Lead to Political Inaction.  We on the left have been wondering forever why people "vote against their economic interests" or why progressive political messages fail to inspire or convince so many people.

    Levine observes, based on experiment:

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Fifty Shades of Mr. D.: The Unwritten Rules of Romance Fiction

    Hollywood is making some big Valentine's Day cash off Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie adapted from the first book of E. L. James's mommy-porn trilogy. Let me say right up front that I have not read these books, because life is too short for that. But, like every living human in the industrialized world, I've been bludgeoned with so much unrelenting chatter about these books that I can recap the general plot: buff young billionaire punishes and dominates sweet young virgin in his sex dungeon, but also everywhere else.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Surviving The Daily Show

    The Daily Show was obviously a great thing for American comedy.  At its best, it showed us what comedy can really do for society and reminded us why, in Shakespeare's King Lear, the Fool alone was able to speak truth to power.  The best moment for The Daily Show, to me, was when host Jon Stewart appeared as a guest on CNN's Crossfire in 2005 and so embarassed its host that CNN ultimately had to abandon the show.

    Ramona's picture

    We Need Paid Sick Leave Because Workers Are Humans First

    There's a fuss going on in Michigan over whether the state should mandate paid sick leave for all workers.  It's the Democrats who are proposing it but the Republicans dominate the government, so at this point it's not a question of winning the issue, it's a question of how far their bill gets before it fails.  (The sad backstory:  This same bill was first introduced in 2012.  The Republicans made sure it didn't get to committee for consideration. It was reintroduced in 2013.  Same story.  Now, in 2015, the Dems, bless their hearts, are trying again.)

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    A Story from the Crusades

    Apparently, some people are very upset that President Obama suggested that some Christians did bad things during the Crusades. Where does he get off saying something like that? Let me tell you a little story from the Third Crusade.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    What Is The Point Of All This Capitalism?

    If capitalism isn't functioning to make the world a better place for, at the very least, most people, than it is an exercise in cruelty.  If the benefits that accrue to most are dwarfed by the benefits that go to the very few on top, it's just a more complex rationalization of the divine right of kinds.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Nudge the Anti-Vaxxers

    At least on the internet, the anti-vaccine people have become social pariahs.  But, life is not the internet.  Life is more complicated than that. Phil Plait at Slate reminds us that the anti-vaccine movement is not a growing, nationwide phenomenon.  In aggregate, people are getting more vaccines, not less.  But pockets of anti-vaccination sentiment are growing and hardcore pockets can do damage even if overall numbers rise.

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    Ramona's picture

    The Things We Leave Undone While We Sweat The Small Stuff

     

    In this country millions of children are going hungry.  There are as many reasons as there are hungry children, but not a single one of them is the fault of the child.

    This year's count puts the homeless at nearly 600,000. Many of them are our veterans, come home from wars with wounds that won't heal.  Nearly a third of them live on the streets.  Some cities work diligently to keep them off the streets, not by sheltering them but by making their attempts to sleep outdoors more difficult.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Against Rock Stars

    This summer, I went to a Cleveland Indians game which involved a pregame celebration for Johnny "Johnny Football" Manziel. [Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Boston sports fan living in Cleveland. Although I sometimes go to the Jake just to watch the Indians, I was there that night because my Red Sox were in town.] Everybody in the building seemed to be deliriously excited about Johnny Football. Everybody was making his little money-fingers gesture.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Typhoid Mary and the Anti-Vaxxers

    The measles outbreak in Southern California has been generously made possible by California law's "personal belief exemption," which allows adults to refuse vaccinations for their children or themselves based on their so-called "personal belief" that vaccines cause autism. Here "personal belief" is extended to include not simply religious and moral teachings -- the question here isn't that religion teaches that vaccination is morally wrong -- but factual errors.

    Ramona's picture

    Vandals, I Don't Get You. Can We Talk?

    van·dal

     
    noun: vandal; plural noun: vandals
    1. 1.
      a person who deliberately destroys or damages public or private property.
      "the rear window of the car was smashed by vandals"
      synonyms:hoodlum, barbarian, thug, hooligan, delinquent, despoiler, desecrator, saboteur
      "vandals defaced the front steps of the church"
    2. 2.
      a member of a Germanic people that ravaged Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th–5th centuries and sacked Rome in AD 455.
    Michael Maiello's picture

    Obama's Middle Class Legacy

    The early, very early, take on the Obama legacy is that it will be marred by the declining fortunes of America's middle class under his presidency.  This will be a tough narrative to counter.  But this is really not just Obama's fault.

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