Monday, January 31, 2011

Small Government, Republican Style

Lessee: so far, dozens of health-care killing bills, but not a one addressing jobs. Anyone surprised about that?

Meanwhile, for the governmentsmallophiles among us, there's this:

The House Republicans' first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.

A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.

Now I'm not naive enough to think that the government isn't already capable of knowing every site to which I've surfed. After all, having embedded a couple of lines of free code on this here blog allows me to know the IP addresses of who comes by, when, from where, for how long, from what general area (I can zoom down to street location, but, based on checking my own visits, it misses by several miles), what browser and operating system they're using, screen size, and probably a bunch of other stuff, too. For ten bucks a month, I could be getting lots more.

So it's hardly news, on one level. But on another -- namely forcing private enterprises to store data for government access, for the purpose of tracking individual activities -- it's hardly libertarioteaworthy, is it?

And that's not all: they want to intimidate track people who request information under the FOIA:

WASHINGTON — Representative Darrell Issa calls it a way to promote transparency: a request for the names of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, business executives, journalists and others who have requested copies of federal government documents in recent years.

Mr. Issa, a California Republican and the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says he wants to make sure agencies respond in a timely fashion to Freedom of Information Act requests and do not delay them out of political considerations.

But his extraordinary request worries some civil libertarians. It “just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking,” said David Cuillier, a University of Arizonajournalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. “It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good.”

Sure. He only wants the info for our own good. But can you imagine the noise from the RWS™ if it were a Democrat doing this? How about if it were our president? The black guy? Would Rush be silent?

Through The Looking Glass

Wealthy area, money problems, puts teabagger in charge. Destruction ensues. Who cares? I do.

Despite Wealth, Nassau County Is in Fiscal Crisis

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Facing a huge budget deficit when he took office in January, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano did not impose a hiring freeze. He did not stop borrowing to subsidize some of the richest school districts in the country. He did not eliminate the Police Department’s beloved mounted unit.

Instead, Mr. Mangano, a Republican who won one of the first upsets of the Tea Party era, did what he had promised: He cut taxes, adding $40 million to the county’s deficit, which has since reached nearly $350 million.

Now, with its bonds suddenly downgraded and a state oversight agency preparing to seize its checkbook and credit cards, Nassau is on the verge of a full-fledged fiscal crisis.

That things could get so dire in this wealthy county, where property taxes are the second highest in the nation, offers a lesson in what happens when anti-tax fervor meets the realities of disappearing revenues and a punch-drunk economy. At heart, though, the situation — like state budget crises in New York, New Jersey and Illinois — illuminates the troubles long-prosperous governments, with established interest groups and residents accustomed to high levels of services, face in adapting to protracted lean times.

I started this post a few weeks ago and, for some reason, never published it. Maybe it was so that I could add this: the state has now been forced to take over the county's finances:

At his January 2010 inauguration, Tea Party-backed Republican Edward Mangano marched up to the podium, pen in hand. Even before being officially declared Nassau County Executive, he signed a repeal of an unpopular home energy tax.

The move elicited chants of "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie" from supporters assembled in the auditorium of Mangano's alma mater, Bethpage High School, 30 miles east of New York City.

"This is very cool and quite an honor," Mangano said as he gave his admirers a thumbs-up.

The fiscal consequences, however, were anything but cool. The repeal set Mangano on an immediate collision course with the state-appointed fiscal overseer, the Nassau County Interim Financial Authority, or NIFA. It culminated in NIFA seizing control of the wealthy New York county's finances on Wednesday.

Nassau's ills exemplify the growing tension across the country as dozens of freshly-elected Tea Party lawmakers, many of whom promised to cut taxes, must find ways to slash record budget gaps as revenues dwindle.

"A lot of people who got elected on this type of anti-tax platform are running into the brick wall of fiscal reality," said Matthew Gardner, executive director of the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington.

Besides being a cautionary tale, the setback in Nassau County is a black eye for the Tea Party, the grassroots movement built around the core principles of constitutionally limited government, free-market ideology and low taxes.

But it's no big deal when it's some obscure county in New friggin' York -- right? -- because the state can just step on in. (Until it goes broke itself.) So what happens when it's our entire country? Coming to a nation near you: pre-discredited economic policy. Just add amnesia and bags of tea. Stir. Ignore.

Simple solutions: how good it feels to think easy. Real solutions, though -- those are hard, they require recognizing the need for actual sacrifice and meaningful compromise, based on reality; and they don't lend themselves well to sloganeering or disinformation campaigns. Anathema, in other words, to the current crop of congressional Rs; and shade-grown, free-trade, fresh-roasted, unground coffee beans to teabaggers.

Welcome to a view of our future, the past forgotten and replayed so fast it's as if it never happened.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bible Study In A Nutshell

From The Onion:

God Almost Forgot To Kill Dave Elfman Of Boulder, CO Today

January 26, 2011 | ISSUE 47•04

BOULDER, CO—After a long day of hearing the prayers of His followers and controlling the seas and skies, God confirmed today He almost forgot to kill 43-year-old Boulder loan officer Dave Elfman, nearly derailing His plan for the universe. "It was on my to-do list, but I kept putting it off and putting it off," the Supreme Being said. "I got so tied up with the floods in Brazil that I nearly blanked on giving Dave a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Hold on a sec . . . there. Fixed." With that, order was restored and Dave Elfman instantly dropped dead in the middle of a knot-tying demonstration in front of his 10-year-old son's Boy Scout troop.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Eyes Of Texas

Time to update my recent post about the Texas experiment. One of my readers thought that pointing out the problems was "divisive." Wonder what he'll think of this.

Looked upon as the excelsior embodiment of all that is teabagging, Texas is touted as one of the most business-friendly environments in all the land. Low taxes, few regulations... which is pretty much where it ends, evidently.

Texas. Merely mentioning the state’s name evokes a vision of wide-open spaces, rugged independence and, most importantly, unrivaled economic prowess.

The Lone Star State has carefully nurtured its national reputation as an economic leader. In fact, the official website of three-term Gov. Rick Perry includes a brag page; reading the national headlines listed there could lead even the most cynical Texan to blush with pride.

It looks like Texas’ longtime model of cutting spending and never raising taxes works exceptionally well, so it’s not surprising that many states are following Texas’ lead. But it’s less obvious that the state’s fiscal policies and widely admired approach to balancing its budget have created a devastating legacy. According to officials at Austin-based Texans Care for Children, a multi-issue, nonpartisan policy organization, Texas children are falling behind the rest of the country in nearly every aspect of child well-being.

The article, which refers to Texas' children as "canaries in the coal mine," is sobering for anyone willing to think beyond his or her own pocketbook and beyond the next few years.
“The perception of Texas across the country is often that we have remained economically strong, while choosing to under-invest in social services,” says Eileen Garcia, CEO of Texans Care for Children. “The lesson of the Texas experiment is that neglecting our people is not a viable way of balancing the budget. We have been a state of haves and have nots that threatens to become a state of merely have nots. Texans shoulder the burden of local taxes due to an anemic state budget, while also having the added burden that community supports and safety nets that families turn to when times are tough just aren’t there. We face a $27 billion shortfall and some of the worst social outcomes of any state in the nation.”...
....For years, services that benefit Texas’ most vulnerable citizens have been the repeated target of state budget cuts. Study after study has warned about the perils of inadequately providing for the future of Texas children. The latest, “A Report on the Bottom Line: Conditions for Children and the Texas of Tomorrow,” was released today by Garcia’s organization...

...“A sick, uneducated, unskilled work force does not propel a state forward,” Garcia writes in the report’s preface. “The devastating forecasts depict a Texas that few of us would want to visit, let alone call home.”

This is exactly why the teabaggers and the current congressional Rs are so frightening. If enacted nationally, their policies will, in the name of so-called fiscal responsibility, rob us of the future about which they claim to be so concerned. Michele Bachmann suggests ours might be the last American generation to experience liberty. (Her reasoning, if that's an applicable word to anything she says, is less than clear.) So she, and the teabaggers who think she's meow (all meow, no cat) and the rest of the Rs who want them some of that hot water, propose the very programs that will ensure there is no future.

I'm not the first to note that you get what you pay for. Not paying for education and other basic needs gets not-educated and unhealthy incapable people with no roads to ride on. To teabaggers, for whom education is evidently unimportant or, at least, on whom it didn't take, this may not seem like a problem. To our future (you know, that time when we'll still need to do stuff), it's damn serious.


To look through another window into the future of Texas, regarding education, read this. I'd say it explicitly confirms what I've said many times: 1) we are deliberately destroying our future, and 2) it seems like a direct attempt to dumb us down in order to produce a culture of sheephood, uninterested in and unable to question what they're being told. Governor Rick Perry:
Well, there is a lot of fat to cut from our public schools, especially those in our biggest urban areas like Houston and Dallas. I am concerned that some the highly diverse Magnet public schools in this city are becoming hotbeds for liberalism. Do we really need free school bus service, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, ESL, special needs and enrichment programs like music, art or math Olympiad? I think we should get back to the basics of the three Rs, reading writing and arithmetic. I mean when is the last time a 6th grade science fair project yielded a cure for a disease?

The audience chuckled.

The ayes of Texas are upon us all.

Oops. Okay, caught by the long arm of Poe's law: The last paragraph is parody and, because it's not much different from what we hear from Texas, I fell for it. I did, as usual, try to find the source for the original statement, and when I couldn't, I should have figured... But there are, in the article, several other links to primary sources which are accurate. Oh well. The net effect is the same, as the meat of my post shows.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fox "News" At Its Worst

Here's what's was on Sean Hannity's website last November, regarding a Gitmo-based terrorist, tried in civilian court:
Terrorism Going Unpunished
There was some disappointing news today that the first Guantanamo detainee, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was acquitted of more than 280 criminal charges for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa. “Eric Holder needs to be held responsible,” an angry Hannity shared, “The terrorists were one breath away from walking away free.” The Washington Post ran the full article detailing the various counts and how Ghailani was able to shake Federal prosecutors. “Eric Holder needs to resign,” Hannity called for, “He said failure wasn’t an option but it certainly was here!” There’s a place for justice in the United States Court System but it’s obvious that President Obama’s move to disband the military tribunals that were to hear these cases was a bad idea.

Not even worth mentioning: the one count on which he was convicted. And the result of that conviction, just announced: life in prison with no chance for parole.

Shall we start counting the days until Sean mentions it?


[Most, maybe, but not all.]

I guess there'll always be tension between those who want to keep all their money and those willing to spend it on the future; politically speaking, I suppose that's as it should be. But there was never a more clear example, in my lingering lifetime, of the difficulty in figuring out where the balance is.

I didn't watch the SOTU address. Long since, I've tired of watching congresskind rise out of their seats and fall back like popping corn; and the message itself, while not unimportant, tends to be more about show than action. Still, reading about it after, I think the point is well-made: if we stop spending on what this country needs, we're screwed.

The President may have put it more delicately.

But there's the essential problem with teabaggerism and the Republican party it's come to dominate, policy-wise (using the word "policy" as loosely as can be done without dissolving its meaning like two lumps in hot tea): not to put too fine a point on it, but what they propose will kill us. I've said it before. It's happening already, in the land of tea-drinkers.

I don't like the amount of deficit spending we're doing, and I don't like the mounting debt. Who does? (Unlike Ms Bachmann and the teabaggers who consider her the second dipping, I recognize the origins in the Bush administration, and the need for Obama's efforts to stop the bleeding; nor do I attribute the parts of the deficit to BHO that belong on the tally-sheet of GWB.) But the simplistic and narrow approach of the Rs is simply untenable. Look around: state after state is on the verge of bankruptcy, cutting more and more essential services, leaving education in the ditches already clogged with the unemployed and uninsured. What a pyrrhic victory, were they to achieve budgetary balance at the expense of our future. The solution, long term, must include much more than cutting taxes and spending.

But it's easy, like Michele Bachmann does, to talk about burdening our children with debt, and to claim, as she does, that we're verging on being the last generation of liberty in this country. It's much harder to consider the burdens of living with no viable education system, roads, health care, cops. Which, to some degree or other in state after state, is happening all around us. You'd think it would give pause.

As I have in the past, I fault the hard left as well: mention raising the retirement age a year, incrementally, over the next ten years, and they won't hear of it. Indexing social security and medicare to financial need: the same. It's as reflexive as maintaining tax cuts for the wealthy and keeping defense spending off the table for the hard right. (At least, though, their concerns are about people in need. For teabaggers, it's about the me and now.)

We simply can't get there without some of both, and Obama said as much. Republicans? Call us when you agree with us 100%.

Sadly, solutions -- while obvious -- are a pipe dream. Other than President Obama, who's hardly free of double-speak himself, and a few lonely Democrats and maybe one or two Republicans, no politician is willing to say what's necessary, much less do it. Teabaggers continue to believe in magic, Fox "news" and the rest of the RWS™ continue to sell it to them, wrapped in fear and lies. For too many Democrats, it's simply impossible to separate those in dire need from those with no needs.

The SOTU highlighted the dilemma. The nonsensical response shut off the lights.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hero Worship

It's perfectly fitting that Michele Bachmann is a hero of the teabaggers: she doesn't have a clue what she'd talking about, she considers truth an inconvenience to be ignored, she repeats discredited claims, and to the extent that she supplies specific policy suggestions, they don't add up.

Last night she addressed the nation, and it was carried live by (and only by) the least-watched cable news channel. In addition to looking pretty weird, it seems she made a few errors.

Fact Checking Rep. Bachmann's "Tea Party Response" To The State Of The Union

January 25, 2011 11:45 pm ET

Insisting that she was not upstaging the official GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) offered a combative and highly misleading speech of her own following the president's address. In her "Tea Party Response," Bachmann repeated a litany of false right-wing talking points about everything from the Recovery Act and job losses to the debt and "16,500 IRS agents."

Paying way more attention than I could have, the article goes into great detail, debunking most of what she evidently said. For anyone unconvinced of how idiotic she is (or, at best, how dismissive of her audience's intellectual powers), it should be read, carefully.

Which means, of course, it won't be.

History Lesson

As the all-for-show arguments proceed in Congress, I wonder how many teabaggers know this:
In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed - “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it’s safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.

As I've said many times, health insurance reform would have been a lot more palatable had there been some form of "public option." In fact, as we now see, it may have been diabolically clever of the Rs to kibosh it -- don't fling me into the briar patch -- forcing the "individual mandate" instead. Because that's the main objection people have to the bill, the fulcrum Rs needed on which to place the lever of their lies about the rest of the legislation.

Founding fathers. Founding principles.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conscience Of A Conservative

[Wrote this one a while back, but since I have nothing else to say today...]

If conservative contortions were an Olympic sport, like ice skating, I'd have to give presidential hopeful, former RNC head, and current governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour straight sixes.

In his haste to get some pre-2012 attention and some hard-ass cred, he's offered to release a young black woman from prison if she donates a kidney to her sister. Donates a kidney! How to use power humbly.

The unusual agreement has alarmed some experts, who have raised legal and ethical questions. Among them: If it turns out the sisters aren't a good tissue match, does that mean the healthy one goes back to jail?

"All of the 'What if' questions are, at this point, purely hypothetical," Barbour said in a statement from his office late Thursday. "We'll deal with those situations if they actually happen."...

... Arthur Caplan, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied transplants and their legal and ethical ramifications for about 25 years. He said he's never heard of anything like this.

Even though Gladys Scott proposed the idea in her petition for an early release and volunteered to donate the organ, Caplan said, it is against the law to buy and sell organs or to force people to give one up.

When I first heard that the Scott sisters were being paroled, I thought good for Haley Barbour. Because the women -- black, of course -- were sentenced to life in prison for the theft of eleven dollars. Double life, in fact: consecutive sentences. At age nineteen and twenty one. No priors. No one was injured. Eleven dollars! Life! Clearly outrageous and race-motivated, with questionable testimony used to convict, such a sentence should never have happened; and the idea that a Southern gov would recognize and rectify it was impressive, I thought. They'd already served more than any white kid would have; any time at all is likely to have been more, for the same crime, with the same shaky testimony.

But no.

He couldn't just do what was right. That would risk alienating his most solid base: racists and teabaggers. (One of the sisters is on dialysis. After sixteen years, Haley the Hero decided to let her out, saving the state the two-hundred grand per annum it was costing. There's tea there enough to give him cover. Letting the other out is conditioned on the donation.) This conditioning of justice, this forced entry, is hardly what I'd call conservative. Government demanding major surgery (from which people have died) as a prerequisite to the administration of justice?

Think about it: what greater demonstration of the power of government over the individual could there be? Small government, get-off-our-backs government? Just words. Fitting this action into that box requires looseness of joints given only to circus performers and first-time rollers. RWS™ like to talk about slopes, of the slippery kind. Allowing gays to marry means the farmer in Texas finally gets to make an honest sheep out his paramour. What is more greasy than dispensing justice based on the ego of a governor, demanding the injured party do further penance, pay tribute to his whim?

Proving that the whole act was about Barbour and not about the women: no one even bothered to tell them of the decision, even after it was presented, with fanfare, like a kid pointing to evidence he'd used the potty, to the press.

It's possible that somewhere in his black little heart, Barbour the Barber felt a twinge of humanity, a realization of justice disserved. He had, after all, pardoned murderers (about whom there was no question of errant conviction but who'd worked on his house as prison trustys). But if he were a man of courage, a man of integrity, he'd just have acknowledged the outrage and commuted the sentences, unconditionally. How could anyone look at the facts and not do so? As glad as I am to know the sisters will be freed, I think the way it was done is grandstanding, and demeaning: to the women, to the law, to the public (and I wrote that before finding the previous link). And whatever else it might be, it's NOT conservative.

But then again, neither is anything we hear coming out of the mouths of the current crop of right wing politicos.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Taking Bets

Alarmed at the decline in production of new drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, Obama announces a federal program for drug research.

The new effort comes as many large drug makers, unable to find enough new drugs, are paring back research. Promising discoveries in illnesses like depression and Parkinson’sthat once would have led to clinical trials are instead going unexplored because companies have neither the will nor the resources to undertake the effort.

The initial financing of the government’s new drug center is relatively small compared with the $45.8 billion that the industry estimates it invested in research in 2009. The cost of bringing a single drug to market can exceed $1 billion, according to some estimates, and drug companies have typically spent twice as much on marketing as on research, a business model that is increasingly suspect.

So. How long before we hear RWS™ claiming it's an effort to create mind-control drugs? And, since that's pretty easy, here's a side bet: who will be first, Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, or Louie Gohmert?

Goe-balls And No-balls

I suppose I've been remiss in not mentioning Rep. Steve Cohen and his reference to Goebbels' "big lie" during the recent so-called health care debate.

Coming, as it did, so soon after pledges of a new civility, it was ill-timed and ill-conceived. As Jon Stewart said, the congressman needn't have resorted to playing the Nazi card, when all he had to do was point out that the Republican arguments were a bunch of unrepentant and shameless lies. Despite the fact that Mr Cohen's remarks were criticized by both sides (and, of course, hyped beyond their original context by the screamers on Fox "news" and blanketed on the right-wing airwaves), at least one commenter here thinks he's been given a pass by "the media." That's as wrong as he was.

Still, I don't think all Nazi references need be ipso facto off-limits henceforth and forevermore. If, for example, some country or other began to round up Jews, or Christians, or blue-eyed blondes and began systematically to kill them in gas chambers, comparisons might be apt. Similarly, we might be justified in raising alarums were there ranks and files of armed men marching down our streets, goose-stepping, raised arms adorned with swastikas, looking over at a guy with a mustache? We might be excused, I'd argue, for comparing them to Nazis.

So where's the line? Somewhere near where truth ends, I'd propose. Did Joseph Goebbels extol the virtues of repeatedly lying, or did he not? Are right-wingers repeating lies, over and over, about the ACA, or are they not? Is the repetition of these lies effective in getting people to believe them? May it not be said, under any circumstances, that there are similarities? In what way is Mr Cohen's example incorrect, factually or historically?

On the other hand, when Glenn Beck (who never uses Nazi references) suggested Obama was planning concentration camps, was that true, or was it not? When Michele Bachmann warned of "reeducation camps," was that based on fact, or did it spring, like putrid purulence pouring from a punctured pustule, from whatever polluted processes go in inside her own poor head?

Mr Cohen made his point civilly, I'd say, and it was accurate. It was a bad idea, rhetorically speaking and timing-wise; but it wasn't a falsehood, nor was it screamed, nor was it intended as a springboard for paranoid fantasies bedecked with chalkboards aimed at fueling delusions of the masses.

So, yeah, enough with the Nazi references, especially when they're complete bullsh*t. But let us not forget that the need for civil discourse does not abrogate the right and the responsibility to call a spade a spade. Or a shovel a shovel.

Especially when it's the truth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I've been waiting for this. Pretty mild, really. I'd figured when flocks are falling from the sky, it's confirmation of the end times. Who knew it was just about gay rights? Particularly since it's been happening all over the world; a fact not mentioned by the lady above. Gays in the US: dead birds in Italy. Where the Pope lives. And Sweden. Makes sense to me.

Fish, too. Why leave them out? (Did she? I couldn't watch to the end.) Didn't they die for our sins, too?

It does get a little confusing, but maybe it's just me. It's been two thousand years since there was a clear-cut murder for our sins, and back then it was a human being. Which seems more fair, if a little too obviously designed to produce perpetual guilt. But now we're getting messages via fish and foul? Far too subtle, if you ask me; a little too indirect. A few dead birds: barely worth noticing -- and, excepting the lady above, most people didn't. I doubt they'll be writing books about the bird droppings like they did about events back then. Can't imagine people walking around in some sort of house of worship with fish or birds on sticks a thousand years from now. [Or, after the latest, cows.]

God, so they say, works in mysterious ways. He likes his miracles mixed with death: a guy takes a bullet for his wife, he's with god now, and hallelujah. That a nine-year old life was ended too, well, that's just birds and fish. Evidently it says nothing about what god is or isn't. Not like dead birds do.

No one jumped in front of her, though.

I can't see it, but I'm not really up on this stuff. I guess we'll just have to wait a couple of months. Couple of years at the latest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Hard to see much difference between this and this.

You can photoshop a smile, but not the crazy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Discourse With No Recourse

I've written about this, too, recently, but here's a more credible source than me. Regarding the Rs rejection of the CBO scores for the ACA and for its repeal and the larger implications for the republic:

Democrats say the bill reduces the deficit. Republicans say that the bill explodes the deficit. And when the scorekeeper tries to intervene, Republicans take aim at the scorekeeper.

Real debate isn't possible under those circumstances. But that's not the only danger here: When you have a scorekeeper respected by all sides, legislation ends up being more fiscally responsible. Fear of a bad score is why Democrats, though they disagreed with the CBO's modeling and thought their reforms would save more money with less pain, went back to the drawing board and include cost-saving provisions that they didn't like and that they knew might hurt them in the polls. The end result? A vastly more fiscally responsible bill. The process worked.

But since that put Republicans in a bind -- after all, how bad could this legislation be if it fulfilled its goals while paying for itself? -- they've turned on the process. That's not only left the two sides arguing from different sets of facts, but undermined the incentives of future congressional majorities to work with the CBO to release fiscally responsible legislation. After all, if no one cares about the score, why kill yourself chasing it?

This makes the debate over health care policy entirely pointless -- we're talking about a Republican Party that still very much approves of "creating their own reality" -- while undermining the policymaking process in a rather fundamental way.

Simultaneously, given the intellectual bankruptcy of conservative "wonks," we're reminded that the near future looks pretty bleak when it comes to substantive discourse. The wonks are hacks; the pols who rely on the wonks are fools; and the rank-and-file GOP voters who rely on the wonks and pols are played for suckers.

Played for suckers. Couldn't have said it better, although I've tried.


Looking back at my own experience, I've often thought that, like youth, college is wasted on the young. A recent study suggests I might be right:

A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

Not much is asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

I was fortunate: I went to a pretty good college. Elite, some might call it. There, I evolved from a kid who'd gotten good grades with no effort and no introspection, big fish, to one with at least some sense of how to think and write, and with the ability to question oneself and the surrounding world. The first, I got from English 1 - 2. The rest, mostly, from the people I met, spent hours and nights talking with, about who remembers what.

Come to think of it, I might have been in the sixty-five percent. Which is worse, in some ways.

Because here's my point: I could have learned way more. Would have learned way more, had it all happened a few years later. College opened my eyes in many ways, and my growth there was probably greater than at any time after the first couple of years of my life, when I picked up a few words and became toilet-trained. But it kills me to think in how many ways I blew it, too. For one thing, college happens at exactly the wrong time. Kids that age should be sent someplace for a year or two where they can drink, do drugs, and screw their brains out. (Lest any draw the wrong inference, when I was in college I got really drunk only one time, in the obligatory scenario: freshman gets a bottle of really bad Scotch from an upperclassman, polishes it off with a classmate, spends half the night pressing his hot cheek to the cold porcelain... and never touches a drop of Scotch again. And I didn't know people smoked marijuana until I was a senior, and when I found out I was shocked. As to screwing... I wish.)

It's more than that, though. In my senior year, for example, I took a seminar course from Henry Steele Commager, adviser to JFK, one of the great American historians. There were about six of us, sitting around a big oak table in his dining room once a week, talking about American history and things related, based on assigned books and his whim that day. How many people on the planet ever had such an opportunity? Too dumb, too intimidated, too clueless, I wasted it; of that I'm certain. How great would it be to repeat the experience now, when I know a few things more, when I'd not be shy about asking him questions, speaking my mind, wanting feedback. Professor Commager, of course, is long gone.

Philosophers, writers, scientists, artists: I took classes from them all, yet was more interested in figuring out how to get a grade than how to delve into and absorb what was there for the taking. (Attending an undergraduate-only college, there were no TAs, no professors who hid in their labs. The faculty were the teachers, the only teachers, and they taught. Or tried to.) Plus, there were parties to go to, sports to play, fraternities to join, girls to find, nights to kill with friends when, more often than not, I didn't have a date and others did. (Not necessarily relevant note: there was nothing -- nothing -- more depressing than a "mixer" at a women's college on the east coast in the sixties. At least for the socially inexperienced like me. And, no, being SB president, captain of the football team, salutatorian, and a bunch of other superficial crap did not get me laid in high school.)

Some kids -- that other half -- are mature enough, motivated enough, prepared enough to get out of it what is offered; to not get too distracted by the things that distract barely-post adolescents. In my class were guys of such brilliance that they seemed to move in separate planes; I vacillated between aspiring to it, and, when I thought it not possible, pretending they were uncool geeks.

Kids that age are assholes. I was, anyway. Which is the point. And, not wishing to sound elitist -- far be it from me -- I think the temptations are worse and sliding is easier at the huge universities most kids attend. (My college had a student body of a thousand, including all four years. First semester junior year, when my grades dropped some, coincident with finding a girlfriend who... well, anyway, I was called into the dean's office and asked WTF?)

As the article suggests, I doubt the solution -- if there is one -- lies in some sort of regulatory approach. NCLB is bad enough. Something like it would ruin college, would be my guess. In the best of all worlds, though, it seems that sending kids out into the workforce for three or four years or, maybe, some sort of community service, a corps of some kind -- or that place for drinking and screwing -- might allow the natural processes of mind maturation to take place before being offered the educational opportunity of a lifetime.

As opposed to after.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Found On The Interwebs

And then there's this, which seems to tie it all together:

The (S)Hits Just Keep On Coming

Transparency. Fiscal responsibility. Gone in sixty seconds.

First, this (yes I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago):
On MSNBC's "Hardball" Wednesday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Dems' House fundraising arm, accused Republicans of a double standard in blocking the disclosure:

ISRAEL: Every Republican voted to hide their own government health care, while many of them are pledging to repeal health care for everyone else. So, you go from hypocrisy to hypocrisy; from broken promise to broken promise. And this is just the first day of the new Congress.
MATTHEWS: You mean, they didn't want to admit that they're taking health care?

ISRAEL: This is a very straightforward amendment that we offered, that, if you're going to take government-sponsored health care and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, simply disclose. Let your constituents know that you are taking that government health care. Every single Republican voted to hide their health care while many of them are pledging to repeal it for their constituents.

Then, in reference to repealing health care reform, this, .
As a result of changes in direct spending and revenues, CBO expects that enacting H.R. 2 would probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012-2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion (on the basis of the original estimate), plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes that CBO and JCT will include in the forthcoming estimate. Adding two more years (through 2021) brings the projected increase in deficits to something in the vicinity of $230 billion, plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes.

John Boner, of course, dismissed the report out of hand:

House Speaker John Boehner said today that the Congressional Budget Office is "entitled to their own opinion" - a striking statement in light of the deference usually shown information from the nonpartisan CBO from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle...
... He added that "I don't think anybody in this town believes that repealing Obamacare is going to increase the deficit."

Other than, you know, the experts who looked into it. With, uh, data.

Fortunately for our future, we've learned that deficits only matter if Democrats create them. And transparency is something you can't see through, when used by Republicans.

Simple, huh? And easy to understand.

And, though the above was written a little while back, yesterday House Rs made good on their silly and fact-free promise to repeal the health care law. Calling it "the repealing the job-killing health care bill act," a name which doesn't exactly trip off the tongue (bill act??) or rise to the lyricism of the founding fathers, they passed it knowing full well it was just for show. And, assuming they don't apply the same Bonerian logic detailed above, they know it's not job-killing, either. I'd love to hear Harry Reid explain why the Senate won't take it up: "They called it repealing the job-killing health care law," he could say. "But I've looked through the Congressional Record. There is no job-killing health care bill, so I have no idea what the f*ck they're talking about."

And let's not fail to notice that, despite earlier promises and perfectly in keeping with their "party of no" behavior over the past two years, they didn't even make a pretense of coming up with any ideas of their own with which to replace the bill. (They did, however, vote to continue their own government-provided healthcare.)

If it weren't so pitiful, it'd be quite entertaining.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Still Doesn't Get It

Bravely facing her toughest critic, Sarah Palin stood up to withering questioning on Fox "news," knowing full well that Sean Hannity would give it to her good. Or not. Anyway, predictable as an elk dying from enough mis-aimed shots fired by an amateur, here's what she takes from the dust-up over her "it's all about me" choice of words after Tucson:
"I think the critics again were using anything that they could gather out of that statement," she said. "You can spin up anything out of anybody's statements that are released and use them against the person who is making the statement."

Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said the criticism won't stop her from speaking out and accusing Democrats of taking the country in the wrong direction. "They can't make us sit down and shut up," she said.

Right, little Miss "quit halfway through when there's money to be made." That's what people were calling for: don't speak out, just shut up. And I'm glad you pointed it out, because, there for a minute, I was thinking it was about arguing politics with respect and, even, with facts.

Whew. Close one. If she hadn't brought her brand of icy clarity, right into the cauldron, who knows what might have happened?


It's not that Congressional Republicans are stupid (although, clearly, many of them are, kindly, challenged.) It's that they think you're stupid. So sure of it are they, in fact, that they've had this to say. Expect it to become the central talking point henceforth. Expect it to be all over Fox "news" until November 2012:

On Fox News today, House Rules Committee Chair David Dreier (R-CA) contended the GOP deserves all the credit for recent economic growth.

"[W]e can get our economy growing. And we've gotten some positive numbers. I think it's in large part because we won our majority and we're pursuing pro-growth policies," he said.

I'm certain he said it with a straight face, too. In the majority in the House for, like, a couple of weeks, not having passed into law a single piece of legislation, and, by golly, unemployment dropped. Never mind the turnaround began over a year ago. Never mind that they voted against all of Obama's initiatives, and predicted disaster.

These guys actually think they can make the public believe it. Can make a convincing case that down is up. C'mon... That'd be as stupid as claiming, despite the evidence (or lack thereof), that the ACA is a "job-killer." Yeah, right. Like that could happen...

Oh, wait...

I'm sorry. I hate to be divisive. But these are seriously unserious people. And they're counting on the public (they have the teabaggers locked up, of course, no matter what b.s. they peddle) not to notice it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Words. No Words.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tonal Recall
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Watch the above (enjoy the first three minutes -- why not? -- but it's the rest of it...). Hold your head in your hands. Then, with care, with the best of intentions....


Thank you.

Another Side Of The Coin (or lack thereof)

Tax cuts, budget cuts. Teabaggerism. Is this surprising?

In the past year, Pima County, Ariz., where Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others were shot Saturday, has seen more than 45 percent of its mental health services recipients forced off the public rolls, a service advocate told The Huffington Post.

The deep cuts in treatment were protested strongly at the time, with opponents warning that they would result in a spike in suicide attempts, public disturbances, hospitalizations and brushes with the police. But according to Clarke Romans, executive director for southern Arizona's branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the state government ignored requests for relief, citing the need to implement strict budget controls.

This is why teabaggers bug me so much. It's not their smugness, their embrace of the fringes of birtherism, racism, their unbridled anger. (Okay, it's those, too; but they're not foremost.) It's their simple-minded solutions to complicated problems; their steadfast refusal to include facts or consequences in their autistic repetitions: cut taxes, cut wasteful spending, and everything will be fine. Ronald Reagan taught us that.

(What? It didn't work? La la la la I can't hear you.)

So Arizona, among the teabaggiest examples of governance teabaggerism, slashes spending on mental health care. Because people are no longer willing to see money going to anyone but themselves, because their idea of patriotism doesn't include any sense of commonality with any others -- especially those of differing color -- they vote "no," and states make Draconian cuts. And, to the aggressive apathy of teabaggers, the cuts start with the most needy and defenseless. How could it hurt me, the teabaggers (fail to) ask? Who cares, they imply, from the depths of their Christianity.

This is how it hurts. It's not the only way; just a hard-to-ignore way. Cutting public health services, cutting education: it's the frog in warming water. Can't feel a thing. Not now, anyway. Besides, I got mine. And lookee my tax bill.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Give The Man Credit

Good for John McCain. Unlike his choice for veep, he was able to take a moment to reflect:

...the Arizona Republican this weekend called Obama a "patriot" intent on using his presidency to "advance our country's cause" and rejected accusations – many coming from members of his own party and the tea party movement – "that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America."

McCain made his comments in an article he wrote for the Washington Post opinion page, posted on Saturday, in which he praised Obama for giving a "terrific speech" in Tucson at a tribute for victims of the shooting spree that took place there a week ago.

McCain said that Obama had "comforted and inspired the country" and performed an important service by encouraging "every American who participates in our political debates - whether we are on the left or right or in the media - to aspire to a more generous appreciation of one another and a more modest one of ourselves."

"Our political discourse should be more civil than it currently is, and we all, myself included, bear some responsibility for it not being so," McCain said.

Too bad Sarah couldn't bring herself to say something like that. Although if she had, her supporters would have dumped her like last week's teabag.


[I wrote this right after the shooting. The argument has become even more polarized since, but I still believe political climate affects public action. I never specifically blamed Sarah Palin for the guy's actions (if you read only right wingers, you'd think that was the only and exact content of all liberal reaction); but it's common sense that creating a climate of fear and hate, mainly by the screamers who claim Obama and all liberals are deliberately moving toward tyranny, bent on destroying America, and who overtly call for taking up arms if the right doesn't get its way is not without ill consequence for the process of democracy. If anyone can effectively argue otherwise -- and I'm not talking about disagreement and dissent, but about hypervitriol and calls for revolution -- I'd welcome the debate.]


From a self-described far lefty website, a collection of tweets on the shooting:
If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web with crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking. - Michael Moore

A physician cannot treat an illness s/he willfully refuses to diagnose. Violent political rhetoric is not fault of "both sides." - Tom Tomorrow

Inspiring that our media pundits are so quick to reach for "everyone's to blame" when no conservative events have been terrorized by gunmen. - Jeffrey Feldman

Weird: rightwingers say movies, video games affect behavior -- but real world violent rhetoric from leaders & radio talkers have NO impact! - Tom Tomorrow

Jared Lougnner: drug arrests, too crazy for Army or for college or anythign else, but getting a legal gun? No problem. - Tom Tomorrow

I find it abhorrent that Sarah Palin would stoke the coals of extremism with dangerous messaging, then delete it when something bad happens. - Jason Pollock

Sarah Palin rummages online frantically erasing her rabble-rousing Tweets like a Stalinist trimming non-persons out of photos. - Roger Ebert

I'll say this, if your first instinct after hearing about a tragedy is to scrub yr websites, you have a problem as a political movement. - digby56

CNN's Dana Bash says "this could be a wake-up call." THIS ... ? The whole Tea Party, carrying guns to rallies WASN'T?? - hololio2

I think the first is the best: Could anyone seriously claim that if it had been the case, every currently and highly offended RWS™ and their righteous advocates would not be screaming bloody murder? (Literally.) Think, instead, they'd be defending the poster?

Ebert, too, is right on, given Palin's activity after the shooting. Pretty telling.

I deleted a couple that were over the top.

The ones I left aren't over the top, you ask? Not the way I see it. The right wingers (and commenters here) can scramble up the "both parties" tree all they want, but there's simply no equivalency. Find a loose-lipped lefty, an offensive sign here and there? Yep. Couple of D politicos, too? Sure. And the two I can think of have been unelected. Boo-hoos from Michelle Malkin, one of the very worst in a really bad crowd? Laughable as it is pathetic. Some people called Bush Hitler? Yeah, they did. (And they were wrong: he wasn't Hitler, he was Politburo all the way.) Some lefties have said even worse.

But no, sorry: saying "both sides do it" is like saying there are two sides to global climate change, to the age of the earth "controversy." Sure there are people on both sides saying bad stuff. But calling for violence as political strategy? Politicians saying the other side must be "eliminated," "beaten and bloodied?" Calling for revolution if they don't get everything they want? Actual elected leaders? Just because they disagree?

There've always been crazies out there. But an entire nationwide political movement, teabaggerism, toward which a major party is bending over to kiss its collective ass, based on the idea that if you don't get your way in this democracy -- this democracy -- the remedy is to take up guns? Nope. Unprecedented. (How many teabagger rallies didn't include the sign: "we came unarmed -- this time." For that matter, at how many were attendees actually armed?)

Nor is there equivalence in having an entire media network in bed with, proudly promoting the policies of, hiring the potential candidates of one party, lined with talking heads who deliberately distort and dissemble, claiming our president hates white people, is setting up reeducation camps, is a terrorist sympathizer bent on destroying our very way of life, that he must be stopped by any necessary means. One of whom is either literally crazy or the most dishonest manipulator in the history of television? Talk radio filled with racist blowhards who consider no statement too inflammatory and produce them every hour of every day, blanketing the country? Hasn't happened before; not like this.

All of that compares, in amount and effect, to the occasional comment on some liberal website, a placard, a person of rhetorical excess, who stands out exactly because he's so out of place? Gimme a friggin' break.

Example one. Example two.

On one hand: the occasional flamer, not supported by any apparatus; on the other: concerted and coördinated effort to demonize, dehumanize, delegitimize. To call for uprising. To cry out that liberals are an existential enemy, haters of everything good, entitled to no respect, deserving of destruction. Mainlining it. Because we disagree.

Every instance of violence: just an individual occurrence, no relation to claims of tyranny. One, two, three, four... no relation, never.

Gosh, there I go being divisive.

Know what? If it weren't for the hate-spewing, lie-telling RWS™; if it weren't for the existence of a so-called news network acting as a propaganda arm of the craziest faction of the Republican party (and not even pretending otherwise); if it weren't for politicians like Palin and Bachmann and King and about a hundred others, who deliberately fan the flames of hatred for personal gain, hate and division as policy; if not for that, I wouldn't have this blog at all, or, maybe, like my other one before I left it, I'd be posting a couple of times a week. About policy, about issues that we face. Thoughtfully, even.

Instead, I read, I fume, I despair, I point to commentary like this, with which I find it impossible to disagree:

Dangerous outcomes from a culture of paranoia

Last October, Glenn Beck was musing on his radio show about the prospect of the government seizing his children if he didn't give them flu vaccines. "You want to take my kids because of that?" he said. "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."

Last April, Erick Erickson, the managing editor of the right-wing RedState blog and a CNN commentator, was questioning the legality of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey on a radio show. "We have become, or are becoming, enslaved by the government. . . . I dare 'em to try to come to throw me in jail. I dare 'em to. [I'll] pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door."

Do right-wing talk show commentators incite violence against the government? Feel free to draw your own conclusions - but to dwell on the rise of violent rhetoric on the right is to miss an even bigger, though connected, problem. Let's focus, rather, on the first part of Beck's and Erickson's observations: The government wants to take away Glenn Beck's (and by extension, your) kids. The government wants to take a census and will throw Erick Erickson (and by extension, you) in jail if he, and you, don't comply...

... The primary problem with the political discourse of the right in today's America isn't that it incites violence per se. It's that it implants and reinforces paranoid fears about the government and conservatism's domestic adversaries...

... A fabricated specter of impending governmental totalitarianism haunts the right's dreams. One month after Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, Beck hosted a show that gamed out how militias in Southern and Western states might rise up against an oppressive government...

... As much of the right sees it, the government is planning to incarcerate its enemies (see Beck and Erickson, above), socialize the economy and take away everyone's guns. At the fringe, we have figures like Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, who told a rally in Washington last April that, "We're in a war. The other side knows they are at war, because they started it. They are coming for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They are coming for everything because they are a bunch of socialists."

... Consider the plight of poor Fred Upton, the Republican congressman just installed as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, over considerable right-wing opposition. According to Beck, Upton is "all socialist," while Rush Limbaugh calls him the personification of "nannyism" and "statism." Upton's crime is that he supports more energy-efficient light bulbs. How that puts him in a league with Marx, Engels and Nanny McPhee, I will leave to subtler minds.

American politics and culture have a rich history of paranoia, as historian Richard Hofstadter and many others have documented. Many of the incidents of anti-government violence over the past couple of years - flying a plane into an IRS building in Texas, shooting police officers in Pittsburgh and carrying out last weekend's savagery in Tucson - came from people who, however individually loony they may have been, also harbored paranoid visions of the government that resembled, though by no means entirely, those put forth by the Becks and the Ericksons.

That doesn't make Beck, Erickson, Rupert Murdoch and their ilk responsible for Tucson. It does make them responsible for promoting a paranoid culture that makes America a more divided and dangerous land.

But here I am, like people more thoughtful than me, divisively pointing out the damage being done, while knowing full well -- as proved every time a troll drops by -- that I'm pissing into a strong cold headwind.

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