February 28, 2009

The faces of the Republican party?

"“This is probably too strong,” said Doug Haney, the city attorney in Carmel, Ind. and a Republican precinct committeeman, “but Hitler also gave great speeches.”

Attendees and speakers at the three-day event were nearly unanimous in their fear that President Obama and the Democrats were turning America into a socialist state. Political Media, a conservative public relations company, passed out faux “stimulus dollar” bills printed by “The Socialist State of America.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the former presidential candidate who’d been roundly attacked by fiscal conservatives for approving tax increases, appeared shortly before 2 p.m. to give a red meat speech about the new president’s red menace.

“The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead,” said Huckabee, “but a Union of American Socialist Republics is being born.” Democrats, according to Huckabee, were packing 40 years of pet projects like “health care rationing” into spending bills. “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”"

Then there is the "plumber" who simply will not go away.
Back in the day, really, when people would talk about our military in a poor way, somebody would shoot ‘em. And there’d be nothing said about that, because they knew it was wrong. You don’t talk about our troops. You support our troops. Especially when our congressmen and senators sit there and say bad things in an ongoing conflict.
Not to mention Michelle Bachmann's "you da man" response to Michael Steele.

And how about this from Bobby Jindal's home state?
Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president's economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.


In the "bad ideology turning into bad policy" department we have Texas as the poster child for abstinence only and rising STDs. As I have noted, abstinence is a good personal decision, but horrible public policy that leaves kids actually less safe.

February 27, 2009

Daily Show on Obama and Jindal

And just too funny, which I think is a good way to start a Friday morning.

And then this.

February 25, 2009

And back to the other GOP Candidate

According to Sarah Palin she isn't paranoid for thinking that the media was out to destroy her:
"Palin said she believes the media made a decision that “we’re going to seek and we’re going to destroy this candidacy of Sarah Palin’s because of what it is that she represents.”"
Honestly, this woman amazes me. She really is the heir to Bush. Nothing is her fault, it is the media, or a particular interviewer. They asked her tough questions, after all.


February 24, 2009

Hey, it wasn't just me

From Sullivan (re: Jindal's speech):
Close your eyes and think of Kenneth from 30 Rock
Or from Yglesias::
"Bobby Jindal apparently believes it’s appropriate to address the citizens of the United States in a tone that suggests we’re all nine years old."

But my favorite line--this about Obama's speech, also came from one of Sully's readers:
"Sitting here watching the speech I have been thinking that something is wrong. My first thought was that he is talking too fast. Then it dawned on me: he knows what he is talking about and expecting me to keep up. After eight years of being talked to like a child (or an idiot), my president is speaking to me like I am an intelligent adult. This is going to take some getting used to."

Indeed. Complete sentences, even. And, as Yglesias also pointed out, no concerns about human-animal hybrids.

Post Non SOTU speech reaction

I have to chuckle at our stupid troll. I have been called a lot of things over the last few years at this blog, but being called a Republican is not one of them. You have to give him credit for that. He may not be able to read, or construct a coherent sentence or paragraph, but he can produce wingnuttery of impressive proportion.

Ok, I watched this speech, and I must say that I was very impressed. Yeah, there were a few silly things in there (the mentioning of "clean coal") but I was stunned at Obama's political ability to frame issues. Rachel Maddow called it "post partisan" and I think, for the most part, that she is right on.

On the other hand, am I the only one who thought that Jindall's speaking style was patronizing and overly simplistic? "Americans can do anything?" Seriously? Not only that, but invoking, as an example of government corruption, the response to Katrina? And then saying that tax cuts are still the answer? Perhaps then Governor Jindall should turn down all the stimulus money coming his way.

Yeah, I doubt that.

And finally, this as my most recent challenge. Obama mentioned several ways that government has actually invested in something bigger than ourselves, and how that investment has paid off in such huge ways. GI Bill. Interstate Highway. Going to the moon. Any idea, off the top of our heads, how many millions in jobs or homes or new technologies that have come from those investments?

Where are the Republican investments? Since Reagan, we have not seen a willingness to invest in anything save the military (which has, to be fair, also produced new (and peaceful) technologies) and instead have spent the last 25 years blaming government. If the Republicans in leadership today, were in charge during all of those previous investments, where would we be today? Would we have interstates? Anything?

February 22, 2009

Fafblog on the Israeli/Gazan situation

As only Fafblog could do it. Click over to see the great photo caption:
"Israel has stood up for its right to stand up to other people's rights by forming its most hawkish possible government. A lesser nation might have wavered in the face of a merciless Palestinian onslaught of pleading and stump-waving, but Israel realizes this is a war between good and evil, right and wrong, civilization and those too poor to afford civilization. True, it's far from a fair fight - Israel has a mere three hundred nuclear warheads while the Palestinians have countless rocks to throw - but somehow the pluck and determination of this scrappy regional superpower has prevailed over the deadly horde of orphans, beggars and amputees who threaten to live next to it."

Wild West capitalism

Yeah, maybe that doesn't work.
To paraphrase Churchill, capitalist market economies open to trade and financial flows may be the worst economic regime--apart from the alternatives. However, while this crisis does not imply the end of market-economy capitalism, it has shown the failure of a particular model of capitalism. Namely, the laissez-faire, unregulated (or aggressively deregulated), Wild West model of free market capitalism with lack of prudential regulation, supervision of financial markets and proper provision of public goods by governments.

There is the failure of ideas--such as the "efficient market hypothesis," which deluded its believers about the absence of market failures such as asset bubbles; the "rational expectations" paradigm that clashes with the insights of behavioral economics and finance; and the "self-regulation of markets and institutions" that clashes with the classical agency problems in corporate governance--that are themselves exacerbated in financial companies by the greater degree of asymmetric information. For example, how can a chief executive or a board monitor the risk taking of thousands of separate profit and loss accounts? Then there are the distortions of compensation paid to bankers and traders.

This crisis also shows the failure of ideas such as the one that securitization will reduce systemic risk rather than actually increase it. That risk can be properly priced when the opacity and lack of transparency of financial firms and new instruments leads to unpriceable uncertainty rather than priceable risk.

It is clear that the Anglo-Saxon model of supervision and regulation of the financial system has failed. It relied on several factors: self-regulation that, in effect, meant no regulation; market discipline that does not exist when there is euphoria and irrational exuberance; and internal risk-management models that fail because, as a former chief executive of Citigroup put it, when the music is playing, you've got to stand up and dance.

Furthermore, the self-regulation approach created rating agencies that had massive conflicts of interest and a supervisory system dependent on principles rather than rules. In effect, this light-touch regulation became regulation of the softest touch.

February 21, 2009

Saturday musings

Today has been a slow and marginally productive day. We went to a couple of stores to look at stuff for the house and two were closed after noon on Saturdays. I guess that tells you how often we do that kind of shopping on the weekend.


Facebook weirdness continues. I had lunch with a non-facebooking friend this week--one who knows some of my Facebook friends. He relayed that one of them had expressed surprise to him that my profile listed my religion as "Christian." She was sure I was an atheist. Where that came from, I have no idea.


In the news, some really half-funny and also sad items. Sad in the "I just can't quite believe this is where we are" sad. Item 1, as Tony reminded me, is a big "duh" moment when Bristol Palin agreed that abstinence only was not realistic. Well, she also says that kids should abstain. I really feel for this young woman. Through no fault of her own, she was thrust into the national spotlight by a celebrity seeking mother who was quite willing to use her kids as political fodder, even when she knew that Bristol was pregnant out of wedlock. None of this should really matter to the rest of us, but her mother's insistence on abstinence only public policy made it a national issue. And given Sarah Palin's popularity nationwide, her grasp on such public health issues continues to make me scratch my head and wonder where in the hell the Republican party is headed.

Speaking of that, this story made me scratch my head. One Republican Congressman promised that if the Republicans win the House back in 2010, they will cancel the stimulus bill.

Hmm. Let me get this straight. People actually like the stimulus bill. They may not love it, but they like it. And they don't like Republicans in Congress. Yes, even less than the Democrats in Congress, and way less than Obama. So the Republicans are promising that if you will give them back the majority, they will promise to gut everything you like.

That seems like a winning ticket. It is just a mystery why Republicans are in the minority right now.

February 16, 2009

Monday morning

And I am not quite with it yet. SOF is a little under the weather this morning with a persistent sinus thing, and I am trying to get going for the week. I think I am going to need more coffee today...

Facebook continues to puzzle me. And actually, it has very little to do with Facebook, but everything to do with the past, and how I see myself then and now. 90% of those I connect to from the past are completely innocuous. We exchange a few "what are you doing?" emails, comment on the other's pictures, and then it is done. A couple have just made me feel bad, because even when I look them up in my yearbook, I recognize their name and face, but cannot muster up any personal memories. Some of those were on sports teams with me. And a few of those connections have reconnected me with jerks from the past--but in one case, he was a jerk that I had forgotten was a jerk. :) In that sense, despite a quick flashback to high school angst, it has been largely a positive. Spared the attempt to reconnect in person, and survive that awkward dinner/coffee, I have been able to make sure this person is still doing ok, say hi, and move on.

But then there are those connections that mean more. I recently found someone who really was so very good to me in high school. She graduated well ahead of me, but always found time to take me out for coffee or lunch when she came back from college. She served as a mentor and an encourager, and I always regretted letting that relationship slip by the wayside. So, I was thrilled to see her on Facebook. Her response was the same, but I felt oddly uncomfortable. With the rest of these connections, I really don't care if they look at my profile and scoff at my music tastes, the state of Oklahoma, or my liberal politics. It matters not to me what they think. But this last connection--it matters. Why is something I have to figure out, but she is the first connection on Facebook where I have really felt a bit of insecurity, and hoped that she would still think well of me.

My sense is that these things are largely positive. Those past relationships that meant little then, are just casual, yet manageable niceties. Those past relationships that meant something have the opportunity to either still be meaningful, or transition gracefully out of nostalgic hope into the past. As SOF and I have discussed, many relationships have expiration dates. People change and the relationship sometimes ceases to make sense. Finding that out isn't necessarily a bad thing.



Just a couple of news items that caught my eye. First, is this interesting discussion on patriotism:
"But our precious opportunity to revitalize true patriotism was hijacked by a war-mongering administration and our own complacent fear. In the years that followed, hollow patriotism -- appeals to God and American values -- played on a loop that echoed with deadly hypocrisy. Over the last couple of years we began to collectively rise up in response to the Bush administration's infuriating policies and demand a more complex, more honest definition of patriotism from our nation's leaders. And finally, more than seven years after September 11, we got to experience rare unity in the form of Obama's landslide election, made possible by the efforts of average Americans.

Now here we are. After September 11 and its long fallout, after the most drawn-out campaign in history, after the inauguration of a new president, who are we? Improbably, we are less economically stable yet more hopeful than ever. We are the most racially diverse population in the history of the United States. We are wealthy and we are struggling, with not much in between. We are still shockingly segregated from one another -- socially, economically, interpersonally."
An interesting little article, and worth thinking about.

And related, especially given how congressional Republicans often defined criticism of Bush as some kind of lack of patriotism, is Andrew Sullivan's longer column of the Republican decision to declare war on Obama--not out of defined ideological principles, but out of simply not wanting Democrats to do well.
And this after eight years in which they managed to turn a surplus into a trillion-dollar deficit and added a cool $32 trillion to the debt the next generation will have to pay for. Every now and again their chutzpah and narcissism take one’s breath away. But it’s all they seem to know.

John McCain gives you the flavour. Fresh from a dinner in his honour hosted by Obama, he abruptly dismissed the stimulus package as the “same old” spending of the distant Democratic past. His closest Republican ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, declared: “This bill stinks.”

Pete Sessions, chairman of the Republican congressional committee, explained that the Republican strategy was going to be modelled on jihadist insurgency. “I’m not joking,” he added. “Insurgency we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban.”
I think it is hard to say that Obama has not tried to reach out to Republicans. And the polling data suggests that they are tone deaf on this one--the country is not interested in a repeat of their war on Clinton. (Those who saw SNL last week, there was a pretty funny sendup of the Republican leadership thinking it was time for impeachment and that the country was tired of the Obama daughters getting a free ride.)

And finally, a bit of humor courtesy of Shaun at Upper Left, this pretty funny reminder of what appears to be GOP economic thought.

February 14, 2009

Sigh, and they will know us by our hatred

Jessika noted that our Oklahoma legislature is now emboldened by Republican majorities to start pushing their religious agenda. We can expect to see a lot of batshit crazy from these people, to be quite honest. Guns for everyone, anti-gay legislation, and anti-evolution legislation (all from people who couldn't explain evolution at the point of one of their own beloved guns). Jessika's post was about wanting to post the Ten Commandments on the state capitol grounds. I suggested that this was one of those battles that I am tired of fighting. If Christian conservatives really think that posting their own idol will make us more moral or more Godly, then let them. This kind of magical thinking masquerading as "faith" drives me crazy, but if that is how they think, I can't stop them. And that Ten Commandments statue will not harm me. And if these people actually believed the Bible they use frequently as a weapon, it might make us a better people.

Jessika argued in the comments (along with several of her friends) that we need to oppose the Religious Right at every turn. Once they get their way with the monuments, then they will want more. This response to Scott Jones prayer makes me think that Jessika and her friends are right. Reverend Jones offered a prayer before the session, and 20 of these right wingers voted to not include the prayer in the House Record. Yeah, didn't want it in the record. The words "petty" and "stupid" come to mind. One of them, of course, said he did so based on his faith. He was joined, of course, by the great Sally Kern, who once famously said that gay people were a bigger threat to America than terrorism.

Ah, Oklahoma, and Ah, the RepublichristianNRA party. Doesn't it just fill you with the love of Christ?


BTW, Scott has a nice blog that I forget to read. He is a super nice guy, and usually responds to this kind of nonsense with a lot more grace and compassion than I do.

February 13, 2009

The Republican attack on Obama continued

Sully's take:
"The GOP has passed what amounts to a spending and tax-cutting and borrowing stimulus package every year since George W. Bush came to office. They have added tens of trillions to future liabilities and they turned a surplus into a trillion dollar deficit - all in a time of growth. They then pick the one moment when demand is collapsing in an alarming spiral to argue that fiscal conservatism is non-negotiable. I mean: seriously.

The bad faith and refusal to be accountable for their own conduct for the last eight years is simply inescapable. There is no reason for the GOP to have done what they have done for the last eight years and to say what they are saying now except pure, cynical partisanship, and a desire to wound and damage the new presidency."
Just a reminder that Sullivan is a conservative who voted for Bush in 2000, so it isn't as if he has no concerns about fiscal responsibility. But he is dead on here. Those who followed the Cheney model of "deficits don't matter" when times were good have very little if any credibility to speak to this issue. Judd Gregg could have been the guy to reform some of the problems with entitlements to really address our long term fiscal health. Republicans, as I continue to argue, and stress that these are the Republicans in charge, not the Republicans as a whole--are more ready to allow economic disaster than to give democrats any credit for finding any kind of a solution. All due respect to LB. I really respect that there are conservatives of conscience and principle. Those in Washington right now are not those.

And if these people weren't bad enough, the man who would have been President is chiding Obama for not being bipartisan enough. SOF heard a Republican on NPR say today that the problem was that Obama spoke to Democrats and "consulted with them" but did not compromise. At that point, I believe I let loose a string of expletives thinking of how even the Republicans admit that Bush didn't consult with anyone on his objectives and can't think of an example where he even considered compromising. After all, he was the decider, and Republicans loved that. Obama took out spending, dropped aid for contraceptives, added more tax cuts, and he doesn't compromise?

Republicans are not acting in good faith, and should not be considered as intellectually honest brokers in this fight. They are more interested in political games than addressing issues in our economy. That is clear. If I ever hear a Republican accuse Democrats of being unAmerican, I believe I will remind them of this moment. And then throw up on their shoes.

How we think and speak about politics

Anglican alerted me to Roger Ebert's blog, and specifically to this post about, well, a lot of things, including film, politics, and how we understand our culture. (This one includes spoilers about the film, "The Reader" btw. I haven't seen it, but just thought I would add to his warning.) But at the beginning, Ebert connects some disparate issues about how we learn about politics and religion, and how we talk about them. Two points that caught my attention. The first, about the "Rush Limbaugh effect:"
"These people, usually friends of mine, are gentle, sweet and very nice, except when they drift into a certain tone I interpret as 'listening to Rush Limbaugh too much.' Then their voices take on undercurrents of anger, resentment and frustration. It is the dittohead voice, and they've learned it off the radio. If you listen to Rush, you quickly realize that it isn't what he says but how he says it. He has an unending capacity for counterfeit astonishment. It has been very effective in long-distance behavioral modification.
This counterfeit astonishment is also effective at forcing a zero sum game in politics. It isn't just the right who practices this, of course, though they seem to have it perfected the tactic. And we see it now, from some, though certainly not all, of those Republicans opposing the stimulus.

The second point is about how we know what we know:
That wise man Mark Twain told us: 'In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from others.'"
As Ebert notes, that is true for him in some areas, and also for most of us (in some capacity). What bothers me to a great extent is the numbers of people in office who seem to have very little understanding or thought about their approach to government. That applies to the left as well, but I have to say that glaring contrast between conservatives who defended every tax cut, and every dollar spent in Iraq (without oversight, I might add) but who now claim fiscal responsibility as their governing principle--well that contrast is just too much to take right now.

The other part of Twain's quote is most annoying to me right now, and something I have written about before. I don't have a problem with people having half-assed opinions about stuff. We all do that. We all opine on how the government should work, or how the referee missed that call, or how the recent warm spell in February relates to climate change. None of that may be true, or factual, or knowledge based in any way, but we do that. What seems different to me, is that assertion of that same quality of knowledge as justification to govern, or as an assumption of proven fact.

This is partly due to dealing with people who have no understanding of science telling me that evolution is false, or those with no understanding of history telling me about God's unique relationship with our American founders. But it is partly related to LB's thoughtful comment in the last thread. I simply do not believe that most conservatives have really thought through their supply-side (not conservative=supply-side) economics through. Their adherence to the deregulation, lower taxes, smaller government mantra is repeated as a faith -based assumption, with no or little recognition of the historical reality. I am not saying there are not some arguments to be made on this economic philosophy--but I am saying that most people who repeat the "less government/lower taxes" mantra have not though through the salmonella in their peanut butter or their economic system failing through mismanagement.


February 12, 2009

More on Republicans and Obama

Apropos of Monk's most recent comment, this story about Judd Gregg suddenly withdrawing at Commerce supposedly over disagreements over the stimulus (which is essentially the same as when he offered himself for the job) and a difference of opinion on policy.

All due respect to Steve and LB (and any other conservatives reading this) but I don't buy it. I don't buy that Gregg didn't know what he was getting into when he signed up for this job. What I (and a lot of other people) think is that Gregg signed up for the job when bipartisanship was supposedly something that Republicans wanted to do. But since then, the Republicans seem to have decided they would rather let the economy tank than give credit to a Democrat. They have declared war on the new President, despite the fact that they lost the last election and Obama's poll numbers remain high. They have declared war on the President despite an economy on the brink of collapsing. They have put their own petty party loyalty ahead of the country.

Sorry, but this pisses me the hell off. And it pisses me off especially because I know a lot of Republicans who are more responsible and ethical than this, and I have no clue why they allow this kind of bullshit to represent their interests.

Personally, I hope the Republicans relegate themselves to a minority party for the rest of time. That would make me very happy right now. It wouldn't be best for the country, but then again, what do Mitch McConnell and Rush Limbaugh care about that?


February 9, 2009

Shorter Republican message

"Perfectly glad to see the economy tank as long as we win seats."

Oh, and by the way, can someone tell me how the Republicans would have responded (and how the MSM would have echoed it) had a Democrat compared their resistance to Bush to that of the Taliban?

Ring of Fire

Last night, I was on the phone with my niece having a great conversation, and the door bell rang. I had been in the kitchen, and SOF was busy and focused on her computer. SOF got the door, and only then did we realize that the yard across the street was on fire. It was a very freaky sight, I can tell you. At the point we saw it the fire was a circle on the lawn and looked quite eerie, as if someone had purposefully set it in a circle. We suspect it was just an errant cigarette, but it looked eerie in the night. Even as this passerby alerted us to the fire, we heard sirens in the distance, and within a few minutes, the fire was out. It later rained, which made us all feel a little better.

You can see the burnt part in this photo.

February 6, 2009

Friday and stuff

Someone asked me what I had been up to this week, and I blanked. I have been busy, but when I think back, have a difficult time listing what I have done, or tried to do.

I guess that is how it goes. I realized I have also been rather bitchy with some of my conservative friends. Or rather, snippy and angry. I am not sure why, but think I am still trying to recover from the last 8 years of Bush and Republican rule. I am annoyed, to a point, that my conservative friends want to stop talking about Bush, as if his legacy ended on Inauguration day. So despite the fact that his assh*&e vice president is still out there scaring people and defending torture, that somehow I am supposed to act as if everything today is all the Democrats fault.


Ok, enough of that. I have to get off to class here in a bit, but thought I would mention a few things that are fun and good.

First, our friend Zalm has a photo-blog, and it is one of my daily reads. Check out today's entry here. I urge you to subscribe, because it is always good. (No pressure, Zalm).


If anyone out there is looking for new music, I can't recommend the new Andrew Bird enough. His last two albums are just spectacular. I am also enjoying the new Gaslight Anthem (thanks Ubub) and looking forward to the new Jason Isbell album coming out the 17th.


I am not doing a very good job of updating twitter. Perhaps I just don't get it, but since I have been on Facebook, the status update takes about all the creativity I can muster for that kind of phrase.


One of my favorite blogs is Mark Bittman's food blog. I read it every day, and have found several recipes that look great. The other day, I found this variation on Ma-Po Tofu and made it for dinner last night. It was spectacularly good (even though I read in the comments that it is not authentic). Easy to make, and just very tasty.


Hope you all have a good Friday and a good weekend.

February 1, 2009

Quote of the day

Because I am so tired of the tax cut mantra from the right, it is so nice to hear this from Barney Frank:
"But beyond that, the notion that everything is solved by a tax cut, of course there are sensible tax policies you could have. But there are public needs we have in this society...that cannot be accomplished by a tax cut. No tax cut builds a road. No tax cut puts a cop on the street."
He also points out the obvious elephant in the room--the nearly trillion dollars spent invading Iraq and undermining our military. Republicans, or at least these in power, love to spend money on the military and had no interest in checking Bush's power or ambition, but now are complaining about trying to jump start a nearly moribund economy.


Btw, I have noticed that Amity Shlaes is everywhere promoting her revision of the New Deal, and using that to argue for more supply-side economic response to the current crisis. I am fine with her making her argument, don't get me wrong, but it strikes me that no matter how far out of the mainstream a conservative idea is right now, it will get equal billing with the more accepted knowledge. Not as big of a problem with Shlaes, because there have always been critics of the New Deal, but I was just at the bookstore and noticed the prominence that absolute wingnuts like Coulter and Hannity get, as if their ideas have any legitimacy at all.



So, I am going to make some turkey chili and watch the Super Bowl. It is often enjoyable to watch a game where I have no real preference for who I want to win. Not a huge fan of Roethlisberger, but then again, Kurt Warner bugs me for a lot of the same reasons. But I do admire the skills of people like Fitzgerald and Ward. So, I am cheering for a good game.

Perhaps the coolest Aquarium ever

The Aquarium Phone Booth | thepirata.com