Friday, May 26, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: Are Non-Partisan Politics a Thing?

This week’s post comes back to politics, though I hope not in a particularly partisan way.  I’ve definitely done partisan politics on the blog, but with notable exceptions, the point of this column has always been to talk about what’s going on and why I think it’s important.  Ideally, that’s not the same as me telling you what you should think.  Of course, your mileage may vary.
Reality is that we all have opinions, and while some are clearly wrong, it’s just as clearly no use trying to explain that to anybody.  This column is therefore a study of what caught my eye in a week’s worth of new.  This comes hopefully without preaching, either to the converted or to the heathen masses.

The Modern Whigs' mascot
is an owl.
Some disaffected Republicans and Democrats who say extreme views are co-opting their parties have decided to carve out a middle ground in Utah politics.
Taking a centrist approach, the group announced the formation of the United Utah Party at the state Capitol on Monday. Its logo is Utah's iconic Delicate Arch.
"We are not forming another extremist, fringe political party," said BYU political science professor Richard Davis, a former Utah County Democratic Party chairman. "We are people who are in the center of the political spectrum…
"We don't think disaffected Republicans and Democrats have a place go," he said.
We’ve seen this a lot lately, and indeed, I’ve even started following a couple of these centrist groups on Twitter.  Though it’s unclear that anything’s necessary going to come of these groups, folks like the Modern Whig Party and Uniters Centrists clearly think that they may have found a moment.
Sadly, my own home state of Connecticut hasn’t got much centrist support, so I’ve been unable to see what any of this looks like on the ground.  For better or worse, the Constitution State trends either more liberal or more Tea Party depending on your particular party affiliation and/or geographic location, and there’s precious little in between.  That’s kind of odd for the state that spawned Senator Joe Lieberman (I), who caucused with Democrats but then almost ran for VP alongside John McCain (R – AZ), but what can you do?  There may be places where liberals don’t want to embrace the “elite” moniker, but Coastal Connecticut isn’t one of them.  Even the yacht clubs tend to be a little snooty with each other around here, and here we are.  
But then, what would you expect from the state that hosts the border between the Red Sox and Yankee nations and between the NY Giants and the New England Patriots?
Sales from the reserve would gradually rise over the following years, peaking at nearly $3.9 billion in 2027, and totalling nearly $16.6 billion from 2018 to 2027.
A release of half over 10 years averages about 95,000 barrels per day (bpd), or 1 percent of current U.S. output.
Although the figure is equivalent only to the output of a mid-sized field, it sends a powerful signal about the United States' decreasing need for imports as its own production reaches new highs…
"The United States definitely don't need as much SPR as they have now lower imports," said Amrita Sen of the consultancy Energy Aspects, noting that the drive to reduce the SPR had started under former President Barack Obama.
It’s an interesting idea.  I’m not sure it’s going to go anywhere, but I will welcome the public debate.  
Top administration officials from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to chief economic adviser Gary Cohn have warned the speaker that they’re not exactly fans of the so-called border adjustment tax — hoping Ryan would take a hint and change direction.
But the Wisconsin Republican is refusing to back off, arguing in recent days that it’s “the smart way to go.” And over the weekend, his key ally on the matter, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), began circulating talking points encouraging panel members to sell the scheme.
Ryan’s plan is a fascinating piece of financial engineering.  It doesn’t look like it’s going to go anyplace, but if you have some time, it’s worth reading about what he’s trying to do.  
Beyond that, this Politico story made me think that tax reform is just another battle between winners and losers amongst lobbyists in Washington.  It’s a shame because I think everyone realizes that we need some serious reform, but having read a bit about this, I’m not sure we’re ever going to be able to disaggregate changes to the tax code from folks who benefit from those changes and are trying to steer policy towards their own best interests.  That being the case, I think the country may well be too divided to get anything meaningful done.
For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, "A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them." So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let's start with the facts.
The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This 'cult' had one goal - through monuments and through other means - to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
Boy, this would have been controversial in my house back when I was a kid.  My folks, and especially my grandfather, were big believers in The Lost Cause.  I myself am not and never have been, to the point that I actually alienated my grandfather when I refused his signed print of Nathan Bedford Forrest standing beside a tree in a full Confederate uniform of a kind that I doubt very much he ever owned.  Ultimately, I became too much of a damn Yankee for my folks, and as time went on, they got legitimately pissed off about it.  My mother never forgave me, and my grandfather actually disowned me in his will.
My favorite is this one, especially because they made Captain Phasma look like she could legitimately kick your ass.
The bad guys, per Vanity Fair.
* * *
Monday’s post seemed to strike a chord with folks.  For the first hour or so after I put it up, I got FB Messenger messages and texts from friends, both old and current, and later the post spawned a sprawling conversation on FB about both athletics for adults and the value of finding new challenges.  I don’t yet know how Monday’s post is going to do in terms of staying power, but its immediate impact was as great as anything I think I’ve written on the blog in the past two to three years.  That was both surprising and satisfying, especially since I spent most of the weekend feeling down about my birthday.
I will say this: I feel better.  First because my birthday is over, and life moves on, and also because it helps to know that I’m not alone, that other people have the same thoughts and struggles that I do.  
In an immediate sense, I’m planning going to give up my Tuesday night adult swim class in the name of freeing up a bit of my schedule.  That’s not an ideal solution, especially since this past week’s class went so well, but there’s not a lot of slack in my week, and that hour is particularly disruptive in what is an otherwise generally tight weekly timeline.  I’m not sure what else I’m going to do, or what else I even can do, but summer at least looks a little less jammed than late spring has been.  I’m hoping that helps.  
I’m not looking to make any snap decisions, but as I said in the post, I know I need to find a way to be a little happier.  Slogging through life with a grimace is no way to live.  
* * *
Memorial Day is coming, and while I realize that it’s not easy for some to enjoy this particular weekend, I would encourage you all to live in the moment and try.  I’ve done a few Memorial Day barbeques where I’ve set out pictures of my father and encouraged others to set out their own pictures of their fallen, though it seems like folks are sometimes reluctant to do that.  Nevertheless, I believe there’s a balance between enjoying family and remembering our friends and loved ones, and with time, I think this balance has been a little easier to achieve.
Speaking personally, I remain grateful that my close friends all made it home and continue to lead successful, productive lives.  And while I know that at least one person is yelling at me right now that that’s not what this particular weekend is supposed to be about, I honestly don’t care.
We have to take care of each other.
A lot of people reached out to me this week when I needed a few friends.  I’m grateful for that.  And as I have said before, please please please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need someone to talk to.  It happens.  It happened to me, and it happens to everyone else, and at the end of the day, classmates are family.
Have a good weekend, everybody.

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