Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bush the Scapegoat

Isn't it odd that the most "conservative" president this nation has seen in a generation has now been cast out by the movement conservatives?
George W. Bush followed the conservative prescriptions to a T. He didn't even raise taxes after starting a war! Even St. Ronnie raised taxes!
All of W.'s Supreme Court picks were true-blue conservative ideologues - (Roberts, Alito). No wishy washy moderates like his predecessors appointed - (Reagan picked O'Connor and Kennedy; Bush Sr. picked Souter).
Bush didn't budge on Global Warming even in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. He was a dream come true for the Neo-Con crowd, allowing them to play out all their Middle East fantasies to their hearts' content.
So why are "conservatives" so down on Bush now?
The simple reason is that they had to throw Bush overboard to avoid having to face the truth. The unfortunate truth for conservative ideologues is that many of the core ideas at the foundation of their belief system simply don't work - like Supply Side economics and No New Taxes as the prescription for all that ails the economy.
Reagan was lucky because he had a Democratic Congress. So when his tax cuts produced record deficits rather than surpluses, the conservative ideologues could blame the Democrats in Congress rather than Reagan. Nevermind that every budget Congress passed at the time was smaller than the budgets proposed by the Reagan administration. Congress was in charge of spending so it was their fault. End of story.
But Bush wasn't so lucky. When his tax cuts also produced record deficits rather than surpluses, he didn't have a Democratic Congress to blame it on. So the blame came squarely down on him. It was his fault, you see, because he didn't veto the spending bills or what have you. Because surely the underlying conservative philosophy couldn't be at fault.
So Bush is the scapegoat or the fall guy who had to be sacrificed to cover up for the failures of the conservative movement's core philosophy.
That way the right-wing ideologues can in good conscience continue to insist that we go back and do the same things that got us into this mess to begin with and as soon as enough time passes they will claw their way back into power and the cycle will start over again.
The only hope for the country is that Obama and the Democrats can get most of the mess cleaned up before that happens so that our country will be strong enough to survive yet another stent of fiscal irresponsibility and economic turmoil.

Conservatives just don't get it

The title of this post was inspired by my friend Nick who was working on a similar post (it appears to be messed up right now but keep checking back and maybe it will get fixed.)
I'm not sure what I expect from conservatives. Contrition? Mea culpas? Regret? A total rejection of their failed arguments and a total embracement of mine?
I suppose all of that is a bit unrealistic in today's world. Stubborn defiance should not be surprising. But still, what MUST they be thinking??
After witnessing the total collapse and utter failure of the Bush presidency, which was the most conservative administration in recent history, and seeing how the tax cuts utterly failed to lift the economy or generate revenues to balance the budget as promised. Instead, we went deeper into debt than ever before with absolutely nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, our nations infrastructure has been badly neglected and the health care crisis has been allowed to spiral out of control.
What will conservatives do if, in the next two years, the economy starts to turn around and the health care reform initiatives start to achieve some positive results? Will they finally concede then? Or will they just continue to demand more tax cuts and denounce every government spending initiative as "socialism"?
I know how I would place my bet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Robin Hood Budget

Obama’s first budget is already being labeled a Robin Hood Budget because it will raise taxes on the well-to-do and reduce taxes for the less fortunate.

Obama’s budget would dramatically increase taxes on the wealthy, while cutting payments and subsidies to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and defense contractors -- and mandating a system to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.
It would, in short, reverse the redistribution of wealth that took place during the Bush era. This time, the rich will be subsidizing the poor, not the other way around.

I think this is a healthy change for our country, but I do recognize that it is going to be rough on all those poor rich people. So I want to make a standing offer right now for any rich people who are unhappy about the prospect of paying higher taxes. I will take their heavy, oppressive tax burden onto myself (and their heavy income as well, of course) and give them my comparatively light and miniscule tax burden (and my teeny-tiny salary to boot). I’m sure there are other brave people out there like myself who would be willing to offer the same deal to any struggling rich people. So fear not! We are here for you.
Any takers should feel free to leave a comment on my blog.

Obama's Address to Congress

The thing I liked best about the whole speech was not having Dick Cheney up there sitting behind the president.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bow Wow!

President Obama’s administration is almost complete!
Yesterday Obama nominated former Washington Gov. Gary Locke for Secretary of Commerce; his Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis was approved and sworn in after Republicans finally ended their filibuster; and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius seems to be the odds-on choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services.
So that just leaves one key opening - The First Pet!
And now that decision seems to have been made as well - Michelle Obama: Dog coming soon!

Here is what the new First Dog might look like.

GOP philosophy, or lack thereof

Driving in to work this morning I subjected myself to one of the local talk radio stations (KTSA) to see what they were saying about Obama’s first address to Congress last night. After a few minutes of listening to Trey Ware go on and on about how he doesn’t believe in getting help from the government and all he wants is for government to “get out of the way” and that if we would just cut taxes on business that we would see this huge economic growth, blah, blah, blah.... I was ready to pull my hair out.
Has he been asleep for the past eight years? What does he think Bush was doing all that time?
Of course, Ware sounded no different than Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal did in his embarrassingly bad response to Obama’s speech the night before in which he complained about government spending on volcano monitoring, like that is somehow a bad thing. Does this mean that Jindal is too young to remember Mount St. Helens?

And so I thought Paul Krugman’s response was very much on target.

What is the appropriate role of government?

Traditionally, the division between conservatives and liberals has been over the role and size of the welfare state: liberals think that the government should play a large role in sanding off the market economy’s rough edges, conservatives believe that time and chance happen to us all, and that’s that.

But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods — goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there’s no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.

So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Taxation and Representation

The District of Columbia took a big step this morning toward finally securing real representation in Congress. A compromise bill that would give D.C. and Utah each one new representative cleared the Senate by 62-34, enough to overcome a Republican filibuster that stymied the legislation the last time it was considered.
This is such an obvious discrepancy that it is an embarrassment that it has taken this long to finally be resolved. There is no legitimate argument that Republicans make against this legislation other than blatant partisanship. If D.C. had 600,000 wealthy white people, rather than 600,000 mostly poor black people, they would have had full representation a long, long time ago. No other country in the world denies the residents of its capital city representation in their government. The fact that we do is a disgrace.
Next step is to give D.C. two U.S. Senators.

A flicker of hope for my TeeVee?

ER is winding down after its long, long run.
Boston Legal is already gone.
And the creators of Lost have already promised to pull the plug on their franchise within the next couple of seasons.
So, for a time there it was looking like I would have nothing to watch on TV anymore. But now that might be changing.
I’ve already gotten sucked up into the excellent new series Life on Mars on ABC.
And now Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, has a new series out on Fox called Dollhouse which I intend to watch.
And next month, there is a new series coming out called Castle featuring Nathan Fillion, late of Firefly, that looks like it could be worth watching.
So maybe there is hope.
Or then again, all these shows could wind up canceled by this time next year and I will once again be left with nothing to watch on TV.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Review - Thumbs Down!

My Lord that was awful!
Oh, there were some good moments, I guess, I thought Ben Stiller was hilarious making fun of Joaquin Phoenix and I appreciated the tribute to Jerry Lewis, but for the most part I hated the Academy Awards show last night.
It's not that I mind so much that Slumdog Millionaire won everything. I'm getting used to the fact that we can't give the top awards to actual American films anymore. No, now it almost always goes to a British film, or an Austrailian film or now an Indian film.
I guess I'm still just bitter that for the third year in a row, all of the popular films were completely shut out of the top categories again. The one exception this year - the one sop to the unwashed masses - was, of course, the posthumous Supportin Actor award for Heath Ledger. But after that, forget it.
None of the five nominated films cracked the Top 20 films at the Box Office this year, at least not before the awards show. I've not seen any of them and the one nominated film that I most want to see - Frost/Nixon - was completly shut out.
I guess what drove me over the edge last night - the final insult - was when they started handing out even the technical awards to these snooty, high-brow movies. The awards such as sound mixing and visual effects used to be the last place where popular films could still get some recognition from the Academy. But not this year!
I mean, they completely humiliated Will Smith. Did you see how they had this long video tribute to "action films" and then brought out Smith, whose action film Hancock was dissed by the Academy. And then Smith gives this speech where he talks about how much he loves action movies and then he presents to award for Best Visual Effects, which used to always go to popular action films - and the Academy gives it to Benjamin Button over Dark Knight and Iron Man. Ha Ha!! Screw You, Will Smith.
You could tell Smith was annoyed later when he was still out there giving technical awards to Slumdog and cracked that award show host Hugh Jackman must be back stage taking a nap.
But the worst was yet to come. When it came time to do the traditional salute to actors who passed away during the prior year - one of my favorite parts of the whole show - they freakin' screwed it up!!! The director decided it was more important to leave the camera on Queen Latifah while she sang some syrupy number and kept panning away from the screen showing the tributes for the dead movie people. I couldn't read half the names or descriptions of the people being honored because they kept panning the film back and forth giving me a headache and forcing me to strain my eyes to try and read the text. I was so furious! And I still am!!!
The only real surprise of the night was the Best Actor award for Sean Penn when everyone, including Penn, thought it would go to Mickey Rourke.
But other than that, it was pretty much predictable once you saw in the early categories that Slumdog was winning everything over Benjamin Button.
I'm really ticked at the Academy Awards right now. If they do this again next year and nominate a bunch of high-brow, little-seen artsy films and ignore all the movies that have, as Will Smith noted, "fans," then I am definitely not going to waste my time watching it again.
Personally, I hope the ratings for this show was in the dumps.

Death and Texas

Good article in the WaPo today.

Sharon Keller's radical jurisprudence

I was appalled back when I first learned that Criminal Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused to hear a last minute appeal for a death-row inmate.

Now that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has commenced formal proceedings against her she could be forced off the bench soon.
What is most upsetting about the case is not that the inmate was put to death - he probably would have been executed anyway after the Supremes dealt with the issue of lethal injections being "cruel and unusual" - but it was the cavalier way that she let her rigid, hard-line ideology take precedence over normal jurisprudence.
I don't want someone on the court who will ignore conventions when they conflict with her extremist ideology. That is not being "conservative", it is being radical. Keller should be off the bench.