Friday, February 27, 2009

The GOP And America

Now it's not just Republican Party head Rush Limbaugh. It's also The Exterminator, former House Speaker Tom DeLay. You'll recall Rush on January 16, 2009 proudly proclaiming

I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: "Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails." Somebody's gotta say it.... So I can answer it, four words, "I hope he fails." And that would be the most outrageous thing anybody in this climate could say. Shows you just how far gone we are. Well, I know, I know. I am the last man standing.

Limbaugh wants Obama to fail because he hopes Obama's policies fail. But he unabashedly declared of the President of the United States "I hope he fails." And yesterday, excusing the statement of Governor Mark Sanford (R.-S.C.) that "anybody who wants him (Obama) to fail is an idiot," Limbaugh reiterated his hope that America fails, commenting

But, see, politicians have different audiences than I do and they've gotta say things in different ways, so after he said, "Anybody who wants Obama to fail is an idiot," then went on in his own way to say, "Gosh, I hope this doesn't work." But he just had to say, "We don't want the president to fail." Hell, we don't. We want something to blow up here, politically, we want something not to go right.

And Tom DeLay? This exchange (video below) took place today at he Conservative Political Action Conference in the interview by Think Progress with DeLay:

TP: Do you agree with Rush Limbaugh that we shouldn’t hope for President Obama to succeed?

DELAY: Well, exactly right. I don’t want this for our nation. That’s for sure.

So Tom DeLay has joined Rush Limbaugh in praying that the President of the United States fails. Steve Benen (before DeLay, responding to Rush) on February 14 in The Washington Monthly noted the double standard:

Keep in mind, of course, that such talk under Bush's presidency would force someone from the airwaves. If a prominent progressive figure said, just as the president was sending troops into war in early 2003, "I want everything he's doing to fail. I want the war in Iraq to fail. I do not want the president's national security agenda to succeed," he or she would lose all advertising revenue and be fired. In the midst of a crisis, Americans rooting against America, based on nothing but ideological rigidity, are pariahs.

We can't trust this theory because no prominent, mainstream liberal has argued in public for the failure of this country. However, we do know what happened to comedian Bill Maher when he stated on his ABC program Politically Incorrect on September 17, 2001

We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly.

Nothing unpatriotic- only recognition that murderous terrorists, no matter how evil, are hardly cowardly when willingly giving up their lives for their misguided cause. When ABC buckled under pressure, Bill Maher lost his network show, eventually ending up on HBO.

Rush and Tom can say all they want to entertain, as in the former's case, or to demonize, as in the latter's case. Still, it's up to the rest of us to view their statements in the context of the hostility they hold toward their country.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Katrina Reference

Responding to the Republican response, delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, to the president's address of last night, Paul Krugman wrote:

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.

Krugman, as with numerous Democratic and non-partisan pundits, was in part doubting the logic of a Republican politician citing as a failure of government the response to Hurricane Katrina, fouled up by George W. Bush- and which many believe started the stature of his presidency in a downward spiral. For instance, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann commented (video below) "a Republican invoking the lessons of Hurricane Katrina seems counter-intuitive to me." Jindal stated:

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina -- we have our doubts.

Let me tell you a story.

Jindal then went on to tell a self-congratulatory story of dubious veracity, but the reference to Katrina appeared to undermine the GOP's claim to run government better than the opposition. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann put it, "a Republican invoking the lessons of Hurricane Katrina seems counter-intuitive."

But hold on. While any sensible person would see that the local, state, and federal governments needed to act preemptively to forestall a disaster of such enormous proportion, the Louisiana Governor was not aiming his comments primarily at sensible persons, but rather to the powers in and about the Republican Party which could impede or facilitate a presidential candidacy he is no doubt contemplating. And to them, the lesson of Hurricane Katrina may not be the dangers of a passive or disinterested government, but of government itself.

The patron saint of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, stated "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." The Repub fight is not against incompetent government or even big government; it is against government itself. As Thomas Frank wrote (pp.32-33) in early 2008 in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, from the era of the Reagan presidency through the present

conservatives have held either executive or legislative power over the very state that is their first article of faith to despise. The big government that they rail against is, by and large, their government.

For a political faction to represent itself as a rebellion against a government for which it itself is responsible may strike you as a supremely cynical maneuver. If so, you are beginning to understand conservative Washington. Cynicism is of this movement's essence. It is cynical not only in the way it wriggles about, denying everything, dumping its former heroes, endlessly repositioning itself; but more fundamentally, it is cynical about the very possibilities of improvement through government.

Frank quotes Reagan as "claim(ing) to find terror in the phrase "I'm from the government and I'm here to help;" former House Speaker Tom DeLay as boasting "by the time we finish this poker game, there may not be a federal government left, which would suit me just fine;" and conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke as saying "the mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop."

This applies even to those times, such as when Hurricane Katrina struck, that the Repub Party controlled the executive branch and the legislative branch (as well as most of the judicial branch). Government, Frank notes, "is said to be an offense against nature, a force entirely at odds with civil society." And if by raising the specter of the Bush presidency (without mentioning GWB himself), Bobby Jindal- and by extension the party he represents- demeaned the Chief Executive, the President of his own party, Mr. Bush is viewed as merely collateral damage.

Jindal's Agenda

Notice the pattern in the remarks (video of part 1 and part 2 below) of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, responding to President Obama's address last night to a joint session of Congress (to bypass the verbiage, skip below for the answer):

Like the president's father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4-½-months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a "pre-existing condition." To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery, so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.

As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country, and they instilled in me an immigrant's wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: "Bobby, Americans can do anything." I still believe that to this day: Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we can't overcome.
Here in my state of Louisiana, we don't care what party you belong to, if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital.
During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: "Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!" I asked him: "Sheriff, what's got you so mad?" He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, "Sheriff, that's ridiculous." And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!" Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.... This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.
In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. To create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times -- including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences -- we worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, D.C.
To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system, opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it shouldn't take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.
In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana was said to be half under water, and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past.

This speech was primarily about Bobby Jindal; the U.S.A., secondary.

Let The Party Begin!

Apparently, it was ad-libbed and not part of the Governor's prepared remarks, because it does not appear in this transcript. But I noticed it when I heard Bobby Jindal's response last night to President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, and you can hear it here (homonym happy today; video below):

Good evening, and happy Mardi Gras. I'm Bobby Jindal.

Of course it's trivial, or seemingly so, but....

What on earth was the Louisiana Governor doing wishing us a "happy Mardi Gras?"

Now, we know that Repubs for years (or at least before nominating this year the surly John McCain) have tagged their opponents as "gloom and doom Democrats" and Obama was being advised before his speech above all to be optimistic about the economy, but- "happy Mardi Gras?"

It was the wrong tone (struck virtually throughout by the Governor), completely inappropriate to the context of last night's addresses, a dysfunctional economy deteriorating weekly, if not daily. And it should have brought to the mind of members of the Fourth Estate that this was the same party which nominated a 72-year-old presidential candidate who trumpeted "America First" while he selected Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat (or, in this case, a carcinoma) from the presidency. A presidential nominee who not too long ago declared "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" running with someone who couldn't name a newspaper she read, yet who somehow could discern that an opponent promising a tax cut to roughly 90% of the public was a "socialist." An unserious presidential nominee, an unserious vice-presidential nominee, and now an unserious potential presidential candidate. And an unserious party.

Address To The Nation

Pat Buchanan, being Pat Buchanan, didn't mean it favorably; but this afternoon on MSNBC, Buchanan commented this afternoon "Barack Obama emerged last night as a Great Society liberal." Sorry (not) to disabuse the former Nixon speechwriter and Presidential aspirant, syndicated columnist, and so much else, but the Great Society was, on the whole, a success, especially until derailed by the Vietnam War.

And I guess the public agrees. A CNN/Opinion Research Survey taken promptly after completion of Pesident Obama's non-State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress found

Eighty-five percent of those polled said the president's speech made them feel more optimistic about the direction the country is headed in the next few years, with 11 percent indicating the speech made the feel more pessimistic.

Eighty-two percent of speech watchers say they support the economic plan Obama outlined in his prime-time address, with 17 percent opposing the proposals.

Sure, the polling director cautioned the numbers "are no better or worse that Bill Clinton or George W. Bush got after their first speeches to Congress," but, for whatever significance one wants to vest in the results, Americans certainly like what they heard.

As well they should have. Obama laid out the issues in a manner likely to be understood those of us not economists, as when he explained

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can't afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government - and yes, probably more than we've already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

Striking a populist note, the instinctively and stylistically non-populist Obama advocated "finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas" and noted

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

And with GOP mouthpieces like Limbaugh and Hannity incessantly claiming that Obama intends to raise taxes, the President made clear:

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you'll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut - that's right, a tax cut - for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

Not all the speech was sound, of course. Obama again promoted charter schools as a prescription for our education woes suggesting, with appointment of Chicago's own Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, that he is not triangulating or trying to appease the corporate elements of his party, but instead severely misguided.

As economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, Obama was insufficiently bold with his stimulus package- and may prove to be so in his general management of the economy. Still, the President appears to have convinced the nation that, above all, he is committed to finding what will work, and has impressed the nation with his seriousness. The latter may be setting the bar rather low but, judged against his opposition in November and the response of the Republican spokesman following the address, is quite an achievement.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Republican Media- No. 20

PolitiFact has applied its Truth-O-Meter to the (in)famous Republican claim of up to $30 million in the recently enacted stimulus bill to protect the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.

Among others, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Representatives Steve King of Iowa and Mike Pence of Indiana, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, the Washington Times, and the Drudge Report have maintained or implied that Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered an earmark in the bill to support a project they have delighted in ridiculing.

Though of little concern to the critics, there is no such appropriation. PolitiFact explains that when relevant parties were asked to specify projects for the stimulus proposal, engineer Steve Ritchie of the California State Coastal Conservancy

.....prepared a list of the agency's shovel-ready projects and submitted it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, both of which received money in the final version of the stimulus bill.

Three projects would turn abandoned industrial salt operations back into natural wetlands, about 26,000 acres in all. It turns out the mouse is an endangered species that likes tidal salt marshes, and it's mentioned by name as one of several species that will benefit.

But the projects themselves — the South Bay Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project , the Napa Plant Site , and the Napa Salt Marsh restoration — are intended to do more than just benefit wildlife. It's major construction work to create recreation areas and to restore marshland that will resist flooding and storm surge.

There is no money in the stimulus act for mice and Politifact graded the Repubs' charge as completely false.

But why would the mere recitation of a major Republican talking point constitute evidence of a pro-Republican bias in the media?

Because the legend of the salt marsh mice is not only a Republican talking point but also a New York Times talking point- that New York Times, the liberal bogeyman of Republican imagination. In an article of February 21, Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes:

Besides, there are political gains to be made by standing tough. Mr. Gingrich sees the stimulus bill as his party’s ticket to a revival in 2010, as Republicans decry what they see as pork-barrel spending for projects like marsh-mouse preservation. “You can imagine the fun people will have with that,” he said.

Neglecting to mention that the bill included no such funds was no mistake of a mere reporter but of the editor. Greg Sargent explains that a reader of his e-mailed Ms. Stolberg and received a response which read in part

I did write in the story I submitted that the assertion was misleading, but I’m sorry to report that language was removed by editors and that I didn’t notice the deletion. My initial text read like this:

“….as Republicans decry, often misleadingly, what they see as pork-barrel spending for projects like marsh mouse preservation....”

“Still, I think the wording as published was not inaccurate.”

Not strictly inaccurate- the article did not indicate the funds were in the bill, only clearly implying they were there- but grossly misleading. (And the original wording itself might have left the impression not that the project was absent but merely that it might not be considered "pork-barrel spending.")

Blithely repeating a Republican talking point as gospel, the New York Times demonstrated the tilt toward the GOP of the establishment media, cowed by farcical charges it typically exhibits a liberal bias.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Silly Michael Steele

It's a long way from Senator Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) and Caroline Kennedy to the disreputable Michael Steele, newly-elected chairman of the Limbaugh National Committee. Still....

Many of us on the left treated the latest pronouncement from Mr. Steele with loud guffaws when he told the Washington Times' Ralph Z. Hallow

We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings....

It will be avant garde, technically. It will come to table with things that will surprise everyone - off the hook.... I don't do 'cutting-edge'.... That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge.

Now, you might find that silly, superficial, and condescending. And you'd be right. But this frivolous appeal to youth has its antecedents in the presidential campaign we've just been through.

Here is Time Magazine's explanation from January, 2008 of how a member of that great deliberative body, the United States Senate, thoughtfully determined which individual could best serve as leader of the Free World:

But there's something about an 18-year-old that can't abide careful hedging and cautious steps. The Senator's daughter Maddie Esposito had seen the way her mother teared up whenever she heard Obama speak. And now it was happening again as mother and daughter sat side by side on the family-room sofa in a suburb of St. Louis, watching the results of the Iowa caucuses on TV. "You know you believe in him," Maddie admonished her damp-eyed mother. "It's time to step up." The next morning, Maddie, a college freshman home for the holidays, added a threat: "You have to do it, or I'm never talking to you again."

McCaskill endorsed Obama — a big boost in an important Super Tuesday primary state.

And also in January, an extremely high-profile endorsement from the scion of the ultimate Democratic family:

And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals....

He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process....

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Iraq; Iran; nuclear proliferation; health care; taxes; trade; immigration; Social Security; education; housing. No, decide because a teen-age daughter told you what to think or because the spirit of the deceased has transferred to one candidate the ability to inspire young people.

(And watch John McCain here pander to ill-informed young voters on Social Security.)

True, Michael Steele is (insert adjective here; numerous apply). What he says is nonsense, but give him this: he didn't start the fire.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Cartoon

"Yeah, I've got a complaint. This cartoon stinks."
-Jerry Seinfeld to "Elaine" (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) in Seinfeld episode "The Cartoon," 1998

In its Friday edition, the New York Post ran the following editorial:

Wednesday's Page Six cartoon - caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut - has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp's body: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.


But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon - even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.

Though the Post contended (with no reference to any politician) the cartoon "was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill- period," psychic Rush Limbaugh the previous day had found

this is a play on that chimpanzee that went nuts the other day up in Stamford, Connecticut, the cops had to shoot, and the caption here, one cop to another: They'll have to find somebody else to write the next stimulus bill. Obama didn't write the stimulus bill. He delegated it. I don't know that he's even read it. I don't know how many people have read it front-to-back. But if anything is being lampooned here, it's Nancy Pelosi.

Notwithstanding Rush's intuitive ability to find in the cartoon a Democratic politician who apparently escaped cartoonist Sean Delonas' attention, the New York Post's non-apology was remarkable for its defensiveness, claiming: 1) it did not depict President Obama, even though you think it did; 2) if you were ignorant enough to think it did, we apologize; 3) however, we're not being criticized legitimately, only by those with a grudge against us; and 4) you can kiss our posterior.

It's rather hard to believe that the chimpanzee, as Limbaugh maintained, is meant to represent a middle-aged Italian-American woman, especially one whose preferences were not faithfully reflected in the final version of the bill. It's almost (not quite) as hard to believe that it was not meant to depict a black man. And if it, as the Post claims, was merely meant to "mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill," it does not approach the threshold of humor, poignancy, or significance for a political cartoon. Or as Jerry aptly told Elaine about her failed attempt to draw a funny cartoon featuring a pig, "this cartoon stinks."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Of Holder And Obama

Patrick J. Buchanan, practically ubiquitous on MSNBC, appeared on Hardball Thursday in debate with Michael Eric Dyson about Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks Wednesday to Justice Department employees on to mark African American History Month.

Not surprisingly, but accurately nonetheless, the passionately culturally conservative Buchanan argued that referring to Americans as "essentially a nation of cowards" is not conducive to starting a dialogue about race.

Fair enough, but also fair enough to note that Holder's remark as applied to the reticence of Americans to discuss the issue with people of another race is largely valid. The Attorney General deserves credit also for observing "there can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited." Unfortunately, a moment later Holder would refer to officials, "black or white, elected or self-appointed, who promise relief in easy, quick solutions, no matter how divisive, are embraced- a somewhat cryptic reference to those who would promote "divisive," AKA conservative, solutions.

But then Holder ventured into the arena of political incorrectness, ripping the security net America has erected by establishment of "black history" apart from American history. Without resort to awkward metaphor, he explains it better:

For too long we have been too willing to segregate the study of black history. There is clearly a need at present for a device that focuses the attention of the country on the study of the history of its black citizens. But we must endeavor to integrate black history into our culture and into our curriculums in ways in which it has never occurred before so that the study of black history, and a recognition of the contributions of black Americans, become commonplace. Until that time, Black History Month must remain an important, vital concept. But we have to recognize that until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so called "real" American history.

Still, the main thrust of Holder's remarks (and especially as captured by the mainstream media) is the need for honest communication among Americans of all races about race. And it's not going to happen.

For many years, numerous individuals on the left, such as former New Jersey Senator and presidential aspirant Bill Bradley, have argued for the need for racial dialogue in this country. It has not happened, and will not happen until the right is convinced the left is sincere and open to all opinions on the subject- and maybe not even then. Ironically- but predictably- the election of the nation's first black )or African-American, or biracial) President will not facilitate such a discussion, and may even inhibit it. In his generally wrongheaded monologue today regarding Holder's remarks, Rush Limbaugh reminded his audience that

A number of you people called here, and some of you said, "It's an interesting thing, Rush, I mean if we elect Obama, can't we say the country is no longer racist?"

Similarly, on January 2, 2007, Steve Sailer, a columnist for American Conservative magazine, blogged

So, many whites want to be able to say, "I'm not one of them, those bad whites, like that guy on Seinfeld. Hey, I voted for a black guy for President!"

Plus, I suspect there's an even more hidden reason many whites wish Obama is elected President: They hope that when a black finally moves into the White House, it will prove to African-Americans, once and for all, that white animus isn't the cause of their troubles. All blacks have to do is to act like President Obama—and their problems will be over!

In what is only one example, the day after the presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported on a conversation between a husband and wife (Democrats who decided, reluctantly and at the last minute, to vote for Obama):

Look at all the power people they have,” Mrs. Kluchar added. “Oprah, Colin Powell, Obama. What’s that woman who works for Bush?”

“Condoleezza Rice,” Mr. Kluchar said.

“Right, Condoleezza Rice. I think it’s proof that there are no excuses anymore. It’s up to the individual,” she said.

The dialogue advocated by Holder is desirable. And the election of Barack Obama over John McCain (and, especially, Sarah Palin) was desirable and necessary. But, alas, the latter is not likely to lead to the former.
The Limbaugh Way: 4

To bloggers on the left (at least myself), Rush Limbaugh is, as the cliche has it, the gift that keeps on giving.

In his remarks on Wednesday to Justice Department employees in honor of African American History Month, Attorney General Eric Holder famously, or infamously, contended

Although this nation has proudly thought of itself as a ethic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

Oh, it's not that Limbaugh was completely wrong in his diatribe today. He is not the first person, only the most influential (as head of the Republican Party) to note "people are scared to death to talk about race in this country, Mr. Attorney General, for fear of what's going to be said about them." And his allegation "in some cases, people were afraid to vote the way they really wanted to vote, because they were afraid if people found out what would be said about them" is intriguing, though (characteristically) completely unsubstantiated.

Yet Holder reminded us also:

As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

The integration in the workplace, as the nation's top law enforcement officer therein explained, has not nearly been matched outside the workplace. Over forty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed

we must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.

And it is still, as in most social situations, true. Not, as Limbaugh claimed today, because of "civil rights leaders," who "want segregated everything these days." Nor did Rush serve accuracy with his standard shotgun style, somehow wrapping Holder's remarks into a package with Mark Rich, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama's "clinging" remarks in Pennsylvania during the primary campaign, "you people on the left," and "the Obamas(?) destroying the foreclosure market."

If Rush had chosen, he might instead have admitted that the A.G. argued that exploring the issue of race "risks at best embarrasment and at worse the questioning of one's character." But if he had, the icon of the right would either have had a)to forego noting "people are scared to death to talk about race" or b)to acknowledge that he agreed with Holder. Rather, Limbaugh was able both to complain about Holder and to make his point about (white) people being intimidated into silence. A classic Limbaugh twofer.

In his fairly lengthy, if rambling, remarks, Limbaugh stated also "there is no difference in '09 from 1959? Maybe you need to get out of Washington and start hanging out with the rest of us, Mr. Attorney General. Maybe you need to try actually living where Americans live and where Americans work..." Unfortunately, Rush neglected to quote Attorney General Holder noting

To attend her state’s taxpayer supported college in 1963 my late sister in law had to be escorted to class by United States Marshals and past the state’s governor, George Wallace. That frightening reality seems almost unthinkable to us now. The civil rights movement made America, if not perfect, better.

His conservative rap undermined, it would have been uncomfortable for Rush to admit that the civil rights movement was responsible for much of the improvement we have seen in American society. Meanwhile, the failure of Limbaugh to examine Holder's remarks in full, or at least in substantial part, points to yet another characteristic of his breezy, commercially successful style. Chalk this one up to: superficiality.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Limbaugh Way (3)

On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh claimed:

Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned this story yesterday, and here are the details. It's an AP story from Helena, Montana: "A new national limit on lead in children's products -- which has toy makers scrambling for new testing methods and retailers for storage space for inventory they're not sure they can sell -- also is forcing motorcycle dealers to pull dirt bikes off showroom floors. It became illegal Tuesday to sell off-road machines geared for children younger than 12 because parts in them contain lead at levels greater than 600 parts per million. Most motor vehicles have such parts. 'I think they took this law a little too far,' said Margie Hicklin-Krsul, the owner of Redline Sports, a sports bike dealership in Butte. 'I've never had anyone come in and say, "My child keeps putting parts of his motorcycle into his mouth."'"

So you could say here that government regulations are about to ruin yet another business. I'm unable to get to the bottom of this.

Rush is right. He is unable "to get to the bottom of this;" or the top, the middle, or anywhere with any details or facts. But his assumption that lead can be dangerous only if it is directly ingested flies in the face of everything we know about lead.

Consider this from Environmental Policy As Social Policy? The Impact Of Childhood Lead Exposure On Crime by Jessica Wolpaw Reyes of the National Bureau of Economic Research in May, 2007:

Childhood lead exposure can lead to psychological deficits that are strongly associated with aggressive and criminal behavior. In the late 1970s in the United States, lead was removed from gasoline under the Clean Air Act. Using the sharp state-specific reductions in lead exposure resulting from this removal, this article finds that the reduction in childhood lead exposure in the late 1970s and early 198 s is responsible for significant declines in violent crime in the 1990s, and may cause further declines into the future. The elasticity of violent crime with respect to lead is estimated to be approximately 0.8.

This elasticity, Reyes explained, implies that between 1992 and 2002 the phase-out of lead from gasoline was responsible for approximately a 56% decline in violent crime. She adds "Lead from gasoline can be absorbed directly from breathing in gasoline exhaust from the air and also indirectly from contact with lead deposits that have accumulated in soil." This dwarfs the impact of lead in paint, (absorbed when paint chips are eaten or indirectly when deteriorating paint creates lead dust) and which has declined more gradually, from 1920.

Economist Rick Nevin, studying crime rates across nations for a decade through the mid-1990s, also found a link between exposure to lead and aggressive behavior. He noted

sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead (and) in Britain and most of Europe, they did not have meaningful constraints [on leaded gasoline] until the mid-1980s and even early 1990s. This is the reason you are seeing the crime rate soar in Mexico and Latin America, but [it] has fallen in the United States.

He observed further that the rate of violent crime among adolescent blacks in inner city neighborhoods declined more than among the general population- and those urban neighborhoods are precisely those in which children were more likely to be exposed to lead, and in which more extensive amelioration efforts were undertaken.

Notwithstanding other researchers who have observed the same lead-violent behavior connection, There are several factors which lead to a rise or decline in violent crime. Nevertheless, the failure of Rush Limbaugh to present evidence supporting his pre-determined conclusion, coupled with his assumption that the only way to ingest lead is by eating it, is striking. Chalk this one up to: ignorance.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Off To Asia

It is neither unusual nor counter-intuitive for foreign policy and economic policy to be intertwined, and so it is today. The Washington Post reported Sunday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

departs today for Asia on her maiden voyage as the nation's chief diplomat, and Tokyo snared the symbolically important first stop on four-nation tour. But Clinton and other Obama administration officials have made it clear that they want to move dramatically forward in relations with Beijing, finding new avenues for cooperation between the world's biggest economy and the world's fastest-growing economy, especially on climate change and the environment.

It's hard to determine how a nation can "move dramatically forward" in relations with a regime which sends weapons to fuel conflicts in Sudan, Burma, and Nepal; arms thugs in Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, and Thailand; transfers nuclear weapons technology; threatens neighbors with a massive military buildup; oppresses Tibet; and actively encourages abortion and sterilization.

Still, the United States cannot neglect completely the Butchers of Beijing. In the wake of passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill, the nation's budget deficit, otherwise expected to hit $1.2 trillion dollars this year, is expected to hit $1.4 trillion. Money can be printed- posing an eventual threat of hyperinflation- or borrowed, largely from the mainland Chinese or from banks in Japan, a nation itself suffering its worst economic downturn since 1974.

But there is good news: our status as a debtor nation to Beijing may not further distort our relationship with the totalitarian regime. Luo Ping, a director-general at the China Banking Regulatory Commission, told reporters "Except for U.S. Treasuries, what can you hold? Gold? You don't hold Japanese government bonds or U.K. bonds. U.S. Treasuries are the safe haven. For everyone, including China, it is the only option."
Oil Prices

The Washington Post reports:

Car ownership in China is exploding (and) China's demand for gas is much of the reason for the dramatic run-up in global oil prices.

China alone accounts for about 40 percent of the world's recent increase in demand for oil, burning through twice as much now as it did a decade ago. Fifteen years ago, there were almost no private cars in the country. By the end of last year, the number had reached 15.2 million.

The New York Times reports:

Bolstered by speedy economic development and industrialization, energy demand from Asia has been one of the main contributors to higher oil prices. Over the last two years, China and India accounted for about 70 percent of the increase in energy demand and the world’s energy needs would increase 55 percent by 2030.

And so we were informed on July 28, 2008 (by WaPo) and on November 7, 2007 (NYT) that the soaring rise in demand for energy in the Asian behemoths played a major role in rising gas prices.

After the latter report, as we all know, gasoline prices in the U.S.A. plunged.

We shouldn't have been surprised. Whatever the cause(s) of the runup last year in gasoline prices, it's hardly likely that the mainland Chinese and the Indians accomodated us in the second half of 2008 by drasticaly cutting their demand so we could buy $1.69 a gallon gas in Dearborn, Michigan or Las Vegas, Nevada.

Fortunately, we are not hearing the same wildly exaggerated and misleading claim for the rise in gas prices now going on nationwide- while the price of crude oil continues to tank (pun intended). Chris Kahn and John Porretto of the Associated Press explain:

The benchmark for crude oil prices is West Texas Intermediate, drilled exactly where you would imagine. That's the price, set at the New York Mercantile Exchange, that you see quoted on business channels and in the morning paper.

Right now, in an unusual market trend, West Texas crude is selling for much less than inferior grades of crude from other places around the world. A severe economic downturn has left U.S. storage facilities brimming with it, sending prices for the premium crude to five-year lows.

But it is the overseas crude that goes into most of the gas made in the United States. So prices at the pump will probably keep going up no matter what happens to the benchmark price of crude oil.

Those of us who like paying under $2.00 a gallon might ask: why not buy the better, cheaper oil?

The AP writers continue:

Historically, West Texas International crude has cost more. So nobody bothered building the necessary pipelines to carry it beyond the nearby refineries in the Midwest, parts of Texas, and a handful of other places.

And nobody (e.g., consultant, economist) at a major oil company could figure out that at some point the cost of oil from such places as the North Sea, Saudi Arabia, and South America would eclipse that from west Texas? No one thought that oil supplies to Americans would rise and prices decline if pipelines were constructed to transport the crude to the refineries and to market?

Attribute it to incompetence or to greed of the oil companies. Better yet, given the state of American capitalism (conveniently transformed into corporate socialism) call it just another example of the inefficiency of the free market.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Article Of The Week

In his February 13 post, titled "End the Honeymoon," senior editor John B. Judis of The New REpublic attempts to explain "Why the left is to blame for the lackluster stimulus and bank bailout."

Judis understands the stimulus act will do more harm than good but recognizes "all in all, it wasn't as good as it could be. It's probably too small and too skewed toward tax cuts for upper-income people who won't necessarily spend them." He believes that Obama did not demand a bill which would provide more stimulus (and tilt less toward the privileged) primarily because "there is not a popular left movement that is agitating for him to go well beyond where he would even ideally like to go."

Apparently, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has come to realize that Obama's post-partisan impulse is not matched by the GOP. Jonathan Weisman reported on February 12 in The Wall Street Journal that in an interview with reporters

Mr. Emanuel owned up to one mistake: message. What he called the outside game slipped away from the White House last week, when the president and others stressed bipartisanship rather than job creation as they moved toward passing the measure. White House officials allowed an insatiable desire in Washington for bipartisanship to cloud the economic message a point coming clear in a study being conducted on what went wrong and what went right with the package, he said.

Judis notes the unfortunate description of the stimulus bill by one liberal group, Campaign for America's Future, as "a darn good first step" and the ad run by the labor group Americans United for Change (backed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), which thanked Senators Collins, Snowe, Nelson (of Nebraska) and Specter "for agreeing to back the stimulus bill that they had significantly weakened." He observes they, and others, "made the mistake that political groups often make subordinating their concern about issues to their support for the party and its leading politician."

There have been, of course, some voices on the left urging Obama to recognize the Repub Party as the forces of "just say no" and negotiate from the position of strength that his and his party's election, and his own impressive popularity, have afforded him. Judis cites Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who "blame(s) President Obama's belief that he can transcend the partisan divide- a belief that warped his economic strategy." Krugman points out when the President "finally introduced his economic plan he immediately began negotiating with himself, preemptively offering concessions to the GOP, which voted against the plan anyway."

Similarly, Newsweek's Michael Hirsh wrote on February 4 "Obama's desire to begin a "post-partisan" era may have backfired. In his eagerness to accommodate Republicans and listen to their ideas over the past week, he has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending.

Judis neglects to mention the criticism of the President's strategy emanating from the blogging left, such as firedoglake's Jane Hamsher, balloon juice's John Cole, hullabaloo's digby, and open left's David Sirota. But he doesn't limit the blame to the activist left or excuse Obama himself, instead asking "what would have been the result if these groups had gone after Obama and Reid.... (and) the self-appointed centrists? They would have certainly incurred the wrath of the Obama administration."

If Judis is a little unfair for blaming the left for, as digby herself puts it, "not being shrill enough," his criticism is a useful counterweight to the mainstream media and the political class, which oozes contempt for the left precisely because the latter questions established beltway wisdom. And moving the political debate, though uncomfortable to the President and his chief of staff, may be just the tonic for a country coming off eight years of reactionary, failed leadership.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Limbaugh Way (2)

Writing on February 3 in The American Prospect, Paul Waldman of Media Matters for America accurately describes the current strategy of beltway conservatives:

And lately they have been holding their fire to a degree that seems downright weird to anyone who lived through the 1990s. Look what Fred Barnes wrote in the Weekly Standard: "For the foreseeable future, attacking Obama will be counterproductive for Republicans. He's both enormously popular and the bearer of moral authority as the first African-American president. So the idea is for Republicans to make Obama an ally by using his words, from the inaugural address and speeches and interviews, against Democrats and their initiatives in Congress."

Rush Limbaugh, who would invoke his (mythical) Second Amendment right to brandish a firearm if you called him a beltway or establishment conservative, is among the few on the right to take a decidely anti-Obama stand. On January 16 he famously declared

I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: "Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails." Somebody's gotta say it.....

....Why in the world do we want to saddle them with more liberalism and socialism? Why would I want to do that? So I can answer it, four words, "I hope he fails." And that would be the most outrageous thing anybody in this climate could say. Shows you just how far gone we are. Well, I know, I know. I am the last man standing.

In an interview with fellow rightist Sean Hannity taped January 19, Rush explained

....So I shamelessly say, "No! I want him to fail." If his agenda is a far-left collectivism -- some people say socialism -- as a conservative heartfelt, deeply, why would I want socialism to succeed?

And given by Hannity, who responded with the leading question "You want your country to succeed, and you believe that his views implemented represent failure, predictable failure, and conservatism would represent predictable success," Limbaugh still was unable to say that he wanted his country to succeed.

Limbaugh was still at it yesterday, on Friday the 13th, when he clearly stated

Of course I want this to fail. Of course I want Obama to fail. And after this stimulus bill package passes, I want it to fail.

On January 16th Limbaugh boasted "I am the last man standing" meaning, obviously, not in opposing the President's plan but in hoping that the President fails. On January 19, urged to profess his hope the country succeeds, Limbaugh took a pass. And on February 13, he disentangled the bill ("I want this to fail") and the President ("I want Obama to fail"). Pretty clear, even if our conservative friends at don't want to admit it.

And Rush's desire for the President of the United States of America to fail preceeded proposal of a stimulus package or even inauguration of Barack Obama. On January 19 Limbaugh proudly had proclaimed:

"Well, everybody wants him to succeed." Well, no. And it isn't based on race!....

(If Rush were talking about the job creation bill rather than the individual, he would have made no mention of race.)

He could have said that he opposes Barack Obama's policies. He could have said even that he opposes Barack Obama's policies and hopes they fail but that the country thrives in spite of those misguided policies. No, on this one point Rush Limbaugh is clear: he wants President Barack Obama, and the country he leads, to fail. Chalk this on up to: conflicted priorities.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Limbaugh Way (1)

Now that Rush Limbaugh has assumed leadership of the Republican Party (video below), it's instructive to look at some of his guiding principles. On February 12, El Rushbo (as he likes to call himself) went off:

This (Democratic U.S. Representative of California Brad) Sherman guy obviously is a dunce. For a member of Congress to be telling CEOs of anything, they have to sell their jets? Does this guy not understand, for crying out loud, this Congress is supposed to be about creating jobs, we're told. They're out there trying to destroy the automobile business. Now they're trying to destroy private aviation.

And Limbaugh on November 11, 2008 regarding an automotive rescue plan supported by most Democrats, the United Auto Workers, and General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler:

This notion that we, the taxpayers, might profit if the government bails out the Big Three and that somehow we're supposed to go along with this on that basis, insults my intelligence.

Same guy, same subject, different date (December 10, 2008):

This is a travesty what is happening here. It is a pure, 100% travesty. There is so much anger for this bailout out there. If the Republicans do not stand up to this, I don't care how much Obama screws up, nobody's going to have the guts to vote for Republicans anymore. A lot of Republicans are saying, "But, Rush, how do we oppose this? This is President Bush, and he's doing this. President Bush is signing off on it." Take a stand! You gonna be dealing with an incoming Democrat administration that you're going to have to be taking stands against all the time. Take a stand on this.

Rush opposes a rescue plan for the domestic automotive industry. But this Congress is "out there trying to destroy the automobile business." Chalk this one up to: hypocrisy.

The Politically Correct Senate Minority Leader

Pam's House Blend has has the video of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) on GOP TV criticizing the economic stimulus bill by alleging:

- "We will have made a dramatic move in the direction of indeed turning America into western Europe";

-"This paints a picture of the Europeanization of America"; and

-"We continue (i.e., at present) to have a vibrant private sector" (things must be pretty good in Kentucky!)

Now, you might not want to belittle a major region of the world which has a greater reverence than does the U.S.A. for the past (including for people) and neglects to show the partiality of conservative Republicans for growing income inequality accompanied by a declining middle class. Or, you might have noticed numerous nations in western Europe and a diversity greater than, say, Kentucky. But I thought immediately of something less significant and more ironic. From the website

Dead white men or DWEM (an acronym standing for "Dead White European Male"), is a pejorative term used most commonly to refer to a tradition of thought and pedagogy which stresses the importance of individual European males from the past, at the expense of other forces (economic or social, for example) or groups of people (for example, non-Europeans and women)....

DWEM is a rhetorical device used to deride the emphasis on Western civilization in schools (especially those in the United States), as the majority of figures considered "significant" in Western civilization are white males who are usually dead. The term was used pejoratively in the early 1990s by those advocating multicultural studies. The term finds widespread usage among members of the educational establishment who see students as agents of social change.

Mitch McConnell, if he is aware of it, apparently would be loathe to acknowledge that the attack on "dead white european males" in the university was the genesis of the "politically correct" movement which conservatives smugly delight in ridiculing. And note that the proudly conservative McConnell, like other right-wing Repubs, never derides Asia, Latin America, Africa, or anywhere nearly as much as western Europe, northern Europe, or just plain "Europe." It is difficult, apparently, for a party and an ideology sensitive to the charges of racism, or at least insensitivity to minorities, to criticize any region from which many recently naturalized Americans (AKA voters) hail. Far easier to criticize Europe or, in this case, western Europe, whose inhabitants long ago came to the U.S.A. and whose identity as Europeans generally has long ago been overtaken by their identity as Americans (or as Lutherans, Roman Catholics, men, women, whites, or whatever).

Get a backbone, Mitch. Or some perspective. Or just old common sense. Anything.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fiscal Wrangling

The United States Senate, with the assistance of three Republican Senators (Specter of Pennsylvania and Collins and Snowe of Maine), yesterday approved a $838 billion bill to arrest the deepening recession. In its bid to take a chunk of the stimulus out of the House of Representatives' stimulus bill (and to make the proposal appealing to a few Republicans), so-called Senate "centrists" worked out numerous changes to the House bill, most of which are regressive, and all of which are detailed here.

Paul Krugman, in his blog of February 4, said it best: "when it came to stimulus legislation, when Obama finally introduced his economic plan he immediately began negotiating with himself, preemptively offering concessions to the GOP, which voted against the plan anyway."

And now comes more discouraging news. On February 4, President Obama announced curbs on compensation of senior executives at companies receiving Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds. But as Representative Brad Sherman (D.-Ca.) points out, there are three major loopholes. He notes

First, the terms do not apply to firms like Citigroup or AIG who have already received TARP funds, unless they receive even more. Both Citigroup and AIG have both received over $45 billion, and they face no limits on executive compensation if they choose to retain what they have received without seeking more.... Second, most of the firms who received TARP funds in the future are allowed to pay any amount in executive compensation or bonuses.... Third, the proposal has no effective limits on luxury perks. The Administration’s proposal simply requires boards of directors to adopt policies on such luxury items as private jets and lavish parties.

It has been said "God is in the details" or "the devil is in the details" (a curious duo). One can only hope that upon dissemination of additional TARP funds and negotiation between the House and the Senate on the stimulus bill, more God than Satan is present.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Economic Fantasy

The Republican Party continues to construct, or to propagate its already constructed, alternate economic reality.

Newly-elected head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, wasted no time in his appearance on this morning's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. In response to Stephanopoulos' first question/comment, Steele remarked (page 3 of transcript):

Well, I think that's laughable. I mean, he acts like we have spent the last eight years in -- in this -- in the mess that we're currently in. This is about 18 months old.

The reality of it is, Bush inherited a recession. He got us through that recession. The spending was out of whack. There's no doubt about that. And a lot of Republicans had a problem with the level of spending that took place during that time.

But the economy did grow. Close to 6 million jobs were created.

The "Bush inherited a recession" line just won't die. Though Mr. Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, CNN reported on November 21, 2008

The world's largest economy sank into a recession in March, ending 10 years of growth that was the longest expansion on record in the United States, a group of economists that dates U.S. business cycles said Monday.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), composed of academic economists from Harvard, Stanford and other universities, joined a chorus of economists and investors who were saying that a recession had already begun. The group posted its decision on its Web site.

It ruled that the long expansion ended in March and the nation's tenth recession since the end of World War II began at the same time.

If it is only fair to suggest there is little a President Bush could have done in 1-2 months to hold off a recession, it's only accurate to note that "the longest expansion lasted exactly 10 years. The previous record for uninterrupted economic growth was set in the 1960s, a period of eight years and 10 months lasting from February 1961 to December 1969." And analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, finding

seasonally adjusted numbers for nonfarm jobs (defined as those not involving farm work, general government, private households, or nonprofit organizations serving individuals), in its 8 years (from January 2001 to January 2009 (est.)), the Bush Administration created 2,111,000 jobs or 21,990/month. 150,000 to 200,000 per month would be expected to accompany an economic expansion or, in other words, 14.4 million to 19.2 million over the course of an 8 year Presidency. Under Bush, the economy also lost 4,401,000 manufacturing jobs. These are jobs that traditionally had good wages and benefits and at the end of the Bush Administration accounted for only 12.71 million of the nation’s 134.6 million nonfarm jobs (or 9.4% of them). Bush lost twice as many of these good paying manufacturing jobs during his time in office as he has created jobs of all other kinds. In all, the US lost 25.7% of its manufacturing jobs under Bush.

By contrast in the 8 years of the Clinton Administration (from January 1993 to January 2001), 22,744,000 nonfarm jobs were created or ~237,000/month. Bush’s job creation rate was only 9.3% of the Clinton rate. At the same time, manufacturing jobs in the Clinton years showed a modest increase of 323,000.

So despite a spurt in defense spending in the last Administration, a little over 2.1 million- not 6 million- jobs were created (according to the Wall Street Journal, 3.0 million), compared to 22+ million under Bill Clinton. And the U.S.A. lost over one-fourth of its manufacturing jobs- traditionally those with good pay and benefits-during the Bush Administration.

To be sure, Repub pols do not embrace the Bush presidency; far from it. To hear them speak of the last president, it is almost as if the latter existed almost in a kind of political limbo, not a Democrat but not a Republican, either, just someone held captive by an evil, left-wing Congress (though sometimes controlled by the GOP, a fact in danger of being lost in history). An understandable approach, politically, but one which should not go uncontested.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Leno, Letterman, Stewart Not Threatened

Senate leaders and the White House have reached agreement on an $827 billion stimulus package, about which President

Obama said earlier in the day that further delay would be "inexcusable and irresponsible" given yesterday's worst monthly unemployment report in a generation -- 598,000 jobs lost in January and the national unemployment rate rising to 7.6 percent. And late yesterday, federal regulators announced the closures of three banks, First Bank Financial Services in Georgia and Alliance Bank and County Bank in California, raising to nine the number of bank failures this year.

Already, too many jobs being lost; too little credit extended; too few homes being sold; too many banks failing; too many businesses closing; and on and on. And Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.-MN.) gets up before the National Press Club and quips

"John Edwards is still talking about two Americas. It turned out to be the greatest pickup line ever."

So it is worth remembering about all the months wasted- first being deceived into thinking the economy was strong (see, Scarborough, Joe: autumn, 2007) and then railing over "socialism." And recalling a report of December 22, 2007 from Bloomberg News:

The federal government should help fund new light-rail lines, parking lots near mass-transit stations and other energy-efficient transportation projects that can get under way in 90 days as a way to stimulate the economy. ``Hard-working families across America are already struggling to make ends meet. ``Before things get worse, I urge Congress to take action immediately to strengthen our economy and create new jobs.''

He said the initial $25 billion (of $75 billion) would go for investments in clean energy such as wind farms and weatherizing homes and businesses; to train workers for new jobs in the clean energy field; for aid to states to avoid cuts in Medicaid, education and other services; and for extended unemployment benefits. (He) also called for a home relief fund to provide counseling and financial assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. He also asked Congress to enact new legislation against predatory lending.

Not any Republican (obviously), Larry Summers (almost as obviously), Barack Obama, or Amy Klobuchar. But John Edwards.... more than 13 months ago. Fortunately, Congressional Democrats (other than Ben Nelson and a few others) now understand the enormity of the situation Mr. Edwards had begun to grasp back when one party thought the economy was just fine and the other party could offer no remedy. And thankfully it won't be long before the people of Minnesota will benefit from the addition of a truly effective Democratic Senator to the upper chamber in Washington, D.C.

Friday, February 06, 2009

State Politics

While the stimulus debate rages in Washington, politics is still going on elsewhere, especially in the following states:

Missouri: Thankfully, Repub Senator Kit Bond has chosen not to run for a fifth term to the United States Senate and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, daughter of a former Governor and of a U.S. Senator, has announced her intention to run (video below) for the Democratic nomination to succeed Bond. Public Policy Polling has her ahead of three possible Repub challengers, Representative Roy Blunt, former U.S. Senator Jim Talent, and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

Kentucky: Second-generation Italian-American Daniel Mongiardo, the Lieutenant Governor who was defeated by incumbent Senator and far rightie Jim Bunning (R.- Philadelphia Phillies) in 2004, has announced his intention to challenge Bunning again, in 2010. Mongiardo is a physician and graduate of Transylvania University (don't know anything about it, but gotta love the name) who has incurred some hostility from the left for co-sponsoring SP 245, Kentucky's pending constitutional amendment against gay marriage. But, according to this post, as a state senator, he supported legislation to add "harassment, intimidation, or bullying of a student" for any of the characteristics listed in the state's hate-crime law; supports overtime pay and fair trade (not the euphemistically- named "free trade") to protect his state's workers; permitting importation of prescription drugs from Canada; a patient's right to sue his/her health maintenance organization; investment in alternative energy; and opposes privatization of Social Security.

Ohio: The popularity of Democratic Governor Ted Strickland has soared with introduction of his education plan and he now crushes in a hypothetical match-up either of his most likely 2010 GOP opponents, former U.S. Representative and Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich and former Senator Mike Dewine. Strickland, whose name was mentioned (though he had definitively denied any interest) first as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton and then for Barack Obama, has been named along with numerous others as a possible nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary.

Virginia: Democratic Governor Tim Kaine, reportedly one of the three finalists (along with Evan Bayh and Biden) as Barack Obama's running mate, is constitutionally precluded from running for a second term. The most prominent Republican aspirant for the statehouse, Lieutenant Governor Robert T. McDonnell, is leading in a poll against each of these three possible Democratic opponents: Representative R. Creigh Deeds, former state legislator Brian T. Moran, and businessman Terry McAuliffe (yes, that Terry McAuliffe). Virginia is one of only two states with a gubernatorial election in 2009, the other being....

New Jersey: A Quinnipiac University poll shows former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the leading Repub candidate for governor and buddy of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, with a lead against incumbent Governor Jon Corzine, with lots undecided. Christie has the political profile- largely ideologically unknown and flexible- a Republican probably needs in this liberal, and thus Democratic, state.... and can boast of prosecuting more than 130 elected and appointed political officials, a misleading, though potent (especially with the mainstream media) claim.

With the country being run (sort of) by a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, this autumn may be a fearful time for a Democrat to be running for chief executive of a state or even U.S. Senator.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Republican Media- No. 19

Republican heartthrob Sarah Palin is back in the news. First came the report on January 27 that the Alaska Governor has formed a leadership political action committee, SarahPAC. Two days later, Rassmussen Reports published its finding that 55% of the Repub electorate wants its party to be more like the 2008 vice-presidential nominee, while only 24% say the same about John McCain.

These items come a few weeks after Mrs. Palin during an interview (video below) on January 5 told right-wing John Ziegler, maker of the upcoming documentary How Obama Got Elected, "I’ve been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope.”

Hoping that Caroline Kennedy would not be appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in New York, I was pleased to see that after initial excitement about the possibility of the return of the Camelot aura, Ms. Kennedy came under withering criticism (though the ridicule was overdone). If Sarah Palin would only see beyond her whining partisanship, she might recognize the parallel betweeen the treatment of her candidacy and that of Mrs. Schlossberg.

Though the Governor came to be widely criticized- for reasons she brought on herself-she initially was adored by the mainstream media. As this adoring blog from The Christian Science Monitor noted on September 4, Mrs. Palin's acceptance speech (and, in most cases, she herself) at the Repub National Convention was nearly universally applauded by the mainstream media, garnering praise from such figures as Bob Schieffer (CBS), Jay Carney (Time), Wolf Blitzer (CNN), George Stephanopoulos (ABC), Chris Matthews (MSNBC), and Tom Shales (The Washington Post).

Even on October 22, nearly eight weeks after Palin was selected by McCain and after much doubt justifiably had been cast on her candidacy, the Alaska governor got some good press. On that date, the Politico's John Martin reported:

AP's Glen Johnson has a Palin moment at an Ohio rally today that will play much better in "real Virginia" than at any Georgetown cocktail parties:

Palin was exuberant before the crowd, demanding an autograph from warm-up singer Gretchen Wilson, famed for her song, "Redneck Woman."

Palin joked: "Someone called me a 'redneck woman' once. You know what I said back? 'Thank-you very much.'"

As much as Mrs. Palin was portrayed as inexperienced and lacking in knowledge compared to what one might expect of an individual vying to be one hearbeat of a 71-year old man from the Presidency, so was she portrayed as an average person, the woman next door, with a real family with issues shared by real people. Perhaps that's why she was not questioned when she told Katie Couric (video way below)

I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, 'wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."

According to the then-Republican nominee for vice-president and the media, which virtually ignored the remark, Alaska is like a microcosm of America. Except, compared to the rest of the country, in terms of political affiliation (its electoral votes having gone to the GOP's presidential nominee the last eleven elections and now considered the fourth most Republican state); ethnicity (few blacks or Hispanics but 15.6% Alaskan Native or American Indian); weather (average annual snowfall in Anchorage, 70.6 inches; in Juneau, 97.3 inches); topography (the eleven highest mountains); size (largest); population density (lowest); location (not part of the continental United States). And religion: Sarah Palin, darling of the cultural right, presides over one of the three least religious states in the U.S.A.

Alaskans are Americans, too- like residents of Hawaii; Puerto Rico; Manhattan, New York; and Manhattan, Kansas. Only none of those jurisdictions has a wealthy chief executive who, with her willing accomplices in the mainstream media, passed herself off as an average person from an average place. That, disturbingly, might even have been enough to bring victory to the McCain-Palin ticket, were the attention the American people might have given to good looks, charm, and personality not diverted by war, economic crisis, and other disasters brought to us by her party.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Article Of The Week

Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew, What's The Matter With Kansas, One Market Under God, and other books, also writes a weekly column at The Wall Street Journal, which would be akin to The Nation magazine asking Newt Gingrich to be a regular contributor.

In his column, "Obama Should Act Like He Won," of January 14, 2009, Frank demonstrated once again that he has figured it out- or, in the phrase, now trite, of Anita Hill's feminist supporters- "gets it." He writes

The reason centrism finds an enthusiastic audience in Washington, I think, is because it appeals naturally to the Beltway journalistic mindset, with its professional prohibition against coming down solidly on one side or the other of any question. Splitting the difference is a way of life in this cynical town.

The function of this "Beltway centrism" (a cousin of the politically correct "bipartisanship"), Frank noted, "has not been to wage high-minded war against 'both extremes' but to fight specifically against the economic and foreign policies of liberalism." Tongue pressed firmly against cheek, Frank cites as "centrism's achievements" NAFTA, repeal of the Glasss-Steagall Act, and the Iraq war resolution. Liberals have demonstrated dysfunctional flexibility while "conservatives pressed laissez-faire through good times and bad, soldiering on even in years when suggesting that America was a 'center-right nation' would have made one an instant laughingstock."

NAFTA, the Gramm-Bliley-Leach Act, and the acquiescence of the mainstream media in the run-up to Gulf War II are only a few of the examples in which the media has practiced a centrism intended to repudiate liberalism. Yet, much of the public, attention diverted by abortion and gay rights, clings to the myth of the "liberal media," oblivious to the conservative orthodoxy to which the media hews on the less bewitching issues of foreign policy and economics.

Writing six days before the new President's inauguration, Frank observed "there is no branch of American political expression more trite, more smug, more hollow than centrism." This would be two weeks before approval of the Democrats' stimulus bill in the House after elements which had apparently offended Republican lawmakers were eliminated. When the bill passed- with unanimous Republican opposition- Frank's uncomfortable conclusion that "centrism is a chump's game" was, at least for now, vindicated.


The husband-wife (or, rather, wife-husband) duo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Martha-Ann Alito nee Bomgardner flew an upside do...