Go Hamas!

Let me be the first person out of Palestine to say that it’s a very, very good thing for Palestine, and for the peace process that Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Let’s start with the obvious flaws with Fatah. It’s a corrupt, incompetent, lazy political machine that has driven Palestine into the ground for years. So much so, in fact, that Hamas has been functioning as a de facto alternative government for a number of years now. Fatah is so hopeless at dispensing welfare that Hamas has taken on the responsibility for many an unemployed Palestinian (and yes, due to the “security wall” there are indeed many). And it does it much more efficiently, cleanly, and fairly than Fatah ever did. Not that that’s hard.
But there are positives to Hamas as well. It has adhered more strictly to the ceasefire of the past half year much more strictly than Fatah has, and so violence will likely decrease in coming months, especially with Hamas’ militant street cred aiding the cause of peace, a “Nixon goes to China” or “Sharon leaves Gaza” position, if you will. Additionally, in the past months, when it’s taken control of local city councils, it’s not focused on fundamentalist goals, but on clean, efficient governance. And, as mentioned before, they’re quite good at welfare, important in an area as impoverished as Palestine.
Hamas isn’t a panacea of course. The best-case scenario for Palestine is its transformation into a cheap labor source for Israel, with it as Mexico to Israel’s U.S. That isn’t going to happen as long as there are Israeli roadblocks and the “security wall” preventing Palestinians from traveling into Israel and around Palestine itself. So Palestine’s economic prosperity is entirely at the mercy of Israel, and Olmert, Bibi, and even Peretz will probably not dismantle the wall and roadblocks if elected come March (and this election is a very good thing indeed for Bibi, who is least likely to help Palestinians in any way, shape or form). But Hamas allows the best prospects for Palestine and for peace of any party in the country, and, while by no means perfect, obviously, should be helped by the U.S., not shunned as Bush is planning.
P.S. Let me just say that I can’t think of anything more appalling than this post. When it’s socially acceptable to openly advocate the genocide of one of the world’s most oppressed groups, what’s society coming to?

One Down, Another Soon?

It’s commonly accepted that both Tom DeLay’s Texas indictment and his (hopefully) forthcoming Abramoff indictment were his reason for stepping aside as majority leader; that’s one victory to arise from corruption investigation. But could DeLay’s former boss be next up?

Jack Abramoff’s partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston’s private life. Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom DeLay’s man Dennis Hastert. Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay’s behest.

Jack Abramoff was so powerful, and so in bed with DeLay that he decided who the senior-most member of Congress, and the third person in line to the presidency, would be. And it’s hard to see how Abramoff’s action didn’t help DeLay, and considering their well-established ties, I think there’s a great case to be made against DeLay on this, especially considering that Scanlon, Abramoff’s former press man, was part of the scheme. Still, I can’t get over the fact that a congressman had to pay a lobbyist, not the other way around, to influence Congress. That‘s how corrupt our government is.

Appalling

The chickenhawk meme is a popular, and effective one. After all, the vast majority Republicans in congress and especially in the blogosphere, have done nothing to aid the aggressive foreign policy they so relentlessly advocate. But at least their definition of patriotism is better than Rick Santorum’s:

And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what’s at stake. They’re willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I’m asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?

No, he’s not talking about a yellow ribbon bumper sticker. He’s talking about a Santorum for Senate bumper sticker. I’m serious. Watch the video; it’s just shocking.

Why (Republican) Tort Reform is Nonsense

There are good kinds of tort reform. I’ve long proposed banning no-risk trial lawyers compensation deals, under which plaintiffs don’t pay by hour, but by percentage of their winnings. Under the current situation, it costs nothing to file a frivolous lawsuit; if we required per-hour compensation, that would change. But it would still allow legitimate plaintiffs to receive compensation. Legitimate plaintiffs like this one:

Claudia Mejia gave birth eight and a half months ago….Twelve days after giving birth at Orlando Regional South Seminole hospital, she was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center where she became a quadruple amputee. Now she can not care for or hold her baby.
“Yeah, I want to pick him up. He wants me to pick him up. I can’t. I want to, but I can’t,” she said. “Woke up from surgery and I had no arms and no legs. No one told me anything. My arms and legs were just gone.”

One question: if you woke up from surgery, and are a quadriplegic, would you want to know what the hell happened?

Living Wage

It’s universally accepted that $5.15 an hour is not nearly enough to live on, nor is $6.15, the most commonly proposed increase in the minimum wage. A real living wage would be around $12.50, but $8.00 or up would work for bare-bones survival. Brad Plumer links to a great NY Times article which shows that not only is a bump in the minimum wage politically popular, but it’s economically beneficial, as well:

In Florida, a ballot initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage by a dollar, to $6.15, won 71 percent of the vote in 2004, a blowout that surprised even people like Kern, who spent several weeks in Miami working on the measure…Though victories like the one in Florida may have done little to help the Kerry-Edwards ticket – George Bush won 52 percent of the state’s vote – Kern and some in the Democratic establishment have come to believe that the left, after years of electoral frustration, has finally found its ultimate moral-values issue. “This is what moves people to the polls now,” Kern insists. “This is our gay marriage.”
The tenor of this debate began to change in the mid-1990’s following some work done by two Princeton economists, David Card (now at the University of California, Berkeley) and Alan B. Krueger. In 1992, New Jersey increased the state minimum wage to $5.05 an hour (applicable to both the public and the private sectors), which gave the two young professors an opportunity to study the comparative effects of that raise on fast-food restaurants and low-wage employment in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage remained at the federal level of $4.25 an hour. Card and Krueger agreed that the hypothesis that a rise in wages would destroy jobs was “one of the clearest and most widely appreciated in the field of economics.” Both told me they believed, at the start, that their work would reinforce that hypothesis. But in 1995, and again in 2000, the two academics effectively shredded the conventional wisdom. Their data demonstrated that a modest increase in wages did not appear to cause any significant harm to employment; in some cases, a rise in the minimum wage even resulted in a slight increase in employment.

Emphasis mine. Democrats have to push this, not just because it’s the right thing to do, which it is, but because it’s political genius. If the Republicans sign onto the plan, they risk alienating corporate bigwigs and supply-siders, who alternately fund their campaigns and craft their economic policy. If they don’t, we can easily paint them as wishing to turn America into a nation of poor hamburger flippers, whereas we’ll create a nation of middle-class hamburger flippers. Perhaps most importantly, this would mobilize the working poor, who are growing in number, and overwhelmingly Democratic. If this is our gay marriage, they’re our Christian right.