Category Archives: politics

Dowdiness: A Twitter Tête-à-tête with ABC’s Matthew Dowd

Inspired by the Driftglass post, Nothing Gets Past This Guy.
Hear Driftglass & Blue Gal every Friday night at

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Yes, folks, those are pantyhose.



#ThingsHillaryNeverSaid: Talking Points from a Progressive Nobody (Middle Class Economics)

The answer I’d like to hear on middle-class economics:

When speaking about an infrastructure project (a water project, a dam), President Kennedy famously said, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It was President Reagan, however, who re-purposed that quote, and slammed the accelerator to the floorboard on trickle-down economics. At the time, it was an untested economic theory – this idea that the wealthy prospering would mean everyone prospers. It’s 2015 now, and we’ve run that supply-side experiment for decades.

The data is undeniable, and the numbers are sickening. Call it “The Wealth Gap.” Call it “Income Inequality.” Call it “The Vulture Chart.” Call it “The Second Gilded Age.” Call it anything you like, but call it this: The death throes of the American Middle Class.

This is structural, people. This is not just globalization, or technology, or automation, or declining union membership. Those things matter, but what matters most is this: small-government zealots cutting the funding for anything and everything that supports working families, at the same time they shift the tax burden away from the wealthy, and onto the working.

No, this isn’t any one thing, but this is what comes of an economy structured around comforting the comfortable… and it’s a “new normal” that cannot coexist with The American Dream. One of these things has to go, and The American Dream is not that thing.

Reform Republicans – you know the type – don’t want to make employers provide a living wage by raising the federal minimum, or make the federal government do anything else that could conceivably help working Americans get ahead (like paid sick leave, or equal pay for women).

What do they want to do?

They want to shift taxes paid by the working middle class to the working poor in the form of expanding The Earned Income Tax Credit…

Wait for it…

… at the exact same time they want to cut taxes on the wealthy.


Republicans have been “starving the beast” for decades, and the beast is the American people they swore to serve. Democrats haven’t fought back hard enough. We failed to stop the experiment when the initial data looked terrifying. Almost everything our nation used to lead the world in, we’ve fallen behind on: education, infrastructure, health, quality of life, equality of opportunity… All of it has slipped away, and not from neglect. This was purposeful, and it is still happening. The modern Republican Party is committed to staying that disastrous course.

As Democrats, we have to turn this boat around, and we have to do it quickly, or The American Middle Class is sunk.

It’s time we demanded that the pimped-out yachts take up the floundering lifeboats.

We have to raise taxes on the wealthy, and we have to do it now.


If I Were Michael Dukakis – The Death Penalty Answer

Perhaps among the dozen most famous Presidential Debate Moments in our national history came in the 1988 race, and was asked of Michael Dukakis, then Massachusetts Governor, a Democrat:

“If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”

His response was widely condemned for being dispassionate. I was young then, but my reaction was that he was blindsided, and that the question was unfairly sensational and personal. To this day, I do not fault his response in the moment.

[SIDEBAR: I was on national TV a few times on “Jeopardy.” The first time, I was so damn terrified that they had to move the clip-on mic away from my heart, because they could hear it pounding in the control booth. I don’t judge.]

Having said that, If I were Michael Dukakis, this is what I wish I would have said in that nationally televised moment:

“Kitty is the love of my life. If I lost her, the person I’d want to kill would be myself… But she and I have built a family together. I like to believe I would find my courage, remember my responsibilities to my family, and put them first, before my personal anguish and suffering.

I take my responsibilities as Governor of Massachusetts just as seriously. Fury is a fire that can keep you emotionally warm, but it does NOTHING to protect the citizens you’ve sworn to serve.

The facts on the death penalty are these:

  • There is no evidence the death penalty deters anything.
  • There are better, more effective, and less expensive ways to prevent and punish murder.
  • I oppose it, as do the citizens of my state, who have outlawed it.
  • Without it, Massachusetts has experienced the biggest drop in crime, and the lowest murder rate of any industrial state in America.

These are the FACTS.

Fury may keep you emotionally warm, but facts keep your citizens safe. That is how I have governed Massachusetts, and how I will govern The United States if elected.”


Dear reader, if you have read this far, here is your reward: “The West Wing” on the same subject. You wanna watch the whole clip (because it’s hilarious), but the relevant content starts around two minutes:

The Time I Was Mistaken for a Monster

“Joseph bolted out of the kitchen into the back yard, and Adam started screaming. It curdled my blood. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack. I whipped around to see what was behind me – to see what had frightened the boys. There was nothing there, but I was too afraid to go down the hallway and look for… Whoever or whatever.”


[I’m an Army brat. All of this happened in Texas, just outside of Fort Hood. The names of the boys have been changed for obvious reasons.]

My first job was babysitting. I was so proud when my parents finally decided I was old enough and responsible enough, and thrilled that I’d be able to supplement my modest allowance with money I had earned myself. I felt all grown up at twelve. I was officially a “Big Girl.”

The first family I worked for had a newborn baby girl. Before she was born, her military father had been gravely injured in a helicopter accident (his craft had become tangled in some illegally strung electrical wires), and I took care of her as her mom stayed by his side, waiting for him to regain consciousness, and eventually recover. This babysitting job lasted for months and months.

When I was thirteen, my second babysitting job was for a military family with two sons – Adam, four and Joseph, three – every weekday after school. I was a few days into my new job when it happened.

I was doing my homework at the dinner table as the boys played with their Matchbox cars a few feet away in the kitchen, where the floor was smooth for racing. They were having fun, until things took a turn for the angry. Joseph was upset because his older brother had grabbed one of his cars, and demanded it back. I stopped doing my homework to watch what happened next.

To understand how I reacted (or didn’t, as the case may be), you should know I have just one sister, and we are less than a year apart in age. My parents generally let us work out our differences ourselves. If and when we couldn’t or wouldn’t, then (and only then) they would step in and resolve it for us.

It became apparent that Adam wasn’t going to give Joseph back his car, and that Joseph was getting more and more upset about this outrage. I stood up from the table, faced the boys, and firmly said, “Adam, come here!”

What happened next is burned into my memory in detail. It is among the most terrifying things that have ever happened to me. All of a sudden, Joseph bolted out of the kitchen into the back yard, and Adam started screaming. It curdled my blood. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack. I whipped around to see what was behind me – to see what had frightened the boys. There was nothing there, but I was too afraid to go down the hallway and look for… Whoever or whatever.

I started quickly toward Adam to ask him what was happening, and his screaming got worse – so much worse, though I would not have thought that possible. It dawned on me that I was scaring him more. I squatted down to his level, and tried to get him to tell me what was happening. All he would say between screams was, “Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.” He was bawling. To say he was trembling doesn’t do it justice. It was more like a seizure.

I started begging him to calm down, to please tell me what was wrong, that I was scared, too, and I needed his help… That I didn’t know where his brother had gone… That he had to trust me so I could protect all of us from… Whoever or whatever.

It was then that he told me he was afraid of ME. He thought I was going to hurt him.

[Dear reader, you don’t know me, but I don’t do that. It’s just not who I am. It is not who I have ever been.]

It took time to get it out of him, but Adam explained, in a child’s way, that he thought I was going to make him go find a “switch” in the backyard, bring it to me, pull down his pants, bend over and grab his feet, and “get whipped.” If he returned with a switch that wasn’t bad enough, I would go and find a really terrible one to use. If he tried to resist, I would hurt him worse. These were the rules, as explained to him by his daddy. “Oh, god,” I thought, “He’s four, and he knows these sick rules?”

I started crying, too. I put my arms around his wracked body, and promised him that I would never hit him or hurt him. I told him he was not bad, that my sister and I sometimes argued over toys and other things, and that we were good. It took time, but he calmed down, and so did I. I asked him to help me find his brother.

We went into the backyard. Joseph was nowhere to be seen. It was a fenced-in yard, with a gate latch too high for Joseph to reach. I hoped he wasn’t strong enough to climb over the fence. Adam and I looked everywhere – up the trees, under the bushes, in the doghouse, under the porch… We finally found him. Two metal garbage cans were chained to the fence. Somehow, Joseph had managed to wedge himself between and behind the cans, against the fence. I could see he was crying and shaking, and that my having found him was making it worse.

It took a while, but with Adam’s help, I convinced Joseph that it was safe to come out on his own, that nothing bad was going to happen to his brother or to him, that my promise was a promise he could trust me to keep forever.

I got the boys inside, and started to deal with how they looked. Adam’s face was blotchy, red and swollen, and he still had the shakes. I gave him an icy-wet towel to hold on his face. Joseph’s back and the backs of his arms were crisscrossed with the pattern of the chain-link fence, and his clothes were dirty. I brushed off his clothes, and used a soapy rag to clean them off. I could do nothing to fix the pattern in his skin, but I was sure it would clear up before his parents got home that evening.

Later, as the boys ate dinner, I made my decision. I was not going to tell anyone what happened – not their parents, and not mine. I had my reasons. One was selfish (I was afraid of losing the job and the money), but the rest were not. I was afraid something bad would happen to the boys if their parents found out that they told. I was afraid that if I was not their babysitter anymore, they might get one who hit them. I thought that if, every single day, I told their parents what wonderful, good boys they had been, life might get better for them.


I have no respect for heritage. “The way things are,” “The way things have always been,” “The way we do things around here,” “The way we have always done things?” I am not impressed. I know what I know, and I know right from wrong. If this happened to you as a child, and you “turned out fine,” I am truly relieved and sincerely happy for you, but here’s the thing:

You can’t go back and re-run your childhood, changing that one variable, and measure the results. Even if you could, I don’t give a damn what those results would be. I believe that from the moment you’re born, until the moment you die, you are a human being with human rights. You belong to yourself. There should be limits on what anyone may do to you. One of those limits is hit you.

“Spank.” “Punch.” “Whip.” “Assault.” “Slap.” “Beat.” “Whoop.” “Strike.” “Smack.” “Slam.”

I don’t care what they call it.
I don’t care why
 they do it.
I don’t care what your relationship is to them.
I don’t care how little 
you are when they do it to you.

It’s wrong. It’s evil. If it isn’t a crime, it should be.