Remember Y2K? That was the prediction, in the late 1990s, that aging computer programs would be unable to function after Dec. 31, 1999, and social chaos would result when these systems failed. The current anxiety about health care reform — or “government takeover” as the Republicans insist on calling it — has a good deal in common with that earlier panic.
Y2K, short for “Year 2000,” was a code name for concerns about the fact that programmers traditionally used only two bytes to represent the year in a date, e.g.
85 for the year 1985. Programmers in the ’60s and ’70s hadn’t expected that their programs would still be in use three and four decades later, when 1999 rolled over to 2000. Most of these “legacy” programs had been cooked up as needed, with little thought for the long term. But as long as the programs continued to work, it was cost-effective for large organizations to keep using them.
By the late ’90s it was feared that the year 2000, or
00, would be the moment at which they all, or a critical mass of them, stopped working forever. Climate control systems would fail, making most city buildings uninhabitable. Avionics would stop working, and transportation would come to a screeching halt. Electricity would stop flowing, phone lines would go dead. People’s life savings would become permanently inaccessible as the financial record-keeping system crashed. Anything could happen. Continue reading
The Republican Party has it in its power to settle the immigration issue once and for all. And it can begin with tomorrow’s procedural vote in the Senate on health care reform.
All the Senators need do is hold the line against reform and entice at least one Democrat to join them in talking the bill to death. They can use the same filibuster techniques that allowed reactionary segregationists to stall civil rights legislation for generations.
Next, they only need wait while the status quo of skyrocketing health costs continues to do its work, undermining American business, boosting the relative competitiveness of other countries, bankrupting state governments, and sinking individual wealth into a black hole of rising cost and declining coverage.
Keep this up for another decade or two, and the immigration problem will go away on its own. Instead, we’ll have net emigration, as Americans leave home to seek jobs in more prosperous countries, like Mexico.
The South Carolina delegation really did its part to bring a dash of nonsense to the president’s speech to Congress about health insurance reform. I’m not just talking about Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst, which he quickly apologized for. There was also Sen. Lindsey Graham’s moment of letting a little common sense seep around his solid partisan front.
Take a look: Continue reading
Attention Conservation Notice: This begins with a note about Alabama politics, then discusses equitable taxation in general, mentioning Winston Churchill.
Today the Alabama legislature’s Republicans are expected to rally (for the fourth time this session) around the medieval principle of “might makes right” — especially its fiscal corollary: that the state should tax heads, but wealth should be tax-exempt.
In brief, taxes are for little people. So the state tax on groceries will survive another challenge today, in order that a state income tax shelter for the super-rich can be saved. (Prior posts are here, here, and here.)
This is an ancient principle that keeps democracy in check: Peasants pay taxes. Castles are exempt. Corporations are modern-day castles. Continue reading
Ought to mention: For the second year in a row, I’ve received a membership card from the Alabama Republican Party. I didn’t ask for it.
Of course, I’m supposed to send in a donation in exchange for the wallet-sized card. I never have donated to the Republicans, yet here I am lodged on their mailing list.
It dramatizes for me just how dysfunctional the Alabama Democrats are. I’ve volunteered for Democratic candidates at the county and state levels, been involved with the party’s “progressive” faction, corresponded with the current party chairman, and logged time on the Obama campaign. I don’t consider myself a party member, and I also support Republican and third-party candidates. But it seems odd that I merit a spot on the Alabama Republicans’ mailing list, yet never hear a peep from the Democrats.
Even the Libertarians and Greens get in touch with me more often than the Democrats. (To be fair, I have a sort of official post with the Green Party.)
One relevant fact about the Alabama Democrats is that they have an insulated, hereditary leadership caste and a byzantine organizational structure that effectively thwarts challenges from below. I’ve seen friends who are party loyalists but who seethe with resentment of the Democratic hierarchy in Alabama, and at the county level.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that there’s too much continuity between the present leadership and the old guard, who remember when Alabama was still governed by a single party devoted to white supremacy above all. Instead of denouncing its legacy of white rule, Alabama Democrats practice the crudest kind of racial apportionment. (“Separate but equal,” anyone?) In Montgomery it’s often been said that Alabama has a three-party system: Republicans, white Democrats, and black Democrats.
For all these reasons, I guess it’s no surprise that Alabama Democrats make no discernible effort to reach out to Alabama citizens. Nor is it surprising that our current Republican governor, who earned a perfect score from the Christian Coalition back when he was in Congress, has turned out to be more progressive than any Democrat since Albert Brewer briefly became governor by a fluke.
It’s been 144 years since Dixie was defeated, but the Alabama Democratic Party has never stopped waging war on the future.
For Lincoln’s 200th birthday I stopped in at Civil War Memory and was distracted by Kevin L’s musings on the supposed transformation of the Republican Party — from the party of liberty and equality to the party of big business, wage slavery, and Indian wars. What happened?
The change was more apparent than real. Since reading William E. Gienapp’s Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856 a couple of years ago, I’ve cobbled together a working definition of the core principle within each of the two major parties. It doesn’t flatter either of them.
- The Republicans are the party of large social structures as being more important than individuals, families, and other such unplanned arrangements of human resources. It’s the party of cartels, conglomerates, corporations, commissions — of massive, remote-controlled organizations, whether public or private. (The “small government” mantra only applies when the Republicans are out of power.)
- The Democrats are the party of ethnic difference. Whether acting as the party of white supremacy or of affirmative action, the Democrats’ path to power consistently involves the exploitation of supposedly innate differences between human groups. Even appeals to unity tend to dissolve, in this party’s hands, into us-’n’-them formulations.
I wouldn’t mind being convinced that this is a simplistic and cynical parody of two noble political institutions. So go ahead, convince me.