Friday, November 30, 2007

Rudy’s sordid past

Considering all the dirt and scandal that has come out recently concerning Rudy Giuliani, how is it that he can still be considered a viable presidential candidate?
Do Republicans get passes on these kinds of things today? If Rudy was a Democrat he would be dead in the water right now. Sheesh!

Creationists strike back

Here we go again...

The state's director of science curriculum said she resigned this month under pressure from officials who felt she gave the appearance of criticizing the instruction of intelligent design.

The Texas Education Agency put Chris Comer on 30 days paid administrative leave in late October, resulting in what she described as a forced resignation.

The move came shortly after Comer forwarded an e-mail announcing a presentation being given by the author of Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse. In the book, author Barbara Forrest says creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. Comer sent the e-mail to several individuals and a few online communities.....

TEA officials declined to comment Wednesday on the personnel matter, but they explained their recommendation to fire Comer in documents obtained by the Austin American-Statesman through the Texas Public Information Act.

"Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral," the officials said.

Neutral!?! Who says they have to remain neutral? Are they also remaining neutral on the question of whether the earth is round or flat? How about whether dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time? Are they neutral on that too?

I really thought we got all of this resolved in Kansas a few years ago.

Cognitive dissonance

I don’t get it either.
Fred Clark at Slacktivist has a good question about the disconnect necessary to be a rightwinger these days.

Right wing bloggers, talk radio hosts and Fox News readers spent the first few weeks of spring lambasting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her trip to Damascus because, they said, talking to the Syrians is Bad, it Legitimizes the Enemy, etc. This required a bit of nimble footwork on their part, because they had to pretend that no Republican members of Congress took part in these Syrian delegations. But the principle was clearly established: Talking to Syria = Hates America.

Yesterday, Syria agreed to send representatives to the Annapolis Conference organized and hosted by the Bush administration. This is something the administration, to its credit, pursued and achieved. So now, just seven months later, Talking to Syria = Good.

If you're completely unprincipled and you don't care about logical consistency or coherence -- if all of politics is just a big game of Fizzbin -- then this isn't a problem and it's simply a matter of following the latest talking points from the central office: Talking to Syria is now Good. We've always been at war with Oceania.

But I would think that at least some of these right wing bloggers and talk radio hosts, and maybe even one or two Fox News readers, are actually true believers sincerely arguing for what they genuinely believe. I can't imagine it's easy for them to suddenly have to stop believing X and start believing Not X.

It's actually even stranger than that -- they have to suddenly switch from arguing that Nancy Pelosi is a demon because she believes X to arguing that George Bush is a genius and a patriot because he believes X, all while somehow arguing that Pelosi is still a demon. It's like the Triple Lindy of cognitive dissonance.

How do they accommodate that? What's the mental trick? Seriously. I don't get it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More E-N grousing

Today is a perfect example of why I am so disgusted with the Express-News editorial section these days. On the commentary page we have this unhinged rant from Ken Allard that would fit in well with the comments that Bill Crawford used to get at his All Things Conservative blog.

It is as though the land of the free had suddenly become the Wimpodite nation. As if Beowulf had inexplicably conceded that Grendel had issues or the Spartans at Thermopylae had sent a tactful note to the Persians deploring the senseless use of violence.
But with the war in Iraq turning decisively in our favor, the Democrats controlling Congress are living in Fantasyland, barely able to get up each morning without legislating fresh absurdities requiring U.S. troops to evacuate the combat zone in, let's say, the next 10 minutes or so.

Wimpodite nation!?! What the hell is that?? And Democrats are in Fantasyland because they want to withdraw our troops from that hellhole where they have been mired for the past four years? We’ve been in Iraq longer than we were in WWII for crying out loud. But no matter what the situation on the ground is, it is always the wrong time to withdraw. When things are going really bad we can’t leave because that would be cutting and running and al Qaeda would claim victory. And now that things are going less badly, we can’t leave because we are on the verge of victory (kind of like the insurgency was in its last throes a few years ago).

But if Allard’s rant isn’t bad enough, we also have syndicated wingnut Cal Thomas lauding rightwing paleocon Pat Buchanan for his xenophobic prescriptions on immigration.

But not to worry! We still have “liberal” columnists Rebecca Chapa and “liberal” cartoonist John Branch to add a little balance. So what does Chapa choose to talk about in her once-a-week column? She goes after leftist leader Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
OK, that’s fine and all and the guy does deserve criticism, but haven’t the rightwingers been pounding on the guy enough? Why does Chapa have to pile on too? Can’t she find some other topic to highlight that might be better at balancing out the hard-right tilt of the editorial page?
Oh, and Branch’s cartoon today? An attack on Hillary Clinton! What a surprise!

A brief glimpse of reality at NRO

Most neutral observers of American politics already know that Republicans are going to get their butts whooped next year. But you generally don’t hear that sentiment being expressed or acknowledged in rightwing circles.
But apparently the National Review breached that topic earlier this month with a lead article in its Nov. 19 print edition that is unfortunately not available online. The article by Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru gives a surprisingly harsh assessment of GOP election prospects in 2008 spelling out in no uncertain terms that things are even worse for Republicans than they imagine.

Here is an excerpt:

So while Republicans are depressed these days, their condition is actually worse than they think it is. The deepest cause of the party’s malaise is not the inadequacies of the presidential field. It is that the party’s base is out of step with the public. On issue after issue, polls find independents lining up with Democrats.

Take the economy. Republicans are much happier with their economic circumstances than Democrats: 81 percent of the former, and only 54 percent of the latter, express satisfaction. Independents are exactly where the Democrats are. At their recent economic debate, however, most of the Republican candidates essentially advised dissatisfied Americans to look up some economic statistics to see how well things are going. The ones who acknowledged public gloom proffered protectionism as a remedy.

Or take global warming. The public thinks it is real and worrisome, but is not ready to embrace liberal policies that would drastically reduce economic growth. Republicans would have an opening here, if so many of them had not persuaded themselves that global warming is a hoax.

If the public debate is confined to a choice between people who brush off public concerns and those who offer bad solutions, the latter group will win. Conservatives, right now, are not offering better solutions. And because the Republican base is not demanding those solutions, the competitive dynamic of the primary is not producing them. For most of the year, the Republican presidential debates have featured barely a word about health care, the public’s most pressing domestic concern.

The thing that Lowrey and Ponnuru are not acknowleding is that Republicans HAVE put forward ideas on these issues for the past 12 years and they simply have not worked. That is why they are ignoring the problems now and trying to focus on other things, because they don’t know what to do next since their ideas flopped.

As you can see from this excerpt, Lowrey and Ponnuru still think “free-market policies” and tax cuts for the rich are the cure all for everything and assume that we just haven’t pushed those ideas hard enough.

That task will force conservatives to explain how free-market policies can address the economic anxieties of this group of voters. We don't have to support "universal coverage" on health care. But we ought to talk more about health care than about the budget; and when we talk about health care, we should explain how Republican policies will help people keep and control their own health care. We don't have to abandon attempts to reform the tax code and to drop the top tax rate. But we should put much more effort into providing tax relief for middle-class parents. We don't have to open the borders. But we should make it clear that our immigration policy isn't based on anger. We don't have to give up on the idea that sometimes the U.S. must fight wars, even going it alone; but we need to persuade people that we see unilateral military action as a last resort -- that we're not spoiling for a fight.

The bad news for conservatives is that we can't blame other people for our troubles. The good news is that if our problems are of our own making they are also within our control. If we address them now, we may not need to undergo a stretch out of power to right ourselves. But the first step toward recovery is admitting that we have a problem.

Republicans do indeed have a problem and it is not that their ideas have not been tried. It is good that they are ready to admit to having a problem, but they aren’t ready to accept what that problem really is yet. There is a disconnect going on somewhere. Whenever a Republican policy such as tax giveaways, deregulation of industry and crony capitalism is instituted resulting in one disaster or another - record deficits, Enron collapse, poor response to New Orleans flood, etc. - rightwingers are quick to shift the blame as with this commenter the other day who dismissed a lengthy critique of Republican policies:

Ah, you are confusing Republicanism with Conservatism.
The Republican party is losing because they are drifting away from Conservatism.

So, when they present an idea it is “Conservatism,” but when it fails to have the desired result it suddenly turns into “Republicanism” and the answer is to push harder for more “Conservatism.” And round and round the circle goes.

Quico vs. Ciro

I’m starting to see “Quico for Congress” signs popping up around my neighborhood. Aside from the fact that “Quico” is very close to “Ciro,” the name of our incumbent congressman, the signs don’t tell you much. Not even party affiliation. So what should we think of this “Quico” Canseco fellow?

Here is a quick analysis of Quico’s positions according to his website:

Quico makes it clear that despite his Hispanic heritage, he would be somewhere to the right of Tom Tancredo on immigration issues. Without actually using the buzzword “amnesty,” he spells out his position this way:

America is a welcoming nation and it should continue to extend a warm welcome to those that want to enter in accordance with the laws, the rules and the regulations for entry. Those that do so otherwise disrespect our nation’s sovereignty and they must not benefit by their illegal trespass.

That means he will oppose any immigration reforms that might lead to citizenship for any of the six million illegal aliens already living in the United States. This is not a realistic response to a serious social issue and it just demonstrates that Quico would champion ideology over humanitarian compromises that are needed to deal with the reality at hand.

Abortion rights
On “Human Life,” Quico declares himself to be a “a pro-life conservative who defends the right to life of the unborn.”
Since he does not elaborate, one must assume that this means Quico would push for a constitutional amendment to ban abortions and would not make exceptions for the life or health of the mother. He does not mention a position on capital punishment which leads me to believe that he supports it, but finds it inconvenient to do so while also posturing as a so-called pro-lifer.

Quico clearly has no clue as to what he is talking about here. He mentions “reform of the insurance market” and “efficient implementation of health technology.” He also talks about the need for “a balanced playing field among providers and insurers.” But as for how he would accomplish any of this, we have no clue since he also claims that having government take responsibility for accomplishing any of these reforms would be a “disaster for our entire population.”
Come to think of it, that may be true if our government is filled with people like Quico.

Economy and Taxes
Quico comes out as a full-fledged supply sider, promising to make Bush’s fiscally irresponsible tax cuts permanent and permanently eliminate the inheritance tax, which would no doubt be a windfall for someone wealthy enough to dump $700,000 into his own congressional campaign.
Quico is living in a fantasy world with respect to the economy. He claims that the 9/11 attacks “challenged our economy,” but that Bush’s tax cuts “brought us out of the economic slump.” No mention of the skyrocketing federal deficits that resulted from Bush’s tax cuts or the fact that Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with an economy that has left workers’ wages stagnant while gas prices and health care costs eat into their pocketbooks.

National Security
Be afraid! Be very afraid!!
Quico certainly is. He believes that:

Our nation and the rest of the free world are facing a threat like no other; one bent on destroying our way of life: our very existence.

Yikes! That sounds worse than the Nazis during WWII and the Commies during the Red Scare. To combat this evil threat, Quico believes that you need to give up your liberties and allow Big Brother to spy on you without any sort of judicial oversight.

All reasonable measures must be taken to protect the American homeland and I believe that sacrificing moderate intrusions of personal privacy are necessary to this mission.

National Defense
Quico is ready to spend lots of money making sure our Armed Forces “have the newest and best equipment” and also pledges to show his gratitude to our soldiers when they come home “by providing benefits for them and their families.” Where he expects to get this money with all of his tax cutting hysterics is not at all clear. I guess we will just put it on old Uncle Sam’s charge card with all the rest of the Iraq War spending.

Quico seems to be very much conflicted on this issue. He starts out by saying that education is “the foundation of any great republic” and complains that “we have neglected our charge and allowed the education of our youth (to) slip by the wayside.”
So what should we do about it? Nothing. At least, as far as the government is concerned. Quico’s only answer is to leave everything to the local districts and not burden them with “unfunded mandates.”
Quico lashes out at President Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy:

...governmental meddling in the operation of schools must cease and we must admit that the mandates of No Child Left Behind stifle creative thinking in the classroom, increase bureaucracy, and drive the costs of education upward.

And he insists that government “must stay away from the state school system” and “release control to local school boards.”
But at the same time, he wants to encourage teachers to meet “standards of excellence” and wants to “find more effective ways to assure that our children are meeting standards and that these standards are fairly applied.”
But how can you have standards if everything is being done independently at the local level? I guess each school district could just set its own goals — ones that they could easily achieve — and Voila! Our education system is all fixed! Isn’t that amazing?

Social Security
Quico acknowledges that “to many Americans” Social Security “has proved to be a vital safety net.” However, he charges that the government has failed to administer the program for longevity and has not adjusted to the change from an agrarian society to an industrial society. Nevermind that that change actually occurred before Social Security was created. Now Quico says:

Social Security must meet the challenges of the 21st century in order to fulfill its promises to all Americans. 

Translation: Quico would support privatizing Social Security. Hope you are feeling lucky as you risk your life savings in the stock market.

Quico apparently did not think environmental issues, much less global warming, was significant enough to merit a bullet point on his issues page.

To sum up, Quico is a certifiable wingnut with a lot of personal cash and no political experience beyond serving as a Republican Party functionary. He recently received the endorsement of Dr. Jim Leininger who has bankrolled many of the rightwing causes here in Texas. The fact that Quico is independently wealthy makes him the ideal candidate for the GOP this time since the national party has little money to expend in these races.
Overall, I would say that Quico’s chances are slim to none for beating giant killer Ciro Rodriguez. Ciro is still riding high after knocking off entrenched incumbent Henry Bonilla in 2006 and the electorate’s mood has, if anything, only gotten more soured on Republican rule since then.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I’m reading Jonathan Chait’s new book “The Big Con: The true story of how Washington got hoodwinked and hijacked by crackpot economics” in which he lays out the sordid disaster that is “Supply-side economics” and details how such a loopy and discredited economic policy became the guiding principle of a major political party (i.e. Republicans). Chait begins his book this way:

"I have this problem. Whenever I try to explain what's happening in American politics - I mean, what's really happening - I wind up sounding a bit like an unhinged conspiracy theorist. But honestly, I'm not... so please give me a chance to explain myself when I tell you that American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane"

Insane is probably putting it mildly. Supply side economics - the idea that there is some inverse correlation between cutting taxes and increasing government revenue (i.e. the more you cut, the more revenue that will come in) - has been discredited more times than I can count. Starting with the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s that brought us into the era of runaway deficits and repeated again by W. Bush whose tax cuts made the Clinton-era surplus vanish only to be replaced with record deficits once again.
And still, Republicans in power today insist that all we need to do is cut taxes more and that it will magicly solve all of our problems.

There is a scene in “The Bee Movie” in which Jerry Seinfeld’s bee character gets trapped in a house and trys to fly out through a closed window. He slams into the glass and is shocked that he can’t get through. He trys again with the same result, at which point he starts banging into the glass repeatedly over and over, each time saying “Maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe this time...”
It’s hilarious because that is exactly what bugs tend to do, but it is also a good description of your typical wingnuts who never let something like repeated failures dissuade them from pushing the same discredited theories over and over again.

What strikes me about all of this is how the same people who continue to buy into supply-side economics are typically the same ones who are going to deny that global warming is a problem, or who still believe that going into Iraq was a good idea, or who favor teaching “intelligent design” in the schools; etc.
Don’t try to confuse these people with the facts. They are immune to such arguments. They will just continue to smash themselves into that window over and over again, dragging us along with them if they can.

Blue Skies

It’s Looking Like Blue Skies All Over Again

Blue skies smiling at me. Nothing but blue skies do I see.
— Irving Berlin

Just over a year ago, Democrats seized control of Congress because of the voters’ exhaustion with the war in Iraq and disgust at the Republican majority’s increasingly brazen manipulation of the levers of power. Now, less than a year from the next election, little has happened to elevate the voters’ mood — or their impression of the party that ruled the federal government from 2003 through 2006.

The GOP remains burdened with a highly unpopular war; President Bush’s troop “surge” in Iraq, initiated over strong Democratic objections, appears to have diminished the violence but has given no sign that it will lead to a big reduction in U.S. troops anytime soon. The corruption scandals, ethical challenges and settled Beltway mentality that helped drive Republicans into the wilderness have yet to dissolve from public memory.

So, even if Democrats have done little to burnish a reputation for running things any better — as reflected in the extraordinarily low public approval ratings for the Congress they now control — the fact remains: They may not have to.

That’s because every traditional indicator of election forecasting — from public opinion polls and issue resonance to candidate recruitment and the “over/under” balance of seats in play — suggests that congressional Democrats have just as much going for them in 2008 as they had in 2006, if not more. They now have the power of incumbency to give them added advantages in raising money, attracting top-tier candidates, controlling the legislative agenda and capturing the political zeitgeist.

All this leads Democrats to profess clear confidence that they’ll retain majority control next fall. And not only that, but they may now harbor realistic visions of emerging with 55 to 58 seats in the Senate (pushing them within arm-twisting distance of the 60 votes needed to bust a filibuster) as well more than 240 seats in the House, a cushion that neither party has enjoyed since the end of the last Democratic era in the House, in 1994.