Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bonuses and Socialism

Funny how the view from the higher windows on Wall Street varies from those approximating Main Street. You have got to love the mindset that leads to a statement like this:
“I think President Obama painted everyone with a broad stroke,” said Brian McCaffrey, 55, a Wall Street lawyer who was on his way to see a client. “The way we pay our taxes is bonuses. The only way that we’ll get any of our bailout money back is from taxes on bonuses. I think bonuses should be looked at on a case by case basis, or you turn into a socialist.”

Now I suppose the validity could depend a bit on whether or not the US Taxpayer plowed money into a particular company to keep it afloat as "too big to fail." Here's the deal you f***ing Neanderthal, you tanked that company and wanted us to fix it for you and that's being done at the cost of the largest socialism experiment in goddam history. It isn't your money, it is the taxpayers' money and it isn't even your damn company anymore. This is the problem with half-assed approaches, some asswipe thinks it isn't socialism. The - Bailout - Is - Socialism. I don't give a damn that it follows the usual Republican model of privatize profits and socialize the risk, it has been done. I don't give a damn that as usual the winners are the plutocrats and not the workers, it is socialism.

There is a solution for what ails these people, but beating them and throwing them out their window is frowned upon in a so-called civilized society. Civilized assumes that exchanges aren't made at gun point - but they've brought out the gun. If you don't fix our mess your economy is just going to tank. They brought out the biggest WMD available outside the Defense Department, "everybody except the rich gets screwed into poverty."

Most of us who supported the concept of a bailout understood this piece and loathed them for putting that gun to our head. Of course you had to leave it to BushCo to make sure that what little control was in the authorization evaporated. Now I do not have income envy, but I do have a massive resentment for this "entitled" attitude. Their performance has entitled them to be unemployed from a broken and ruined company. Their paycheck, never mind bonus, is due to the American Taxpayer. I don't know how you get that concept through their thick skulled me-me-me heads short of violence.

I am scarcely a sole voice of discontent, the President of the US has voiced it along with various lawmakers including Claire McCaskill's pretty caustic reaction. You would think that might actually get through to them - pah.

Blogroll Amnesty Day

Writing blogs is work and that work falls into a couple categories of reward. There are the "A" list blogs - we all know them, Kos, HuffPo, and some others whose hourly hit rates exceed many blog's daily rates. Those could be called the "B" list, and then there are those whose monthly hits can't equal their daily, like say - this place. There may or may not be much of a difference in writing quality and depth of analysis, keep in mind that to some extent the success of those "A" list sites is due to timing and self-promotion. I have no quarrel with that.

Blogroll Amnesty Day is a creation of Jon Swift and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo along with some friends as a reaction to the purging of page links by the "A" list folks. It's probably understandable that they wanted to prune their blogrolls but the upshot was that they became self-referential "A" lists and the small fry lost their links. The reaction by Jon and some others was to begin a blogroll policy of linking anyone (short of port and scam)who linked them. I do it a bit differently, I troll through and pick some I like and I think will appeal to you and keep the thing accessible.

Getting those small fry links out has become an annual 'holiday' (February 3) and rewards those willing to do some exploring with fresh voices. Check out what's going on and expand your mind.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Limbaugh - Pig Wrestling?

Pres. Obama mentioned Rush in one sentence in a closed meeting with Republicans as a poor model for getting things done. The result was a media eruption with Rush tossing firebombs, Republican Congressmen suggesting a walk back and then having to apologize to ... Rush. Some pundits are making a case that this was a tactical mistake on the part of the President.

There seem to be a couple intertwined arguments: this elevates Rush, this devalues the Presidency, this will lose votes for the stimulus. While Rush has a very large audience for a radio show, the numbers electorally don't amount to more than two things - people who would never support Obama and who cannot win an election outside a narrow area. Considering that there is no more famous program and none more aggressively self-promoted the chance that this will drive previously uninterested radio listeners to Rush is pretty small and those did would quickly learn why they were uninterested. I have a problem understanding how a sentence is a descent into a foodfight with a blowhard.

There is political value in tying Republicans to Rush provided it is taken by the surrogates rather than the White House now that the door has been cracked open. While the House Republicans may feel Rush is real important thanks to the more narrow interests of CD voters, his type of rhetoric won't win General Elections state or nation wide. Democrats and the left really ought to be familiar with the sort of problem Rush poses for Republicans in that sense, remember the themes of godlessness and gun grabbers? This is a label the Republicans really don't want to wear nationwide. Oregonians may remember the gyrations Gordon Smith went through trying to satisfy the Rush crowd and not lose those who bought his faux moderate stance. It didn't work, for an incumbent.

If Rush becomes the face of Republicanism, its label, his rhetoric becomes the perception of Republicans in general, even to Republicans. I know a lot of Republican voters and that is not the face they want to wear and it is not where they want to go. No Democrat will have a real problem outside a narrow area running against Rush Limbaugh. I cannot think of a bigger gift than a US House Representative calling into that show to apologize for stating that the Republican leadership is better than Rush indicated. I want that as a political theme, I want to beat it like a cheap drum. I can fight with RNC Chair Steele, but Rush is an easier target with considerably more rich ground to mine for stupidity.

It is a simple political fact that the House Republicans more reflect Rush than Steele and using that to its absolute limit is gold. When the DNC, Moveon, America United and others throw up ads using Rush as the face of Republicanism it cannot lose. If you don't think so, watch how the Republicans react to it - its a disgrace, its not truthful, we lead not a radio entertainer. But the kicker is that much such reaction leads to the Gingery problem - how to not look like a Rush shill while being one. Running clips of a Republican House Representative calling Rush and Hannity lions cannot lose with the voters who aren't ideological tools of Rush. If a Republican friend says, "I'm not a Rush clone," the answer is simple, "you're in the wrong Party." You have to remember that as a shooter I get a lot of, "how can you be a member of the gun-grabbers?" as though that label covers much real ground, but it does keep people who ought to vote Democratic in that other tent.

It is worth noting that Rush Limbaugh's rise has pretty much tracked the economic policies that have driven this country into a wall. It is worth bringing to the fore the fact that even with all the help BushCo gave the crash, they were not sufficient to cause the wreck - that is the result of 30 years of Republicanism...or Limbaughism...

Steele Chairs RNC

Now we know which wing of the RNC had the muscle, because Steele is not the Religious Right candidate - at all. The battles are nothing like over. Steele is no social liberal, but he has put little focus into those issues and a speech emphasizing winning in the NE and the W is not indicative of a Bible Belt strategy. While Maryland is scarcely a bright blue state, its voting patterns have not mimiced the Rush/Conderate of the majority of House Repubs.

It took over 5 ballots for the RNC to sort this out and after that many ballots Steele pushed 60% against the SC State Chair. That 40% is not the fiscal wing and this is not going to make them happy and it is not going to play well down Party. I don't think the Theocrat wing saw this coming and it is their belief that they are the sould of the Party.

Steele is not cut from the Limbaughesque mold so it will be interesting to see the reaction from those quarters. I have some hopes that this election will only stoke the fires of dissent.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Just Who The Hell Am I, Anyhow?

It takes a bit of an ego to sit down to a keyboard and expound on your view of the political world to the public as though it mattered and it takes a bit more to run for office to represent a US House District so maybe it's only fair to give loyal readers some insight into who that guy is, particularly since I had the nerve to reference myself in the previous post. Since these things have a tendency to get taken as single pieces I'll recap a bit, in fact 'copy and paste'.

'You see, I am a child of privilege. No, the silver spoon was missing, wealth wasn't in the picture, solid upper middle class sort of a deal. What I did have was both parents who loved me and offered financial security and something incredibly valuable beyond that. My parents were both professionals with high intelligence and active questing minds who owned an extensive library of not ordinary books who encouraged the same in their children. At thirteen I was reading Crime and Punishment for amusement and decided my book report might as well be on that, astonishing that particular teacher. I was blessed, or cursed, with an IQ that put me well out of the ordinary scale. Unfortunately I never had to work at school work and learned some poor habits as a result, but beside that, I absorbed knowledge like a sponge. I was never going to be a professional football player but outside such things the world stood open to me because my mind was prepared for that. I knew a safe world where minds such as mine were respected and expected to be utilized. My lazy academics and SAT/ACTs meant any university I desired was within my reach, assuming actual wealth wasn't required. My K-12 education happened in Ohio at a time when Ohio meant something other than rust belt - in fact it meant that many schools were going to give you some of the best education available in the nation. About 10% of my cohorts in College Prep courses went to elite universities in their fields of interest (I mean I entrance standard not Ivy).'

My grandmother came to live with us when I was in early grade school and she was a school teacher by training, born in the 1890s and raised in N Michigan as a farm girl. She and her husband got themselves involved in the union movement in Flint MI at a time when it was not only socially unacceptable, but quite dangerous personally. Her husband went to an early grave with a strike breaker's bullet in his leg and the Reuther brothers spent dinners and after at their home hatching their nefarious unionism plots. You can take from that a pretty clear picture of someone intelligent and involved in the affairs of her fellow humans with some real dedication. (if you don't know who the Reuthers are look them up for pete's sake) Grandma was getting elderly by then and had time for a nosey kid who wanted to know a lot about most everything and a lot of what he got was philosophical. You need to have spent real time with someone with that level of involvement to understand the force of personality possessed by such people. Adults who give a damn are real impressed, a grade schooler is entranced. You further have to understand that an intelligent school teacher was dealing with a powerful intellect though unformed at that age. It was not a case of being told things, it was a case of being led through reasoning and being treated as an equal. Even now, forty years later I find it an astonishing experience. You can understand the difference between parents and an old lady who doesn't treat you as a child. I learned an awful lot at those knees and all of it was an exercise in critical thinking.

This was during the early sixties that I was that young and when my Granny was spending her time with the firebrands of unionism the government itself considered them enemies of the state. The beat generation was just folding its tent, the Beatles were in the US, JFK was getting killed, Vietnam was crankin up, and civil rights workers were busing into the South and I was learning at the knee of a firebrand. I watched a society in turmoil, cool music was damned and burnt by a preacher, J Edgar lurked, MLK flowered, and I learned from the world that it was full of people in authority who were jackals and by practical demonstration gave an absolute rat's ass about the welfare of our citizens and boy was I young. I read the textbooks about the US and knew from what I saw and my family history that there was a hell of a lot more to the story than was told. I saw LBJ kicking ass in the Congress and getting laws passed and bigots fighting it and civil rights worker kids get dug out of a dike. I saw the kids in shiny uniforms going off to SE Asia and I worried about them and their families, a bit later I learned about who ran the place and I saw combat footage and began to get angry.

I'd never been told what to think or even how to think about something, I'd been taught to use my mind and I discovered that I was being lied to, by those in power who I should be able to trust. I took it to heart. I understood that they had ends and means that I couldn't support or even abide. Odd how that disbelief leads to psycho-active drugs as a possible launching pad to more discoveries, particularly when the liars are so frightened of them and the questioners seem to be using them. I did learn things that I won't go into other than to say that looking inside can be informative and that reality has many faces and it isn't surprising that we sometimes cannot understand each other. As far as I'm able to tell drugs never hurt me, but alcohol finally did me in 20 years ago to the extent that I've been clean and sober for going on 21 years.

I've never been a large person, I didn't hit 120 pounds until after graduation about the time I got to 5-10. I had a couple issues going on that made for a certain amount of social awkwardness, my IQ put me into a very small group and I am still to this day physiologically over amped. Without about 1/2 gallon of coffee daily I become pretty hard to tolerate with over activity.

I backed away from religion in my early teens when I found the contradictions too much to take and particularly the exclusive club aspect. I couldn't get along with the idea that a creator of universes was so narrow minded that good people of one book didn't get the good stuff people of another did, still can't. That was the United Church of Christ, one of the most liberal for the unacquainted, and possibly because of its liberalism I never learned the disrespect for religion common amongst those who quit it.

I abandoned college after several attempts to get along with it in Mechanical Engineering because I finally reconciled myself to the fact that the active life of carpentering actually appealed to me and indoors did not. Remember that I mentioned something about being over amped. Construction, as a college boy, one who'd swallowed whole an OED, a Thesaurus, and a classical library - that was an interesting start. Funny how an over-developed vocabulary doesn't work well with people who aren't well acquainted with $5 words. It takes a bit of time to learn to stop doing the thing you've done all your life. (as a side note, a writer I worked with complimented me for the "voice" I use on this blog, it isn't an artifice - now) Some things never get comfortable, I process information at a very high rate and in ways unexpected and that makes me different than what most people are used to. People who are the unexpected are difficult until you know them well enough to be comfortable with that difference. It isn't the same thing as being black in a white surrounding or gay, but there is an element of understanding for that which comes with being different.

It's hard for people to reconcile a lefty intellectual with a hard driving physical person who does things like hunting, fishing, shooting, and drag racing. I doubt this exercise does more than provide a glimmer into that, I accepted a long time ago that niches and myself weren't going to work well. It was pretty hard for folks to get along with the idea of a radical hippy doper driving a monster fast car or the four eyed teachers pet who was more physical and more anti-authoritarian than anyone else. I ran hard and fast and I skirted the edge of disaster for the sake of beating it, it should have killed me, and it didn't. I was a fire fighter because I honestly couldn't think of anything more physical, dangerous, and productive for what I loved-the woods. You get a left wing site that gets more hits from gun people who'd be horrified by the politics than it has political readers. I build high performance vehicles because the puzzle pleases me and then I get to drive it. It all makes sense to me, but then I live in this skin.

So why do I insist on being that odd peg and putting so much effort into it? Remember Granny? Nothing she and her husband did in itself made history, but they were a part of the molding. That molding happened because enough people cared to take the risks and to put the effort into it. I'm pretty safe from bullets and jail as an activist, but we have 40 hour work weeks, job safety, child labor laws, and some kind of wage because folks like granny pushed the edges, got kicked for it, and pushed again. We have civil rights not just because LBJ was a hard driving prick, but also because kids took the chances and lost sometimes and blacks took godawful abuse from authority to win it. It has been the case for much of our history that politics is behind the curve, that the fight is fought long before the votes get taken and I'd really like to see that change. I keep on with it because power still ignores the reality of the populous, because gays can't get married because somebody thinks love and comittment are subject to silly rules and because being different scares the hell out of people. I keep doing it because there's no point in having this mind and letting it rot in self gratification. I keep doing it because I was a drunk and I owe a lot for being an asshole and because I can never fix that hole in my life but I can try to make up for it.

If this has seemed like an exercise in narcissism or egotism, it wasn't intended that way. It isn't even a good explanation for what you get from me, but it's a little look inside. If it's bored you, well you had a pretty good warning to quit when I made it clear that this was going to be autobiographical.

A Child Of Privilege

Some things have been roiling around in my head since I read a string of comments by a winger on another site, the general thrust of his nonsense was that he was an entirely self-made man and those in unions and other sorts of cooperative endeavors and advocates of progressive taxation were leeches sucking the life blood out of the successful. You can probably guess that I was less than amused but it also got me to think about some things.

You see, I am a child of privilege. No, the silver spoon was missing, wealth wasn't in the picture, solid upper middle class sort of a deal. What I did have was both parents who loved me and offered financial security and something incredibly valuable beyond that. My parents were both professionals with high intelligence and active questing minds who owned an extensive library of not ordinary books who encouraged the same in their children. At thirteen I was reading Crime and Punishment for amusement and decided my book report might as well be on that, astonishing that particular teacher. I was blessed, or cursed, with an IQ that put me well out of the ordinary scale. Unfortunately I never had to work at school work and learned some poor habits as a result, but beside that, I absorbed knowledge like a sponge. I was never going to be a professional football player but outside such things the world stood open to me because my mind was prepared for that. I knew a safe world where minds such as mine were respected and expected to be utilized. My lazy academics and SAT/ACTs meant any university I desired was within my reach, assuming actual wealth wasn't required. My K-12 education happened in Ohio at a time when Ohio meant something other than rust belt - in fact it meant that many schools were going to give you some of the best education available in the nation. About 10% of my cohorts in College Prep courses went to elite universities in their fields of interest (I mean I entrance standard not Ivy).

What I've made of my life is a result of my choices, I was never restricted in any manner other than by myself. The fact that I wound up being a NE OR nail bender is due to what I wanted, no force of circumstance brought me to this place in life. Not many in the US can claim the advantages I've had and I am aware of that. One of the guys who worked for me is a smart guy, a likable and capable person, one of seven children of a broken home with not much more than a pot to piss in who went to work in his early teens. Can anyone honestly state that his choices in life approached mine? Is he to faulted for where he came from? He has more than most from his circumstances because he works like a dog and uses money intelligently but a middle class professional life isn't happening. To stay out of poverty and have some comfort he will continue to work like a dog and be careful. No amount of Republican/Libertarian BS will ever change that, it isn't a matter of choices made, it is a matter of circumstance - being born as he was. He takes little advantage from the system other than being able to sweat and work like a pig and to have taken out a couple smart loans.

The idea that people who live and make their livelihood at the top of the scale take no more from the system we live in is ludicrous. People like my example have every cent of their income subject to SS/FICA and their income potential has something to do with the fact that on every cent of their income their employer will contribute to other pieces of the taxes. SS/FICA totals up to 15.5%, Workman's Comp from 7% to 30%, Unemployment 1-2% which all put together means that the end cost to an employer in something like construction is about 150% of wage. Understand that this person has 1/3 of their potential earnings removed right from the get-go. SS/FICA caps at $93K, from there on the 15.5% doesn't exist, if you move in actual wealth the rest of the costs aren't even applicable, but the Republican/Libertarian would have you believe that a top adjusted gross rate of 34% is somehow robbing the successful. This means that if through some ludicrous oversight they filed the same return as a nail bender their tax load would be essentially the same or less. This little exercise entirely neglects the many pieces of the tax code that allow wealth to make that adjusted gross something totally unrelated to our construction guy's.

There is virtually nothing in our system of economics that is not geared to the accumulation of wealth through wealth. The social safety net of welfare and public education are about the only pieces that do not stand as wealth accumulation tools for the wealthy. There are rags to riches stories, some few, but it is a simple fact that at some point those stories are plugged into the wealth generation machine and most involve being at the right place at the right time. The idea that the poor are piggy backing on the rich is one of those self-serving greed justifications that are employed by those who believe the world is full of fools. The incomprehensible part of it is that the proponents of this kind of nonsense are elected by people who are its victims.

I could have chosen a life path that lead a tax rate that I'm describing, it was my choices that took me in a different direction and I don't complain about that. I had those choices and that is an entirely different thing than assuming that anyone has them, after all - I am a child of privilege.

The Burial Ground Of Empires

I'm not convinced as to what the US should do in Afghanistan, the talk is having up to 60K troops there by next year and taking a harder line with Karzi over crime and corruption and leaning more toward helping localities than the national government. This includes a concentration on combat with Taliban and al-Qaida with a shift in training and reconstruction to NATO.

I'm real sure that had BushCo not taken their eye off the ball in Afghanistan for Iraq things would be different today but that is not the question and whether it holds an answer is very debatable. Positioning one's self today on what should have been is not paying history its due but engaging in wishes. We are in the now in Afghanistan and the course has nothing to do with what could have or should have been. We can easily beat any forces there like a cheap drum in a stand up fight - and they also have no reason to let us. Crime and corruption is endemic for several reasons, at least one is cultural in regard to corruption and the fractured and dislocated nature of the nation is another.

For a farmer poppy isn't much more profitable than other crops, but a little counts and in the face of danger from the Taliban and al-Qaida that's about enough encouragement. Farming in a profitable manner requires an infrastructure, both physical and legally. They have neither. Any form of trade requires this and it also requires some level of trust that is absent in a broken country. One thing that has plagued Afghanistan for a very long time is the fractious nature of tribalism and provincialism what they will cooperate on is invaders.

Here is a tremendous danger for NATO and the US, if we become seen as occupiers we're screwed. This business of killing civilians in military engagements has got to stop if that isn't to happen. We know that engagements in populated areas are going get civilians killed, or at least we ought to. The opposition knows this as well and knows perfectly well the damage our side will incur from doing it. Killing people is a fairly straightforward affair, killing only those you want killed is a bit more difficult but then the Catch22 rears its head. Killing people doesn't fix the system required for civilized life required to get the local's cooperation and if you fix it and the people that need killing keep blowing it up... Around and around and what is left is spent blood and treasure and resentments.

I don't know that it doesn't make more sense to leave with the clear warning to everybody in the neighborhood that if they screw with us we'll level the place and then rearrange the rubble a couple times for good measure. That's real tough on civilians but there is also the issue that at some point a nation has to take some measure of responsibility for what it does and allows to happen. If that seems bloodthirsty I'd like to point out that the slow bleeding of nations is also inhumane and as nationalistic as it might seem I'd rather someone bleeds other than us when it come to that.

Whatever it is that we'd like to see in Afghanistan it should be clear enough by now that we cannot go to a place and impose on them the thousand year culture that we have in a couple years, or even a couple decades. The US is a peculiar institution developed across centuries of European culture, primarily English, but with several centuries in development N American aspects that to go to South Asia mountains and tell them how to do it is like expecting a fish to understand English. Even with our English Law culture our democracy building in this country has been a messy and protracted business and we're still not all that good at it. We thing we're doing well when 60% of our population votes. I'm not even going to go into the issue of some of the cretins we manage to elect. We also can't even come up with a good explanation for why a good portion of people vote the way they do.

Contrast the US with Afghanistan, a mountainous inhospitable terrain peopled by a deeply religious tribal people who have suffered under one colonialism after another and previously under various empires with an extremely low education rate and gender policies that belong to an age we can't remember and a legal system incomprehensible to us (where it exists at all) in a place that is just plain broken and has been for decades. What exactly is it that we propose to do there?

That is an honest question, what is the end result that is desired? It certainly can't be as silly as a clone of the US, so what is it? We're pretty displeased with where Iraq has gone, it is now one of the most corrupt nations on earth and misogynistic to boot. We only like Saudi Arabia because they sell us oil. Packistan has us completely pissed, what model is it that suffices? Is it sufficient that they muddle into whatever forsaken mess as long as al-Qaida doesn't get to play? If this is the case then AK47s are cheap and spreading them into every neighborhood and shack with the exhortation that al-Qaida doesn't get to play or we just don't care. A weekly overflight of B52s would be a reminder that's hard to miss.

I'm damn unhappy with our nonexistent plans for Afghanistan, the place eats armies. It has historically and the Soviets ignored that to their loss. I keep my fingers out of the blades of my powersaws and I unplug them before I change a blade because I know the damn things can eat wood and that means fingers don't fare well. We know the same thing about Afghanistan, it isn't called the burial place of empires for no reason and we're not real damn special.

It has been, perhaps validly, pointed out that the Taliban flourished because Afghanistan was left to rot in its ruins. I'm trying very hard to understand what it is that we are doing that is any different minus the killing part.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

House Republicans Do It

No votes for the stimulus bill. They've made their bet, Obama fails. Or maybe they've bet that no one will remember who voted against this in the next election if it succeeds. One needs to remember who they represent, this is largely the Confederate Party of Republicanism, if is the House. These people survived 2008 in the face of the debacle that was 2008 and they don't want challenges from the right which is a serious danger to them.

It is now time to strip the nonsense tax cuts out of the bill, it won't happen because the Senate will see to it that it doesn't, but - you know, hope...

This thing is about sure to go to conference after the Senate tinkers and the question is what kind of mess they'll make of it. With the Senate rule regarding 60 votes to end debate at least a couple Republicans have to come over even if Reid holds his Caucus together - and that's not guaranteed. There will be incredible pressure brought by House Republicans for cover from the Senate Republicans. Here's the rub for them, Senators run statewide not districts so gerrymandering and safe districts are a much lesser influence and the deep red hue is considerably lightened. McConnell, who actually got a scare last time out, has to try to hold this Caucus to the House bullshit points and if the media honestly reports the stories that might be difficult.

Do I sound dubious? Well, hell, I am. The Republicans are still quoting a non-existent CBO report when the actual one is up and the media sits silently as they do so. These idiots dredge up ACORN and the media allows it with no comment or question, as though this were still the no-bid contract for pals BushCo. They have made up multiplier numbers out of whole cloth with the analysis in open record and not a squeak from media. It is true that there are a lot of opinions but facts have a nasty habit of standing alone. It seems that objective reporting now means swallowing absolute lies from one side so as to have "two sides." crap

Lying Liars And Republicans

Every once in a while you'd hope the media would check facts, particularly when something as large and important as the Stimulus Bill is involved. Apparently not, 81 times they cited the bogus Congressional Budget Office report that Boner (I know) is so proud of:
But investing a trillion dollars in government spending isn't going to get our economy back on track. In fact, a recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) casts doubt on whether the congressional Democrats' spending plan will actually have an immediate impact, which is the true test of any economic recovery proposal. Just seven percent of the proposed infrastructure spending -- $26 billion out of $274 billion – would be funneled into our economy by the end of this year budget year in September. Worse, just one in seven dollars of a massive $18.5 billion expenditure on "energy efficiency" and "renewable energy programs: would be spent within the next 18 months. And plans to bring broadband Internet service to rural and underserved areas will take years to implement.

The problem with this? How about this report never existed?
As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and the American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz reported last Friday, the CBO report being touted by conservatives and the media isn’t an actual report. “We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.

The CBO has issued a report on the bill, now and my reading of it shows a large majority of the spending done within the first two years, 70% or so with a total cost by 2019 of about $819B.

It has become clear that on any political issue involving Democrats the AP requires serious fact checking and given Boehner's propensity for saying things at variance with the truth that he should never be a primary source.

I don't care that Republicans have philosophical differences with the idea, that's a given and considering their track record pretty dismissible as serious ideas but this crap of making things up in order to defeat something aimed at the good of the public is a bit of something else. The temptation to slap their lying lips off their faces is pretty strong. Consider that the quote was pulled from Boner's site at 2:00 AM 1/27 well after this thing was busted. One may also have noted that the media who uncritically repeated this horseshit have been pretty quiet about being "duped." Never forget that these are the same horse's asses who parroted all the BushCo crap for five years, well in Faux News' case still do.

You have the links, read them and see who is being honest.

There are aspects of this bill that I think are crap and I addressed one of them in an earlier post, I'm not sacrificing honesty to partisanship. I won't do that, I have no infallible heroes in the political arena.

Why Is This So Difficult?

Somebody go ahead and reasonably explain to me why this is so damn difficult in this country. Why is it unremarkable in Iceland to have the first openly gay Prime Minister in the world, Johanna Sigurðardottir, and in this country it is astonishing? She's spent 40 years working her way from nobody to the person Icelanders trust to lead them out of a horrid mess and somehow we'll be astonished.

I just shake my head, what the hell.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Chair For The Confederate Party of Republicanism

It is probably a natural consequence of being drubbed in two consecutive elections and losing the Presidency to a liberal/pragmatic black Democrat that a Party would be in some disarray. The RNC is not only demonstrating that, they are making themselves exemplars of it. It is not the purpose of this post to dissect all the machinations of various factions, let it be simplified down to a collision between the social and the the fiscal conservative factions.

While it is true that social conservatism and fiscal conservatism are not necessarily the same thing the blood bath is about who wins elections. The hard core social conservatives are not attractive to the business/plutocratic wing, they are an element of discord and that is not what money wants unless it serves to divide the opposition. For a time the divide has worked for the money wing, the people who lost economically under their policies were appeased with mouth noises...and then they started to get some of what they wanted.

Most Americans are willing to let people hold Medieval beliefs provided they aren't forced to live under them but once that happens there is a push back. Once a group like the social conservative wing starts to win, they are unwilling to be pushed back. They are, after all, not only right but supported by a god. It is important to remember that there are Republicans or Democrats, there are also Republican Party members and Democratic Party member and they are not the same thing. People who are willing to attend meetings and carry the water for the Party between elections and to be the foot soldiers in waiting are not average voters, they have reasons to be there - they are the activists. One problem with being a part of that group is that operating within that milieu it is easy to start that more people think like you do than actually do so. While I am aware that I am pretty darn left, I am not so among my compatriots at Democratic Party of Oregon/DNC. If I forget that, if I forget my political stance versus the voters at large my political judgement is impaired.

It is frequently stated that Democrats engage in circular firing squads and leading them is comparable to herding cats. There is no doubt that Democrats are a difficult bunch, but fratricide isn't ordinary. Most of what makes people Democrats is fairly coherent though some pieces are divisive and that usually heals the arguments. Republicans are faced with another situation.

For decades Democrats looked enviously at Republican unity while not wanting any part of the tools used to get it. Beneath that unity there lurked the devil of details, how to keep mutually exclusive policies from exploding. When you examine the demographics of the harder core social conservative voter you find that it tends toward blue collar and moderate education. If the Republican economic policies were taken alone these folks would be horrified. They exchanged their economic interests for god, gays, and guns rhetoric. As time went forward it became necessary to placate that base with more than talk and policy began to be instituted and an electoral difficulty began to arise.

The Republican businessman/entrepreneur who looks to benefit from Republicanism is also educated and has a bit of a problem swallowing Medieval Theocracy. That individual has a bit more of a problem as backlash builds and suddenly the neo-cons and theocrats emerge as deal breakers with America. Once the economy hit a wall thanks to the unregulated stupidity of completely over-leveraging an asset the game was over. Neither side likes the other, neither can get along without the other, and neither side is willing to let the other run the show.

This is how you get "Magic Negro" and "Whites Only" and Ken Blackwell and... how this will shake out is anybody's guess. While it is true that the Party mechanisms are peopled with activists their highjinks still resonate with voters if it gets public. Considering the make up and geographic distribution of the Republican US House delegation it is not dishonest to refer to them by the title nor is it dishonest to point to the RNC and state - there's your party.

Baker County Inauguration "Ball"

Baker County Democrats and Andrew Bryant's Mad Matilda Restaurant put together an Inauguration Ball (minus the fancy dress, dancing, and bands) Tuesday. A large screen TV played and the lunch menu and beer, wine, and beverages were available. Since I'm rotten at estimating crowds accept this 50 person estimate for what it is, probably. My familiarity with the political scene allows me to state that while the majority were Democrats there was a significant presence of non-affiliated and Republicans.

The building is approximately 1880s construction and retains much of its character while being comfortable and conducive to sociability.

The purpose of the party wasn't to make partisan gains or make presentations, the idea was to celebrate the peaceful electoral change of government. It certainly also was to celebrate Barack Obama the President, both as a new government and as a man.

Mad Matilda's is a good friend to Baker County Democrats and we are proud to help support a local business by holding events in their venues. We have used a couple businesses for our events rather than utilize public builidings or spaces and the reasoning behind this is that these businesses are a part of Baker's economic engine. Most of BCD's membership is either employed by or owners of small businesses - and I mean small business in the classical sense, not the Republican model. We understand that doing business is a large piece of what makes for social and economic success.

If there is a political end in our use of private businesses it is that it certainly is not harmful to our reputation with the Chamber of Commerce as a demonstration of our good will. We hope to be able to make more and larger concrete demonstrations of that as time goes along.

Republican Tax-cut Redux

Republicans have an idea that seems to be a cement block in their brain pan, tax cuts. In regard to the Democratic stimulus program they proposed less spending and across the board tax cut al-la the BushCo disaster. Numbers like 3-5% have been proposed.

Let us take a quick look at 5%; if your tax bill is $5000, a largish number, you would save $250. This tax would be on an after deduction married filing jointly 1040ez income of about $60,000, well above the median income of $45,000. What exact economic stimulus is effected by a $250 savings at that income level? That is less than one day's income for that tax rate. That kind of money is going to go nowhere useful to the economy at large. It might be nice to make a part of a credit card payment with that, but that is jobs creation useless.

The vast majority of American tax payers would not get enough savings to be meaningful in spending that creates jobs, some would. That group is the one that BushCo benefited with his tax cut, that is the group that will save a large amount, that is the top 0.1% of taxpayers. If this type of thing actually worked the median income would have surged over the last 8 years, rather than the reality of decline. There is a simple reason it doesn't work, this group already spends whatever it will spend to buy products. They do not need any increase in disposable income, they have it already. The very large dollar amount will rather go into investment vehicles to increase their already huge money making potential. You could make the case that creating a new company with that money would create jobs, if that were what happened to it. It is not. This income group has less than no interest in the hard work of building a business.

Republicans love to say, "put money back into the hands of taxpayers," and most Americans love the idea of keeping more of "their" money. The problem is that "their" money isn't. No one in this country makes money of any sort without the structure provided by the governments. No one, not even drug dealers or other criminal groups. There would be no panic in this country if this were not true; this system is in failure mode and those officials making the case are not exaggerating but are in fact minimizing the consequences of continuing down this path. The Icelandic collapse is instructive, though there are problems with comparing a nation of 310,000 with the US those problems are more an issue of when rather than scale. Banks are not lending and people without jobs don't borrow and all that adds up to not spending on the things that provide employment.

In the last couple days 55,000 jobs have evaporated and this number may miss a lot of small employers. Those people aren't going to pay much in the line of taxes and they certainly are not going to spend extra money. Republicans keep beating the tax break idea, and have gotten in love with giving them to small businesses. There is a caveat involved, there is actual small business in the business of doing business and then there are the creations of wealth that are no more than vehicles for moving investment dollars around with a tax break that already exists. Republicans obfuscate on this piece of the issue, they don't want the public to know who it is that they are truly attempting to benefit. A stressed small employer will not do hiring on the basis of a tax break, they will not avoid layoffs for the simple reason that someone must buy their product in order to have a reason to employ. Labor is already one of the smallest components of the price of products even in labor intensive endeavors.

It isn't so much that Republicans lie, they do - see "CBO report", but that the driving that put the damn country in the ditch is what they are about. Try to remember that where we are at is the result of them having the steering wheel in their hands and they propose more of the same. They loath big government spending unless it is what they've already done to bankrupt the country. As they push their failed agenda they whine that the House defeats their amendments, amendments that are a replay of what has failed. Poor us, the Democrats are being mean by not caving into us, that's not bipartisanship. The Republican definition of bipartisan is do what we want and vote for it.

I'm all for President Obama talking to these cretins, I'm all for his being nice - while putting a boot on their necks. Their record of failure and dishonesty in policy is deserving of that boot and the ones who would like to put country ahead of their Confederate Party of Republicanism can avoid it. It won't be many, the last two elections have pretty well taken care of them.

This Is Kristol's Last Column

So closes the NYT's experiment with Bill Kristol, why there ever had to be a last column from someone who should never had a first is a good question. It has been bruited about that he had important connections and that he was an influential voice, even to the extent of being important in the Palin nomination. These things may be true, they are also examples of why he should not have been given rein to provide sloppy journalism. It isn't just that the NYT had to apologize in print for his factual inaccuracy four times, there is also a little matter of his never being right about something from long before his one year stint with the Times.

Being right about something once in awhile carries a lot more credibility for an OpEd writer than knowing people or having your pap taken seriously by knee jerk wingers. It makes little sense to me for papers at a time they are losing readership and dollars to pay big bucks to someone with the credibility of a hamster to write for them. The NYT maintained a world wide readership on the basis of the quality of its journalism and over the course of the BushCo lost a bunch of that. The fraud perpetrated by one writer was bad enough, the Judith Miller fiasco of unmitigated BushCo war boosterism was a huge blow and they followed those failures up with Kristol. The same OpEd section with this last column contained an article by a Nobel Prize economist, Paul Krugman; is there a more stark contrast?

This is the kind of drivel that is included with Krugman:
Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, conservatives of various sorts, and conservatisms of various stripes, have generally been in the ascendancy. And a good thing, too! Conservatives have been right more often than not — and more often than liberals — about most of the important issues of the day: about Communism and jihadism, crime and welfare, education and the family. Conservative policies have on the whole worked

Which part of this is not entire and complete nonsense? We sit today in the result of this success he speaks about. Jihadism is stronger now than ever before Bush and is damn near a direct result of St Ronnie's decisions regarding Beruit. Communism fell of its own weight, the very flaws that most opponents of communism pointed out finally drove it into the dirt, not St Ronnie. Huge deficts as a result of their tax policies for the rich have only been corrected under Democrats. Families have suffered horridly under conservatives, if something other than mouth noise counts as a metric, income levels have fallen, health has decreased, infant mortality increased, divorce soared, and the real fall in crime happened under Clinton. Education is at its most criticized and politicized level in generations. How it is success for welfare to have the highest numbers of people slipping into poverty in decades must be left to Kristol to spin, I guess.

I ask you to keep your finger out of your throat and read the thing, and then contrast it with the amateur efforts on these pages. Seriously, I mean that. I do not make claims to be a great writer, but I don't suffer in the comparison. This entire blog is archived and I challenge anyone to find in its entirety the number of factual and historical inaccuracies contained in the partial paragraph I pulled from his last column.
In 1978, the Harvard political philosopher Harvey Mansfield diagnosed the malady: “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. ... Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?”

This final insult in the pages of the Times shows exactly what there is about his version of Republicanism that flatly dangerous. This statement is BushCo/Limbaughian version of disagreement with Republicans is treason. The Left or liberals are weak soft people...because we say they are. Not thanks to any empirical facts, not thanks to any comparable actions on the part of "conservatives" beyond chest beating. This defense of liberty he so proudly proclaims also involves St Ronnie kicking ass in postage stamp sized Granada after he bought the freedom of the Iranian hostages and before he quailed in the face of Muslim terrorists in Lebanon and guaranteed the rise of their tactics. Understand that the location of the truck bombers was known to Reagan and he could have crushed them, instead he gave them victory. So chest beating pretty rhetoric Ronnie is an example? Thanks.

Ridiculing Kristol isn't much of a contest, kind of like holding a spelling bee versus a dog, minus a little drool. I don't beat on children and I'd be inclined to leave Bill alone, if it weren't for the blood and pain he's played cheerleader for. He has done me one favor, in his cluelessness he's made my point that this mess today is not about GWB, it is about the very thing Kristol crows about, 30 years of their ascendency. Thank you, Bill and good riddance.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Secrecy And Outcomes

Recently it has come to light that the Obama Admin. can't immediately review the cases of inmates of Guantanamo because the records don't exist in one place or possibly completely at all. You can certainly make the case that incompetence existed throughout the BushCo, but that misses the mark. The mess that exists in this case is entirely too broad to lay on the incompetence of the worker bees. This thing is a mess because it is secret.

Secret means you can't talk about it and you can't communicate freely about it and nobody except those on board know enough to critique what you're doing. Beyond that, there is the issue that nobody can press for progress or even ask what progress there is because nobody knows anything about it. You can talk in broad terms about "the public right to know" and surely be right, but that abstract notion won't get you far. Secrecy means disasters are buried, it means that bad behavior is buried, it means that performance cannot be measured. That lack of accountability means that things are going to go south, quickly and badly, and not be addressed for quite some time. If it were common knowledge that a large portion of those held were entirely innocent of terrorism, how long would the public have held still for it?

The problem with hidden programs is that as they go south they not only continue to go there, the consequences pile up and thanks to secrecy there's no way through the labyrinth to sort out what the problem is or where it started. Even once you get into it, there are so many layers of secrecy and agencies and policies that you never know what it is that you do know. Because GWB was responsible for creating the most secretive administration in history he certainly gets the blame for what has gone wrong beneath that layer, but that doesn't address solving the mess. I certainly blame GWB for putting Albie in the AG seat, but what the hell actually went wrong over there is still not known. It isn't known because the questions to answer that can't be asked because it is all so secret. It makes a difference to the health of this nation to be able to sort out such things.

It is not in the interest of the nation for the plans for the Stealth Bomber or nuclear weapons to be available for general consumption. What the President or anybody discusses with their lawyer ought to be bound by the same outlines, but that has not squat to do with what some damn lobbyist wants or what some political group wants. If the government is involved and it doesn't involve something that'll get us killed we need to know. It isn't that Joe Damn Schmoe on Ordinary Street either cares or has much to say about it, it is the simple fact that there are knowledgeable and intelligent alternatives available outside "those in the know." Operating with one set of opinions or knowledge leads to continuation of action rather than modification or correction. This leads to unacceptable results and no program can contain all possible information. Even when people know something has gone wrong and have resigned, they are constrained from doing anything about it - legally constrained.

It is hard enough to quit a job over principle that you care about and supports your family, it is even tougher to risk adding to that burden by going to jail for principle. It is pretty easy to sit in you house and say, "I'd go to jail," but that certainly could mean losing your home, your family's economic security as well as your freedom. Tough to do. There has to be a penalty for harming the security of the nation and that means secrecy laws must have teeth. The fact that they must have teeth also means that they must be meaningful in their application. Gadflies can be irritating, they can even be obstructive, but they are not - in the end - of the consequence that unbridled action brings.

Much of what ails this country today is the outcome of ignorance. It is not only within government that proper questions didn't get asked, much of what went wrong in the investment banking industry happened because those questions didn't get asked by government but especially within the companies themselves. Over the last eight years society has built a high degree of tolerance for or even respect for the keeping of secrets. A mindset of, "I don't need to know or to ask," has grown larger than it ever was. How can the Risk Management Officer in a multi-billion dollar business not know what is going on?

Yes, I support open government, but I support it for more than just a principle. I support it because the outcomes are bad, bad all of us. It doesn't just propagate bad government and bad policies, it teaches a very dangerous lesson to the public. Under the best possible circumstances the public in general is too busy trying to manage living to pay close attention to much else, teaching them that this is the way to conduct a society by setting a "Know-nothing" governmental policy aggravates that to untenable proportions.

You have got to ask questions. You have got to be allowed to and to get answers.

"Chuck for..." Disasters

Thanks to a comedy of errors involving Microsoft, MS Support, some sites, me, and general computer system complexity this blogger has been MIA. Going into details would take pages and pages to recount the missteps and stupidities and outcomes leading to more of the same until I finally could not post. The last straw was a 20 second lag between typing and appearance on the screen.

Anyhow, this place is back an running, although I'm still trying to sort out some of the results of the solution. BTW, if you think you were on my email contact list it is beginning to look like you need to send me an email.

For You Fallout 3 Fans

While my computer has been essentially disabled I've played a bit of an Xbox360 game named Fallout 3. It is set in a post nuclear apocalypse DC in a world that went on an alternate reality course in the 1950s. The game is made by Bethesda who also made Oblivion and it has similar gaming characteristics and gaming themes and particularly the large play universe.

Those who've played the game will understand this picture. Obviously this post is relevant to almost nothing of any import and thus a good come back.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sen Vitter Seems Confused

Today Sen Vitter (LA-R) spent some time yanking at Hillary Clinton about her husband's foundation and the donations it takes. I'm sure it is imporant to remember that her husband is former President Bill Clinton who is pretty far up the Republican hate list. There is that issue about a blowjob and not exactly telling the truth about it, so it is clear that Bill needs some really special oversight. The implication is pretty clear, Hillary would prostitute the State Department and the US government for foundation money.

You have to give Vitter credit for doing his homework. He is pretty well acquainted with prostitutes, the DC kind and the NOLA kind, who aren't lobbyists or other Republicans but actual professionals - of the sexual kind. The Hillary connection is a bit more familial than that, his wife 'famously' said that rather than do as Hillary she'd go 'Bobbit' if it were true he'd been doing such extra-curricular homework. It was true and apparently Sen Vitter doesn't have to squat to pee.

Is it just me, or is there something really odd in his playing GOP front man on this? I know it's the Republicans and all, but you'd kind of think...

ah well

Allies, Friends, And Other Nonsense

Starting somewhere around the beginning, nations sometimes find they have over-lapping interests. Because it is not in our interest to engage in another land war in Europe that looks like WWII we have made agreements with various nations that attacks on them are attacks on us. Separately we make agreements regarding trade and intellectual property. We do this because our interests are served by doing so and they enter into these agreements because their interests are served. This is a formalized recognition of congruence of interests and called alliance. These alliances are not entered into lightly nor are the agreements simple.

Each nation on earth has its own interests and its constituency is not the world, it is its own citizenry. Any nation that entirely disregards the world is making a mistake, but it will take measurement of the world and its own interests. There is nothing whatever unusual or Machiavellian in this. It is also a cold blooded measurement based on very real considerations.

There is a concept of friendship between nations that gets frequent play. This is something other than alliance, it is some amorphous connection between nations based on an emotion. The truly odd thing is that people have no problem with this idea and it is as reasonable as saying a rock is your friend. A government is an artificial construct that is built to allow its citizenry to function. A government is a thing. Whatever emotional connection the citizenry may have with another nation, it is not something a government can do.

The idea of friendship is not held by other nations. Israel is the most frequently evoked friendship lately so a simple question must be answered, "Do friends spy on each other?" No. (not unless something very sick is going on) Israeli agents have been convicted of spying on this nation. I am not in the least offended that Israel would try it, it is the norm in international relations. I am quite sure we do it to them. Governments are quite aware that other governments have their own interests and may not be quite forthcoming about them. Governments are quite aware that other governments may have knowledge they won't share that they'd like to have. They will spy because they are not friends.

Governments will pursue policies that are not in the interest of their allies because they are not friends. The populace of that nation would have every right to be extraordinarily upset if their government acted contrary to their interests in the interest of another nation. Whatever cultural or social connection I may have with another nation is entirely my business. It is not in the interest of my nation for my emotional connection to carry into national policy unless aspects of it are congruent with this nation's interests. There are some really deep connections between myself and England, my language, culture, law, history, ancestry, and... None of that trumps what is good for the USA. There are a whole lot of economic and geopolitical reasons for the US to want a strong and healthy England and those reasons need to be accounted for, but my emotional connection is meaningless.

It is not in the interest of the United States of America for the festering sore in Israel and Palestine to continue and to ratchet up. This is an unstable area that is economically important. It is dangerous to the interests of the US to have conflict in this area. The citizens of the US have demonstrable interest in the welfare of the Middle East. Neither side in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians have shown an ability to rectify their dispute which means an honest broker is needed. It is quite reasonable for an honest broker to have a stake in peace being established. There is nothing in honest brokership that includes friendship with one side in a conflict. That position precludes any level of trust by one side. Governments understand international agreements based on congruent interests, they do not understand friendship. It is currently impossible for the US to act as a peace broker between Gaza and Israel because the US has espoused friendship for Israel and behaved as though it exists.

I have noticed a very common thread running through discussion of Israel and Palestine, one is that Israel is our friend and the other is that there is some reason to pick a side based on a multitude of reasons, primarily fault. Each side brings forward the faults of the other and denies or minimizes their own. The history of the area is what it is and there is plenty of fault and bad dealing on both sides and a lot of blood on all hands. None of that will look forward to a solution. Civilians are going to get hurt in armed conflict, that is just a fact and both sides hit the targets they can and civilians get it in the neck. Calling out blame for this is an exercise in futility, it needs to stop is the point. Getting it stopped requires getting both sides to agree, not to accept blame.

Israel is not going to just go away and neither are the Palestinians. Negotiating demands are just that, negotiating demands that are where a side starts out. Negotiation means losing something so people start high, they do not start where they think they have to end. What Israel or Hamas says today may well not be what they will accept, it is obvious that Israel not only is not going to pack up and leave they also have the military power to not be forced out of the Middle East and it is just as obvious that short of extermination the Palestinians are in Gaza and the West Bank to stay. There is a whole range of approaches in between those two excesses and what should be obvious is that the end point is a sustainable and prosperous society for each. Greed being what it is, that will probably be the largest sticking point and having the biggest hammer is not a negotiating tool.

Feel free to call me anti-Israel and I'll feel free to call you an asshole. I am anti-stupidity and I find a whole bunch on both sides. Whether either side deserves to bleed is a pointless determination, this is dangerous for large sections of the world and very bad for the populous of the region. This business of calling a government our friend and of picking sides only serves to continue the problem. It is stupidity to fall into the Bush government trap of calling a tactic a philosophy. This trap puts one in the morally and ethically indefensible position of justifying a 500 pound air dropped bomb versus a 15 pound vest bomb as blood and flesh fly. Fifty people killed in a restaurant in Tel Aviv is bad, 50 people killed in Gaza is bad. Talking about trying to kill soldiers versus civilians in a populated area is stupid, what ratio of killed soldiers versus civilians in either case makes it good? If 5 reservists in the restaurant were killed and 5 Hamas fighters in Gaza are they equivalent? If not why not? Because of a side? Is it the delivery vehicle that makes a difference? It is a losing argument because it does not address the reality of the situation, it is simply a blame mechanism which does not answer the end goal.

I will indulge in the blame game to this extent, the choosing of sides between two malefactors begs for a continuation of the issue that creates the sides. The Israelis and the Palestinians 'have skin in this game' and if you think there is a side, pack up and put your family and blood on the line with them. Otherwise sit the hell down and be a part of solving it.

Short of radical stupidity this blog is done with this topic, people being bound and determined to be assholes is a feature of life I'm incapable of changing. It is stupid on my part to think that speaking reason to the unreasoning will make a difference and on this issue many intelligent and reasonable people ignore their capabilities.

Our Pals?

You can make of this exactly as you please:
"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour," Olmert said.

"I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

"I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour."

Guess what Mr Olmert? You suck eggs that can't be quantified. If that statement was made to get you gain in Israel you just screwed up big time here. If you think you and your pip squeak dependency are that big a deal that you run US policy you could be in for a serious surprise. I would personally bitch slap you for it. You cock strut around under the shield of the most powerful nation on earth and pretend to set US foreign policy? How many times is it that you think you can shit in our nest before the US public gets over whatever friend idea it is they have about you? Who the fuck do you think you are?

There is such a thing as alliance between nations, it involves a congruence of interests. There is no such thing as national friendships and asswipe Olmert just demonstrated it. Maybe you don't get it. Maybe you have some idea that friends spy on each other, Ask the folks in prison for spying for Israel if they feel like pals. If you want to have a personalized emotional attachment to another nation - help yourself - but to propose that such a thing exists at governmental level is stupidity and begs for this kind of crap.

I don't give a good goddam if it is the last week of the most incompetent pair of assholes in a long long time, this is the United States of America not some damn Jewish subsidiary. I don't hold you, Olmert, against the Israelis, but you just made the best possible argument for not being entangled with you beyond alliance I can think of. No goddam ally would make such a statement, not ever. You've had your ass spoiled and it is time you were spanked.

Except...this country is full of people that think there is such a thing as our friend Israel. (or any other nation)

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Not A Plumber, Nor A Journalist

I am not a plumber, I am in construction and I have business friends who are plumbers and I did plumb my own house. (nothing leaks and everything works as it should) I write on a fairly regular basis for public consumption, I am not a journalist. If you read the title description of this blog you will find the word journalism nowhere, you will find the words "comment and advocacy," but nothing regarding journalism. I depend on journalists to ask questions and to know whom to ask those questions of, whether where I end up is where they did or not. I use the facts available to me to come up with an understanding or an opinion. I stand by what I write as based on facts and my record of getting things right, but I don't dress it up as journalism - I do essays.

Despite my concerns about the corporate nature of the media and its consolidation I am distressed by the economic difficulties facing newspapers and news media in general. Bloggers do not have the resources or sources to dig deeply into many of the issues facing us today. I am religious in giving credit (or blame) in my writings to the originators, both as a matter of ethics and as a matter of economics. I know that the news stories in the media suffer from point of view, it is inevitable, but I also know that most journalists attempt to minimize that.

Given the Palinization of the Republican Party, it is little surprise to me that an outfit like Pajama Media would think there is something useful in putting Joe The Plumber (here after JTP) in the role of journalist. His qualifications are obvious: he's right wing, people have seen his face and name, and he's gotten virtually nothing right. He has opinions, we've been subjected to them for months, and he thinks they're facts. It seems to be a feature of Republican politics that its most visible people get progressively stupider starting with St Ronnie. It is almost as if their success with an incurious man incapable of critical thinking who could sell himself as an actor encouraged multiples of those failings. I'm willing posit GHWB as an exception, kind of. GWB's failure is not his average IQ, it is the entire lack of curiosity and critical thinking that allowed him to be led and to be so stubbornly wrong. I have yet to read or hear a statement from a Republican of any stature that reflects those characteristics. That's not partisan hackery, I don't mind not agreeing with reasoning, I just require reasoning rather than parroting.

I don't mind that I don't agree with JTP, I disagree with some pretty intelligent and thoughtful people who've commented here. I disagree with his elevation to a position that he not only isn't able to fulfill but has no understanding of. There exists in Israel and Palestine a situation that is very serious and has proved intractable for decades, and people are dying. This isn't a fender bender on Rt 30 or Main St, this is damn serious business and that people are paying any attention at all to someone unqualified to report on that hypothetical car crash is a tragedy. Everyone and their damn brother is picking sides in this mess and most of those people have little idea what all is driving it. Increasing the stupidity level is not helpful. Governmental stupidity in the active participants is already worthy of the most scathing mockery (if it weren't too sad and horrible for mockery) without tossing JTP into the mix. How America reacts to this is going to count. Journalism isn't demanding of genius IQ, it is demanding of certain skills and some dedication to fact and at least a passing attempt at being objective. JTP proved in the Presidential election that he has none of that even forgiving the partisan nature of elections.

JTP is an agenda driven incompetent and he's been given access to people who not only can figure that out but also how to use it. That is a distressing idea. It's also pretty damn embarrassing that some Americans could actually think it is a good idea - in public. I suppose that if your news sources are Rush and Fox it would be easy to get confused about what journalism is...

I'm tired of George II, Sarah, and Joe but it doesn't seem I'll be getting respite for awhile. As for stupidity, I'm afraid that isn't even wounded.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Center Right America

The Republican line about America being a center right country has an irritating element of truth. If you poll Americans about specific behavior, you find that they are, in fact, pretty liberal; it is when politics are brought into the questions that the center right theme emerges. Few Americans propose that anyone other than god punish queers, but the politics of gay marriage result in that punishment. If you ask about fighting in Iraq Americans don't like it, but throw in the politics of national security and suddenly Republicans are credible. Reagan let terrorist get away unpunished for blowing up Marines, founding the current extremist Islamic movements and yet the politics make him credible. Americans know they are getting the short end of the economic stick and yet the politics of it let Republicans get away with supply side economics. Republicans claim to be the party of small government and yet the imposition of government power on the citizens has occurred on their watch and what they've proven about government is that they are incapable of governing.

The modern Republican Party has its roots in Reaganism, a limited but charasmatic spokesperson built a propaganda machine. The media, rather than attempting to understand the policies, parroted them. This parrot behavior lasted 30 years and only increased with the George I dispensation to Murdoch, which for his US empire he owes. Americans get their news from corporations with their corporate interests at heart, not America's. An entire political policy founded on not a single verifiable fact is held to be common wisdom.

There is not a single piece of evidence that supply side economics results in its stated ends and a wealth of factual information that says it only enriches the rich. There is not a single bit of evidence that socialized medicine would be worse for America than the current situation and yet it is accepted wisdom that it would be the death of medical quality in this country. The evidence to go to war in Iraq was ginned up in the face of actual evidence and the media fell all over itself to sell it and did so. The neo-con agenda falls to pieces in the face of historical precedence and yet for years it was accepted wisdom and its proponents still get extensive space to deny their abject failure. Every booster of the policies that led to the current situation in this country has their job or even promotions and the ones who criticized and called BS are hard to find. Kristol got a job with the NYT on the Op-Ed page as though he'd ever been right about something. It isn't a case of partisanship, I don't care much about that, it is about the complete and utter bullshit printed as though its writer has credence beyond its reality. On the othe hand, try to find Scott Ritter who accurately called all the outcomes of the BS intelligence.

There are some realities that just don't get any play while their opposites are considered the norm. Those dirty hippies were a chaotic bunch and downright disrespectful of authority and disruptive and the end harm of their era is what? In reality the harm was in the push backs, the War on Drugs, the drive to conformity, the disparagment of protest, the vilification of a political orientation. This is not a country impaired by drug use, it is not an anti-materialistic society, it is not a nation of communes and pacifists, and long hair amongst males is still rare. And yet, left politics is disparaged - in politics, in the media, and society at large. It is something to be defended from or denied by those seeking office. It is an attack word and owned by the public. When has the right's agenda been exposed to simple fact checking much less the derision of hippies and yet the harm caused by them is evident throughout the legal and economic system.

The very best favor granted the right is the demonization of George II. It personalizes a policy failure, it creates the illusion that it is not the fault of the agenda but rather that of the implementor. It supposes that America is so fragile that 7 years of the unbound Bush could wreck it and that is not the case. The world's largest economy does not crash and burn as the result of an ignorant inarticulate fake cowboy Presidency. The damage can certainly be accelerated by his Presidency coupled with a similar Legislative branch, but it can't be simply done by them. The rise of the Reaganist agenda to prominence as so unquestioned that even Bill Clinton got along with it can do the damage. An ignorant ass Ohio wannbe plumber can say socialism about targeted tax rates and it becomes a rallying cry for a party and taken seriously enough by a campign that it must be defended against. A tax rate that is 8 years old and one half that of the 1960s is taken seriously as socialism. A tax rate that was accepted as the result of being the prime beneficiaries of an entire system laid on people who were paupers by today's standards is exteme leftism. Most of the media correctly reported the tax plan but placed it in no historical context in the process of reporting the controversy and for its trouble was labeled as left enabling. Understand that the smear is reported - big news - and the plan accurately reported, but the smear itself, the big news, is placed in no context - it is allowed to stand as though it has some basis and is simply a political issue to be decided. It is Reaganism accepted.

The architects of our current debacles first got access to real power under Reagan, though many began their careers under RM Nixon. When their party was out they either cycled through private industries at inflated positions or went to employment assurance units like The Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute where they could spend their time coming up with disasters like the Iraq War or investment banking being rolled out from under regulation. Despite an almost universal failure to come up with successful policies these outfits are treated as respected think tanks rather than the right wing shill factories they are. The American public is treated to the spectacle of complete failures opining as though they'd done something other than sell a bill of goods.

This cycle of taking Reaganism as the revealed truth is not done, not nearly. The Republicans in Congress and media are already harking back to St Ronnie as the line not followed by the dastardly GWB. The media desperate for villians now craps on their former fair haired boy and allows people who behaved exactly as they accuse the villian of behaving to do so without question. Be under no illusions, the nonsense of the Republican Reaganites suits the agenda of big business and the media and will not be obviously contradicted. It will not be fact checked or if it is it will be buried far from the noisy news story related to it. When someone whose interests are served tells you something it is a good idea to actually think about who is served.

You might wonder what interest I'm serving. I'm running for no office, I have no friends who are who could benefit me, this blog makes exactly no money, and nobody is going to ask me to work in government. I run a construction business of sorts and I will benefit if my fellows do well. I am a Democratic Party functionary and that pays nothing and costs me both time and money. I think you're pretty safe not worrying about how I'll profit by my advocacy. Fairy tales can be pushed back against, you have the ammunition and lately a couple friends in national media.

Bush Legacy And Reality

Frank Rich over at NYT has an article up concerning financial and other high jinks under GWB. The major thrust is the devaluation of ethics that is not only tolerated but the norm, to the extent that new revelations that dwarf previous and historical official malfeasance cause less than a ripple. A short list of Rich's complaints:

to the $117 billion spent (as of mid-2008) on Iraq reconstruction — a sinkhole of corruption, cronyism, incompetence and outright theft

Back in 2003, Powell said, the Defense Department just “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week!

next to big-ticket administration horrors like Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the politicized hiring and firing at Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department, the wreckage of Iraq reconstruction is what Ralph Kramden of “The Honeymooners” would dismiss as “a mere bag of shells.” The $50 billion also pales next to other sums that remain unaccounted for in the Bush era, from the $345 billion in lost tax revenue due to unpoliced offshore corporate tax

had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne spent $235,000 from taxpayers to redo his office bathroom

The tentative and amorphous $800 billion stimulus proposed by Obama last week sounds like a lot, but it’s a drop in the bucket when set against the damage it must help counteract: more than $10 trillion in new debt and new obligations piled up by the Bush administration in eight years,

Yes, it certainly sounds like a mess. You could add to these economic factors no realistic resolution of illegal immigration/illegal hiring, tax policies favoring off shoring manufacturing, tax policies favoring wealth, drug company give-aways...

It is when the beneficiaries of this behavior become obvious that the real stink begins. Take Dick Cheney's former CEO-ship of Halliburton, going into 2000 HAL stock plummeted from $54/share to $17 thanks to asbestos liabilities in companies Cheney acquired for Halliburton. In 2008 the high was $57/share and currently in the face of falling oil prices it stands at $27. If you follow the market philosophies of the Republicans and trace profit as motivation it begins to be reasonable to propose that a war in Iraq was started for the benefit of Halliburton. Tracing oil prices over the last 8 years one would begin to believe that the Iraq war and Iranian "crisis" were instigated for the benefit of the oil industry, Exxon has done quite nicely out of it. Market demands (China, etc) do not track similarly. But mentioning China brings up issues regarding its profiteering under Bush.

It is estimated that of the $350 billion bailout banks planned to use $10 billion for bonuses. Banks that were on the verge of failing are on a bank buying spree and credit is still frozen. As unemployment rates spiral upward the banks that were too big to fail use taxpayer dollars to get bigger. If you stop to think that $10 billion in bonuses was for failure in one year, what does that say about bonuses in the years of reckless behavior before the show hit the wall?

Does anyone wonder where the hundreds of billions per year in Iraq went? You certainly don't think it was primarily wages or bullets. It was the high dollar mechanisms being paid for and those flowed to a handful of military industrial companies and support systems like uber right winger Eric Prince's Blackwater and ... um ... Halliburton.

You have an economy in tatters and two wars and political corruption on an unheard of scale today. For six years people have been pushing back and until the last couple years these people were labeled as traitors and Bush Derangement sufferers. That labeling was not narrowly held by Republican loons, Republican prosecutors were dismissed for not finding prosecutable Democratic vote irregularities by the highest levels of government. Media went along with every Republican trashing of those attempting to restore some kind of reality in government. Media has reported the news as though there were two sides to it, not analysis where it is a matter of opinion, but the stories themselves. Shill organizations like Fox put the least credible left representative they could find up against their experts. The media couldn't find enough combat pictures to suit it as they regurgitated government propaganda and hired government propaganda tools as analysts. The media did not push back until the utter bullshit they spouted was demonstrated as untrue and the public began to rebel in the face of it. The concentration of media ownership and its corporatising under Bush is an unremarked upon phenomenon. It is unremarked because they toe the plutocratic line.

The mental and ethical health of this nation is in crisis. Things that historically would have resulted in revolt are seen as the lesser problems. Thirty years of Republican propaganda taken as common wisdom have driven this mess. People who would blame Bush alone forget that he is simply the embodiment of those policies unrestrained. You can draw a straight line from Reagan to today, Clinton may have put half-hearted brakes on the process, but Bush was enabled not only by Congress, but by the media and the public. Today is the what the Reagan Republican Party is all about. Go ahead and try to find a "left" US government that put us in this state, for all the scare tactics Republicans use.

George Bush certainly is not responsible for the existence of Ronnie Reagan Republican policies, he is responsible for them unbound - no amount of spin will change history's judgement on that score. The question that now remains is whether his enablers will pay. McConnell and Boehner are still in Congress - and in positions of power, Halliburton still exists, the media is still consolidating, and wealth is weathering the storm quite nicely - thank you. And by the way, my left Democrat stance still engenders spit flecked rhetorical spray from the powers that be. Think about it.

How Come No Posts?

I have to admit to you that I've kind of dropped the ball on posting. It is a matter of attitude, I suppose. Either I've had no particular interest in the news stories or I do and have nothing particularly illuminating to say.

I'll give a couple examples.

Israel and Gaza are a big story, well here's the deal - I don't have a dog in that fight, I think both sides are assholes who couldn't have done a better job of ensuring conflict if they'd set out to do that. I do not mean over the past few months, for many decades. You can stick fault in your ear, it doesn't matter, fixing what's wrong matters. I've watched folks run all over hell's half acre with their hair on fire fixing blame and they are exactly why this won't get fixed. Yes, I include our government in that equation.

Sarah Palin? I don't do humor well enough to mock her sufficiently and any other reaction is just silly.

Bush and Cheney revisionism? Well, cripes, if you're reading this site you're an obvious political junkie and have some idea what's going on and been going on. So I can refrain from calling them lying sacks.

Obama seems to be making pretty smart choices for his administration and since they haven't done a damn thing yet to praise or damn... I suppose I could scoff at right wing blogs, but I'd have to read the damn things and besides, is it something new that the Republican Party is spiraling into weirdness?

Well, I'll see if I can come up with something...or if the world will.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Country First - Redux

The slogan is back, the jingoistic best left alone name of a failed bank "Country First." The losing party's campaign crap is dredged up into new life as a PAC for John McCain to run for his Senate seat again and to, honestly, fix the Republican Party.

If I can't work up to supporting John McCain and the Confederate Party of Republicanism I don't put Country First and am obviously one of those anti-Americans. I was under the impression that his base put God first, but illiteracy may be an outcome of that outlook. It wasn't a good one to begin with, it is unfortunate to have Chuck Keating and failed S&Ls in your background and failing investment banks in your present and remind people of banks with your slogan. (I'm willing to help, though.) If I were in the least undecided; I think that thing in its naked hypocritical glory would back me off. To be sure, I've never lived in AZ, never visited AZ, and don't plan to do either and I'm not the least undecided - but somebody could be...

Now I don't know how it is that John plans to try to fix the Confederate Party of Old White Men and I don't really care much, but I've noticed the right side of that Party wants to give him to us. I can't think why they'd think we'd want him, but they insist he's a Democrat with an illegitimate (R). Democrats are insulted. There's a danger in playing at McMavericism, its essential fraudulent nature pushed away most every Democrat who had ever even smiled at Johnny and the Republiwings bought the act and hated him for it. (there is always the issue that saying Democrat without an insult attached is traitorism) Maybe part of this country first would include reproaching his Confederate brethren for shilling for foreign automakers, but probably not. (funny thing, my leftwing Democratic self owns 6 Chevrolets all built in the US by UAW members)

Now to be real blunt about the prospects of the Republican Party of the Confederacy taking John's advice it might pay to stop and think that it would include taking advice from a rich old white guy with a blond Barbie who managed to lose to a Presidential race to a black socialist Muslim terrorist from Mars. Oh c'mon, they're heads would explode. That'll happen the Day Boehner reaches across the aisle and lets you have your fingers back. He plans to take Country First to the bunch who gleefully participated in the rape and pillage of the nation....


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Reid and Pelosi

I may be the Chair of Baker County Democrats but that doesn't mean I'm a shill for Democratic elected. When I don't like something; I say so. All that said, I'd like to try to make some things fairly clear about Reid and Pelosi. The Democrats have been castigated as spineless in some circles lately and there are some realities that ought to be clear that apparently aren't.

The House is now and has always been a pretty rambunctious and quick to react place. The House is where you are more likely to find the more extreme ends of the national political agendas. There are a number of reasons for this, partly at least due to the smaller demographics of the Congressional Districts in comparison to most significant elections. Senators, Governors, Secretary of States, and others all face state wide electorates and have to appeal to many more interests than the confines of CDs. In general terms, CDs are geographically small (there are exceptions like OR-2, which is larger than any state east of the Mississippi) and so their interests can be quite parochial. It has been said that getting Democrats to do anything is like herding cats, well Pelosi has an entire House of cats, both Parties.

House rules are a bit less confining than Senate rules which results in legislation that frequently gets quite a make over at Senate level and which though passed will not get past a Presidential veto. In the last two years the House passed quite a bit of fairly progressive legislation - that went nowhere. Speaker Pelosi gets branded as a lackluster leader by the malcontents, what they ignore is the near absolute hatred the right wing has for her. There is a reason for that. Legislation that dies at the Senate or is vetoed gets little press, with some exceptions like Iraq issues.

The lack of Impeachment is held against her and in all probability on the merits the Democrats could probably have gotten it passed. On the merits, alone. It would not have resulted in a Senate conviction, absolutely not have happened. What would have happened is that a President with 25% approval ratings would have gotten some more bad press and all business would have stopped for a partisan brawl. That partisan brawl would have occurred right before and during Primaries and Presidential General Election. A good sized piece of the electorate would have seen it as no more than Democratic pay back. On pure principle GW Bush should have been impeached and probably tried for some serious felonies, on principles. It would not have happened, the Senate Republicans would not have allowed it, period. So what Speaker Pelosi didn't do was something practically meaningless and politically deadly. The American public is not deeply immersed in the Constitution and reacts more emotionally than logically - the measure taken was that the elections counted for more. Tough on ideals, but we are talking about politics here.

Majority Leader Reid's life is considerably more complicated than Pelosi's. Sixty votes are required to end debate and send legislation to a vote. For the last two years Reid has had a plus one majority in his Caucus. That does not mean 51 reliable votes just because something has Democratic support. Senators tend to be more to the center of their Party as representatives, that having a lot to do with statewide campaigns. Senate candidates generally don't face low turnout elections as House members do every four years (every other cycle). Low turnouts tend to attract Party activist voters compared to the general electorate resulting in more conservative or more liberal point of views wins, not so in the Senate. I may find some of the Republican Senators to be troglodytes, but one need only compare them to their State's Republican House members to find that they are more centrist.

No Party leader is in a position to not know the outcome of their own Party's votes on legislation and will generally have a pretty good idea of the other side's votes before putting the matter to a vote. Failures are a public issue and not to be engaged in unless there is demonstrable public pressure available - in other words, the opposition can be made to pay for their opposition. Behind the facades, politics is a very rough game played for stakes that may not be publicly visible, in fact frequently are not. That isn't much about secrecy as it is about the public stomach or interest in knowing what it takes with 535 discreet points of view from discreet interests to get anything done. The news apparatus also knows this, if it were not the case C-span would have a huge viewership - it doesn't. It is quite possible for news organizations to know exactly what is going on - Congress leaks like a sieve - but there is no profitable point in the media putting the resources into it. Unless you're willing to look very hard, you do not see what it is that Party leadership is actually up against.

It is certainly true that Reid could have forced actual filibusters to take place, but there is an underlying reality - vetoes. Anything that required Reid to actually fight with a real filibuster would have been vetoed and failed in over-ride. There is a political cost for inaction within Congress, it is obvious with Congress polling worse than GWB. Before tying up the Senate with a publicly obvious play there has to be political advantage, not the feel good of punishing Republicans by forcing them to fulfill a filibuster.

As far as Franken and Burris are concerned, the Senate could not seat them because the legal requirements in their respective states have not been met. So what exactly does one expect the Senate to do?

Congress needs to have their feet held to the fire, but it pays to do so with some idea of what is going on.