Friday, December 05, 2008
We trust that Mr. Obama was serious when he promised change and will select someone who -- instead of just tinkering with a tired, low-performing system -- will be bold in choosing new directions for American education.
The different education factions of the party -- those pushing for radical restructuring and those more wedded to the status quo -- were each convinced during the campaign that Mr. Obama shared their particular viewpoints. So it is not clear whether Mr. Obama is leaning toward the "disrupters," House education committee chairman George Miller's approving description of the reformers, or the "incrementalists" who are allied with teachers unions.
So the Post writers want Obama to pursue "new directions for American education", a path the editors see as "pushing for radical restructuring" in American schools, which, the editors claim, is the opposite path of those "wedded to the status quo".
But what is the status quo, exactly?
The choice of Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond to head the education policy transition group, along with speculation that she is a candidate for secretary or deputy secretary, is not reassuring to those in the reform movement. Ms. Darling-Hammond has been more critical than supportive of the No Child Left Behind law, dislikes linking teacher pay to test scores and is no fan of Teach for America. It would be a mistake to retreat from the accountability that No Child Left Behind has brought in improving learning and narrowing the achievement gap for minority students. And the next secretary should encourage the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship typified by Teach for America's success in attracting top college graduates to inner-city schools. Indeed, Mr. Obama might want to look to this new generation of educators -- people such as his adviser Jonathan Schnur, chief executive of New Leaders for New Schools, or the Education Trust's Kati Haycock -- in assembling a team equipped to deal with the new realities of education. Nor should opposition from the forces of the status quo scare Mr. Obama away from considering someone such as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, who has helped improve the nation's largest school system.
Get that? Obama's education transition czar is bad, and anti-reform, say the editors, because she doesn't like No Child Left Behind (among other apparent transgressions). But isn't No Child Left Behind (NCLF for short) what amounts to the current regime of federal education policy, i.e. the status quo?
The Post writers conclude by piously hoping that someone who "is not afraid to break with orthodoxy" and who is "more concerned with results than ideology" is chosen for the all-important post of U.S. Education sec. But isn't an anti-union posture, a posture which has been the stance of most "reformers" for decades now, it's own form of orthodoxy and ideology?
Update: This is pretty funny, and a bit more informative.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Stay classy, guys.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
John McCain did not lose this election because the Catholic clergy failed to anathematize Barack Obama loudly enough, or because Pennsylvanians and Michiganders thought they were voting for Roosevelt or Truman. He lost it because his party flat-out misgoverned the country, in foreign and domestic policy alike, and because of late the culture war has mattered less to most Americans than the Iraq War and the economic meltdown. And pro-lifers who see the GOP as the only plausible vehicle for their goals have an obligation to look the party's failures squarely in the face and work to fix them, instead of just doubling down on the case for single-issue pro-life voting.
It's hard to imagine today's GOP, or its neocon enablers, facing the party's problems squarely, since neither have an interest in the basic duties of government. McCain's choice of Sarah Palin was only the most recent case in point. The administration's staffing of FEMA is another, highly representative example. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, obviously, another.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Obama is counting votes, not prosecuting grudges. Lieberman's slingshot into the furthest reaches of the far right was always a sadly transparent reaction to his rejection by the left. Human beings do not enjoy criticism. They gravitate towards affirmation. If he can be flipped yet again, that's a far better outcome from the perspective of passing major pieces of legislation, even if it's not the most "just" outcome from a party perspective.
Regarding the potential for Hillary landing at State, Thomas Friedman provides some caution:
The important question, the answer of which is not at all clear to me, is about the only relationship that matters for a secretary of state — the kind of relationship he or she would have with the new president. My question: Is Obama considering Mrs. Clinton for this job in order to get her off his back or as a prelude to protecting her back?
That backing is the most important requirement for a secretary of state to be effective. Frankly, Obama could appoint his dear mother-in-law as secretary of state, and if he let the world know she was his envoy, she would be more effective than any ex-ambassador who had no relationship with the president.
Foreign leaders can spot daylight between a president and a secretary of state from 1,000 miles away. They know when they’re talking to the secretary of state alone and when they are talking through the secretary of state to the president. And when they think they are talking to the president, they sit up straight; and when they think they are talking only to the secretary of state, they slouch in their chairs. When they think they are talking to the president’s “special envoy,” they doze off in midconversation.
“It takes America’s friends and adversaries about five minutes to figure out who really speaks for the White House and who doesn’t,” wrote Aaron D. Miller, a former State Department Middle East adviser and the author of “The Much Too Promised Land.” “If a secretary of state falls into the latter category, he or she will have little chance of doing effective diplomacy on a big issue. More likely, they’ll be played like a finely tuned violin or simply taken for granted.”
My question is whether a President Obama and a Secretary of State Clinton, given all that has gone down between them and their staffs, can have that kind of relationship, particularly with Mrs. Clinton always thinking four to eight years ahead, and the possibility that she may run again for the presidency. I just don’t know.
Every word that is said between them in public, and every leak, will be scrutinized for what it means politically and whether there is daylight. That is not a reason not to appoint Mrs. Clinton. But it is a reason for everyone around the president-elect to take a deep breath and ask whether they are prepared to have the kind of air-tight relationship with Mrs. Clinton that is required for effective diplomacy.
When it comes to appointing a secretary of state, you do not want a team of rivals.
This seems like a potentially critical issue to me. But as with Obama's intervention on behalf of Lieberman, I'm inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
But there are a couple of problems. One, it seems like an awful snub of Bill Richardson, who (1) came out for Obama late in the primaries only to feel the wrath of Clinton and (2) represents a demographic that also came out heavy for Obama in the general election and contributed significantly to his victory, and which, one might think, is deserving of a prominent spot in the administration. A snub of Richardson would come across as a snub to many of them as well.
There's also that little matter of policy. One of Obama's signature themes, for which both Hillary and McLame attacked him, was his negotiating stance, his willingness to meet with one and all foreign leaders, promising, at least potentially, a break with the foreign policy norms of presidents past, Republican and Democrat. Real change if you will. I've no doubt that if she accepts the appointment, Hillary would act in Obama's interests here. But at a minimum, it could pose some awkward questions at a confirmation hearing--if there is one.
Monday, November 10, 2008
No way. No, no.
If Joe is so willing to bolt to a much weakened GOP minority if he doesn't get his way, what does that say about how much of a Democrat--independent or otherwise--he is?
Friday, October 31, 2008
Someone from the McCain camp must have hard a pretty stern talk with former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. He just went on Fox with a bracingly abject apology for saying that Sarah Palin wasn't qualified to be vice president. So abject in fact that I must say that it had something of the feel of one of the Maoist self-criticism sessions or perhaps one of the public apologies during the Moscow show trials.
For the original story, see here.
People on our side usually aren’t as driven to involve themselves in a political process that they view, somewhat cynically, as not having operated in the best interests of the people. And so, they’re not often as—often—not as much as the other side is motivated to go to the polls, whereas the other side, under, you know, strict orders from, they believe, the voice of God that’s in their head telling them that they must go to the polls and vote for these good people or remove the heathens that are in violation of whatever it is they’re listening to in their head. So, I’m telling you, I think that’s pretty powerful. They’ve been very successful at it. They’ve always been well funded. They’re very smart about it. They are committed. They are up at the crack of dawn, and they will be on Tuesday. Trust me. We have not lived under the Republicans for twenty of the last twenty-eight years by their side being a bunch of slackers. That’s not the case. So they will be out in full force. And I don’t think we need to wake up on Wednesday with that feeling that we all know too well, that—you know, “Woah, what happened? What happened?” I just—I think that’s happened one too many times.
Metallo takes the class through Britain's government structure, at one point explaining how voting rights were gradually widened, and not always for good. "The expansion of the electoral franchise led to the growth of the welfare state," the professor says. "People are able to vote money out of your pocket and into their own."
Well, bless their Jesus-loving hearts. Too many people vote. Or vote the wrong way. Yes, by all means, let's roll back the clock on voting rights, maybe throw in a poll tax or two, just to make sure that if the gubmit is going to be working for anyone, it will continue to be rich, right-wing evangelicals and not for the unwashed masses.
Friday, October 24, 2008
This is the apotheosis of what I once called (long before the former Miss Wasilla joined the ticket), "Miss America Conservatism" in which conservatives express disdain for all of government except for their single “platform” issue on which they lavish money and attention (as Palin says, “it’s not all about money”) to show their human side. Yes, governor, it is all about money, and when your priorities are tax cuts, war and freezing spending, special needs children are not going to be a priority.
If Sen. Obama wins, and Democrats increase their majorities in the House and Senate, will conservatives/Republicans still incessantly try to lecture those of us on the left about what “real” and “patriotic” Americans believe? I honestly thought they would tamp it down a little bit after the “thumpin’” of 2006, but they still lecture us about everything under the sun. Would losses across the board really shut their pieholes?
This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Then, as now, much of this anger and hate is fundamentally religious in nature, or at least, religious profession is a strong correlate of it. Among religious fundamentalists, Roman Catholic as well as Protestant, hate, resentment and divisiveness are key features of doctrinal thought. Sure, religious leaders have tried at times to dress itself up in more palatable sounding garb, emphasizing God's Grace, or Love, or how God sets them Free. But at its core, religious fundamentalism is inherently exclusionary, divisive and eliminationist. As for the latter, consider the doctrine of Hell or any theory of the End Times. And as for God's Grace and Love, well, most of the time what fundamentalists really mean when they mention those words are God's Love and Grace towards themselves, not to those outside "the faith".
So the religio-political rantings and ramblings of some of Christianism's unfinest is pretty par for the course, and the kind of stuff many of them are used to reading in their church-sponsored texts or hearing from the pulpit. It's only natural that this kind of stuff will begin to form the basis of the congregant's political and social expressions.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
One other thing. I think the national polls are still the key. Obviously a 49%-49% race means it will come down to a few key states. But if the spread is even 51%-49%, the electoral college will mostly likely reflect that. At the same time, with O ahead by increasingly consistent and comfortable margins in states like Colorado, Virginia, and now even Missouri, I think there's still reason to feel good. Kerry was never in this good a position four years ago. I think the winds of change are still blowing.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Bush 2003: Bring them on.
McLame 2008 (right before second debate): The gloves will come off tonight.
"I'll crush Obama in debate", says Mclame, and
Mclame aide: "Turnaround" starts today.
I'm just getting all warm and tingly inside.
On Friday, Palin was found to have violated the public trust in an abuse of power scandal. On Saturday, it was on the front page of the major dailies. And on Sunday morning, NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," and CNN's "Late Edition" ignored the story altogether, despite lengthy discussions about recent political events, as if a major scandal involving a candidate for national office isn't particularly interesting. I'll simply never understand this.
Guess it's just our liberal media again.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
*Although Faux News' Fox & Friends hyped Palin's down-home, Joe-six pack performance, post-debate polls indicated Biden won the debate handlely.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Palin also commented Friday on her widely-panned series of interviews with Katie Couric, telling Fox interviewer she did not think the CBS News anchor asked enough issue-based questions.
“I did feel there were a lot of things she was missing in terms of an opportunity to ask what a VP candidate stands for, what the values are that are represented in our ticket," Palin said. "I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed, but that’s also an indication about being outside that Washington elite, outside that media elite also, and just wanting to talk to Americans without the filter and let them know what we stand for."
In two separate and lengthy interviews with Couric over the last week, Palin seemed to struggle with a number of answers, including a defense of McCain's record on regulation issues. She also appeared to stumble when relating her views on the financial bailout, her foreign policy credentials, her preferred news sources of news, and a Supreme Court case she disagrees with.
"Man, no matter what you say you are gonna get clobbered," Palin told Fox about her heavily-scrutinized performance. "You choose to answer you are going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to pivot and try to go onto another subject that you believe Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that too."
Life sure is hard and unfair, huh? All them filters and stuff.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Apparently there is a debate tonight. The funny thing about it is I really don’t even care. There is, quite honestly, nothing Obama could say that would make me not vote for him. His opening statement could be “My name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I am a muslim, and winning this election is all part of a plot to turn the United States into my own personal caliphate,” and I would shrug and vote for him anyway because at least he would go about it in a competent manner. Compared to the last eight years with C+ Augustus and Darth Cheney and the possibility of four more with Johnny Drama and Bible Spice, that would be preferable.
At this point, after seeing the John McCain of September 2008 I'm having a hard time understanding why Obama isn't up by 30 points, even given his relative lack of experience and his race. Before the primaries ended I could imagine John McCain winning this election on the merits, that is to say, I assumed McCain could have won a straight up race based on his experience, Vietnam hero-hood, the success of the surge (and our paying off our Sunni insurgents) in shoving Iraq off the front page and cable network leads, with his picking a competent, respected, if however unglamorous, VP. But McCain September 2008 threw all that away, and has run a truly mind-boggling campaign. Of course, it remains highly possible, maybe even likely, that McCain will still pull it off. If he does, one wonders who will be minding the store in a McCain-Palin administration. The bloom is off the Palin-rose, if responses by ordinary folks to the Couric interview are any consideration. And McCain himself seems scarcely cognizant of where he is. Reports are he uttered nary a comment in the now infamous WH Pow Wow on the Bail Out he was supposedly so central in forcing. The McCain campaign itself seems the strangest sort of effort we've seen in many a year, maybe ever. Unlike VP Biden, VP Palin is nowhere on the teevee challenging the opposition. Once upon a time you could count on the Republicans to run well-organized, purposefully directed campaigns (even if they didn't govern so well), but GOP 2008 seems to be conducting an experiment in campaigning like the party governs. All sneers and hit jobs, based on, um, celebrity POW and Bible Spice candidates.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Deputy Press Secretary Ton Fratto tells us that the banks we are bailing out are actually good firms with a lot of profitable assets:
You have to remember, these are not all weak or troubled firms that own mortgage-backed securities. A lot of them are very successful banks and investment houses that have done very well, have been responsible, are holding performing assets that have value. They were not necessarily irresponsible players, and so you have to be careful about how you deal with them.
Um, then why are we bailing them out? I thought there was a crisis. Now the government has to step in and help out hugely profitable firms just because one aspect of those banks is as profitable as the rest? Whenever rich people make a mistake, taxpayers have to plug the gap, even if those rich people are still making huge amounts of money?
This is all a lie. They are lying about how much trouble these firms are in. They are lying about their desire for oversight. It is just a big frakkin' lie. I doubt there is a crisis at all. They have done such a good job lying, however, that a majority of the country thinks a bailout is needed.
They are just lying, and looking to make the biggest single rip off in history. If there was a pitchfork and torch event taking place anywhere right now, I'd join in. This seems a helluva a lot like Louis the XVI demanding more money from the Estates General. When does the march on Versailles begin? It might seriously be time for a few hundred thousand people to start sleeping in two shanty towns, one surrounding the Capitol and the other surrounding the White House. If they can get away with this, then they can get away with anything.
The fix is in, and the bailout is going to be passed in one form or another in the near future.
How do I know?
Because it is now being marketed as a “Rescue plan.”
Bailout was apparently too unpalatable for main street. So take solace that when you, as a taxpayer, take part in this ginormous game of kick the shitpile down the road until after 20 January 2009, you aren’t really “bailing out” greedy Wall Street types, you are rescuing America. Don’t you feel patriotic? Maybe we can put green ribbons on our car next to the yellow support our troops ribbons that are beginning to fade.
There's a lot that's alarming about all of this, among which is no real sign from either party that what is essential here is to prevent the same problems from happening again. Buying up the garbage debt or injecting financial institutions with new capital could very well, absent other significant structural changes, result in the same dangerous things happening all over again.
The conversion of the two remaining investment banks to commercial bank status (and the bankruptcy or selling of the others) may provide this essential recalibration. But financial institutions and big money players are going to, by nature, seek the biggests profits in the shortest amount of time by the easiest means possible. The bailout doesn't appear to address these concerns at all. There's no certainty that the $700 bill will be enough or the end of it.
Update: Kos sums up my thinking pretty well.
It feels as if we are hitting several walls at once. For me, it's frighening, but also in some ways, a relief. We have less to fear from reality than from denial of that reality. The market correction, the morass in Iraq, and the exposure of American debt are all good things in the long run. If we have not recognized the damage of the last eight years we cannot repair it.
The party's over.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first.
Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"When you listened to him describe it you gulped," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.
As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program "Good Morning America," the congressional leaders were told "that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally."
Mr. Schumer added, "History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment."
When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as "somber," Mr. Dodd cut in. "Somber doesn't begin to justify the words," he said. "We have never heard language like this."
"What you heard last evening," he added, "is one of those rare moments, certainly rare in my experience here, is Democrats and Republicans deciding we need to work together quickly."
All we're hearing so far, as a reason to shell out the $700 bill, is that the markets are jittery. Seems we're due a better, more concrete explanation than that.
GOLDEN PARACHUTES.... The only consistent element of John McCain's recent rhetoric on economic issues is that he's just not thinking things true. In the latest example, McCain has been, in true populist style, railing against "golden parachutes" for CEOs.
The more lavish compensation packages are part of McCain's economic pitch, the more likely he'll face questions about former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina's golden parachute. And yet, as of this morning, he was apparently caught completely off guard.
On NBC's "Today," Meredith Vieira told McCain, "You have said, senator, that there are a lot of reasons for this financial crisis, but you have said, bottom line, it's those fat cats. It's the greed of Wall Street. And you said, you promised ... to crack down on CEOs who walk away with huge severance packages. And yet the person that up until recently was your public face really on your economic policies was Carly Fiorina.... She was fired in 2005. But she left with what I think was a $45 million golden parachute while 20,000 of her employees were laid off. She's an example of exactly the type of person you say is at the root of the problem."
McCain replied, "I don't think so." When pressed, he added, "I think she did a good job as CEO in many respects. I don't know the details of her compensation package."
Reminded that Fiorina received a $45 million golden parachute after being fired while 20,000 of her employees were laid off, McCain stumbled a bit before concluding, "I don't know the details of what happened."
Hewlett-Packard didn't exactly excel under Fiorina's leadership. The company's stock fell 55% during her tenure, and as Vieira emphasized, she was fired. As "punishment," she walked out the door with $45 million and, soon after, became an advisor to a leading Republican presidential campaign.
This certainly seems like the kind of greed and mismanagement the new McCain should disapprove of, doesn't it?
It's hard to believe the country is on the verge of putting this man, let alone his second in command, anywhere near the gear shifts of political and economic power.
If they end up handing over $700 bill or more they will have forefeited their control. It's as simple as that.
A senior aide to John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, told Politico Sunday that the Arizona senator also favored compensation limits as part of the package, as does the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, according to a campaign spokesman for the Illinois senator.
And what in the world is that crazy liberal big-gubmit terrorist-loving pinko Bill Kristol doing saying this:
Comments by McCain on Sunday suggest he might propose an amendment along the lines of one I received in an e-mail message from a fellow semi-populist conservative: “Any institution selling securities under this legislation to the Treasury Department shall not be allowed to compensate any officer or employee with a higher salary next year than that paid the president of the United States.” This would punish overpaid Wall Streeters and, more important, limit participation in the bailout to institutions really in trouble.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Again, maybe this is all way too much gubmit, much much too late in the game, but at least it appears that there is someone minding the store (albeit after it has been looted).
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I hate to raise the "S" issue, but is McCain senile? On top of confusing Spain and Latin America, or taking a bizarrely belicose stance towards Spain, McCain apparently doesn't know that (a) the president can't fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission or that (b) that the SEC isn't the source of the current financial meltdown. A 1999 law authored by his top economic advisor, Phil Gramm, is.
I wonder how all of this will go down during a debate? Won't meet with a NATO ally. Doesn't understand the workings of Wall Street or the government's role in regulating it? Maybe the media will fixate on Obama's being "uppity" or something.
“The people of Ohio are the most productive in the world!” yelled John McCain at a rally outside of Youngstown on Tuesday. Present company perhaps excluded, since the crowd was made up entirely of people who were at liberty in the middle of a workday.
Folks were wildly enthusiastic as the event began. That was partly because Sarah Palin was also on the bill. (With Todd!) And when McCain took the center stage, they were itching to cheer the war hero and boo all references to pork-barrel spenders.
Nobody had warned them that he had just morphed into a new persona — a raging populist demanding more regulation of the nation’s financial system. And since McCain’s willingness to make speeches that have nothing to do with his actual beliefs is not matched by an ability to give them, he wound up sounding like Bob Dole impersonating Huey Long.
Really, if McCain is going to keep changing into new people, the campaign should send out notices. (Come to a rally for the next president of the United States. Today he’s a vegetarian!) “We’re going to put an end to the abuses on Wall Street — enough is enough!” this new incarnation yelled, complaining angrily about greed and overpaid C.E.O.’s. Slowly, people begin to peel out of the crowd and drift away. Even in these troubled times, there are apparently a number of Republicans who think highly of corporate executives and captains of high finance.
The whole transformation was fascinating in a cheap-thrills kind of way. It’s not every day, outside of “Incredible Hulk” movies, that you see somebody make this kind of turnaround in the scope of a few hours.
On Monday in Jacksonville, Fla., McCain made his now-famous reassurance that the fundamentals of the economy were still good. It’s a longstanding line of his, but this was perhaps not the best week to dredge it up. So the handlers went to work, and by the time McCain arrived in Orlando a few hours later he was reprogrammed. And angry!
“We’re going to put an end to the abuses on Wall Street! Enough is enough! We’re going to put an end to the greed!” he told a town hall meeting crowded with Hispanic Republicans. It was a rather jumbled message, but the new story line was firm. The fundamentals were not things like employment rates or trade statistics. The fundamentals were the workers.
We are the fundamentals!
And, naturally, the humble, hard-working fundamentals are good. Who could doubt it? Was Barack Obama trying to say that he didn’t think the American working man and woman was good? Was this the sort of thing they talked about at those fancy-schmancy Hollywood fund-raisers? Which, of course, John McCain hates. Give him some hard cider and a log cabin, and he’s happy as a clam.
But wait! The fundamentals are in danger! At risk because of “greed.” Which John McCain was shocked to discover has been running rampant in the canyons of Wall Street.
It is also disconcerting, of course, to hear the Republicans rail against Washington as if the Socialist Workers Party had been running things there for the last eight years. But really, what would you do if you were McCain? There aren’t a lot of options, and he never did like George W. anyway.
This new tactic is different. McCain has always, genuinely, believed in dismantling government regulations, and there he was, vowing to create new “comprehensive regulations that will apply the rules and enforce them to the fullest.” It makes you think that he’s trying to impersonate something he’s not. Or wasn’t. Or might not be. The image is getting fuzzy.
This week, while McCain’s chief economic adviser was telling reporters that it was wrong to “run for president by denigrating everything in sight and trying to scare people,” McCain’s ad people were unveiling a new spot announcing “Our economy in crisis!” and calling for “tougher rules on Wall Street” along, of course, with more offshore drilling. Mournful unemployment-line music swells.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
And to think Roger Ailes created Faux Business News station because he claimed CNBC was too anti-business
The Absurdity Of CNBC
The entire financial system is practically collapsing and they're lamenting the possibility of more regulation. I don't think the sports/referee metaphor is perfect, but it's probably good enough. People who prattle on about "the free market" are usually too stupid to have a clue how complicated and pervasive the "rules" had to be to to get a well-functioning modern market system: sophisticated concepts of contracts and enforcement, property rights, legal entities, proper accounting, bankruptcy, limited liability, etc... etc..., did not descend from the heavens but were, in fact, created.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
There are a great many salient questions facing the American people and those of you who are charged with the responsibility of enacting the nation's laws: access to affordable health care; repair of an aging infrastructure; reducing energy dependence; ensuring the national security. But not one of those issues – and not all of them combined – is as important now or for the future as securing our position as a nation governed by the rule of law. . .
Let me be both candid and clear: the current greatest threat to our system of separated powers and the protections it affords stems not just from executive overreaching but equally from the Congress. America's founders envisioned a system in which each of the branches of government would guard its prerogatives and meet its obligations, each acting to serve the nation through the empowerment the Constitution grants and to protect our liberties through the constraints the Constitution imposes.
For most of the past eight years, and for many years before that, the Congress has failed to lived up to its assigned role as the principal representative of the people. . . .
Here is the challenge, stated as candidly as I can state it. Each year the presidency grows farther beyond the bounds the Constitution permits; each year the Congress fades farther into irrelevance. As it does, the voice of the people is silenced. This cannot be permitted to stand. The Congress is not without power. It can refuse to confirm people the President suggests for important offices; it can refuse to provide money for the carrying out of Executive Branch activities; it can use its subpoena power and its power to hold hearings and above all, it can use its power to write the laws of the country.
Do not let it be said that what the Founders created, you have destroyed. Do not let it be said that on your watch, the Constitution of the United States became not the law of the land but a suggestion. You are not a parliament; you are a Congress -- separate, independent, and equal. And because of that you are the principal means by which the people maintain control of their government. Defend that right, and that obligation, or you lose all purpose in holding these high offices. That is how you preserve and defend the rule of law in the United States.
True words, these. From an institutional perspective, the decline of Congress over the past several decades, and especially over the last eight, is the most worrisome of recent national developments.
It was, to put it mildly, terribly odd to read all of this. McCain has always supported the casual oversight he's now railing against. He's never lifted a finger to rein in Wall Street's excesses -- indeed, he's actively opposed anyone who tried.
I have yet to see anything more to her than a politician with an attractive family who competently spouts rightwing boilerplate. When she denounces the war party, supply side theology, the bogus “drill, drill, drill” claptrap, or any other reigning orthodoxy of the Republican Party; I will take notice. But anyone willing to do that wouldn’t be on the Republican ticket in the first place.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Good thing we took John McCain's bestest economic buddy's advice and deregulated the banking/investment industry:
[Gramm]was co-sponsor of the 1999 law that allowed commercial banks to get into investment banking. And the fact that Gramm was a prime architect of a 2000 bill that kept regulators' hands off of "credit default swaps," an exotic financial tool which helped enable the bundling and selling of crappy subprime mortgages to investors.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
This seems pretty weird to me (among many, many other things this cycle). If Jill Biden belonged to a Delaware Independence Party that had in recent years attempted to get a vote for secession on the ballot, whose meetings husband and VP candidate Joe attended in recent years along with Jill, wouldn't this be a pretty big deal? If Jill Biden belonged to a Delaware Independence Party, which backed Delaware seceeding from the U.S., and if husband and VP candidate Joe Biden attended such meetings while nonetheless lacking formal membership credentials, don't you think we'd be subjected to a wave of breathless flag-waving on Faux news and throughout the media along with breathless questions as to whether Jill was anti-American and whether the Bidens, and Obama as well because he picked Joe to be his VP, were sufficiently patriotic?
But I guess since Sarah and husband Palin are evangelical Christians, all this must be OK.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Maybe a little red meat is good for you after all.
I'm sure this is good news for John McCain.
Almost to zero. But not there yet.
The GOP is already well known for its viciousness and nastiness. Want to imagine what their conventions will be like when non-whites are a majority of the population?
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Each day, each moment that goes by, makes me more offended and outraged at McCain's VP selection. It's hard to believe his contempt for America is as deep as this. And I haven't even said anything about Palin and how she hopes all the Polar Bears starve, drown and die. Really. Palin is a flat-out despicable human being.
And yes, I just coughed up my first $1,000 for the Obama/Biden campaign. Congrats, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Mission Accomplished.
Update: Ezra Klein laments:
I may be a political reporter, but I'm only human. It is simply not possible to keep up with quantity of scandals spilling out of Sarah Palin's extremely short political career.
Anyway, after all of this, what will McCain say tomorrow night? What can he possibly say? Revert to form and trumpet the wide array of threats facing America from the Islamicistics facisictss muslmisiticsts, asserting that he, of POW and twenty five plus years of national government service alone possesses the attributes to confront them, hoping any thoughts of the youngster he picked for the ticket and who spoke the night before is conveniently forgotten? Does he go on a Cultural War rampage, which has never been his strong suit? Does he wax poetic about earmarks, many of which were favored by Palin before she became The One? Does he promise to unleash the fires of hell against Iran, Syria, and Venezuela? Will anyone left breathless from tonight's speech by The One bother staying around to hear from that old wrinkly dude guy?
But if my own response is anything like those of others who gave to Obama during the primary season--but have held off donating since--then maybe the Republican base isn't the only one getting motivated.
McCain could have gone any number of directions with his campaign and his VP selection, but that he's chosen the path he has, has made the prospect of his and his party's continuing in the executive branch of government catastrophic.
Sure, maybe that would have happened anyway, that no matter how "centrist" McCain's public persona, his actual record is anything but, and activist Democrats would have gone all out for Obama eventually. But McCain's choices, both in campaign style and in executive decision-making, are reinforcing the travesties of government mangling and abuse of power during the past eight years. At least in its original roll-out period, George W's promise of a "compassionate conservatism", combined with the experience of Dick Cheney, suggested something resembling competency and deliberateness about the 2000 ticket (even if it didn't turn out that way). The 2008 team, however, is arguably on its face, the most ideological and reckless pairing since at least 1968. And where past candidates, like to a certain extent Obama, have campaigned to their party's base in the primaries and returned to the center during the general, McCain appears to be doing the opposite.
I suspect many of us who have been nearly lulled to sleep by Obama's turn to the center, have been sufficiently stirred up now.
Update: Here's some empirical evidence in support of the speculation. Maybe there's something to be said for having your opponent go last in the convention cycle. (h/t Andrew Sullivan).
McCain campaign angrily defends Sarah Palin
Note also that this AP piece is by the infamous Ron Fournier. About him you can read here.
“As a presidential campaign, we reserve the right to adjust Senator McCain’s media schedule in order to ensure the most effective use of his time,” said Maria Comella, a spokeswoman. “After a relentless refusal by certain on-air reporters to come to terms with John McCain’s selection of Alaska’s sitting governor as our party’s nominee for vice president, we decided John McCain’s time would be better served elsewhere.”
Get it? The media's role, the American public's role, is to "come to terms" with McCain's VP picks, not ask questions. You know, just like the Iraq war, the NSA surveillance, the torturing and indefinite detaining and isolation of prisoners, etc. Whatever the Republican Party does, whoever it nominates for anything, is outside the bounds of inquiry. Even though the GOP trumpets its alleged dedication to "family values", what it really means is that its own families are not up for discussion, only yours and ours are.
Just as the media is finally, finally, starting to take the McCain camp and the Republicans to task for their reckless decision-making and incompetence, it would be a shame were it to suddenly cave to Republican pressure to go soft on its nominees and policies. If it does, the Democratic Party and its nominees should not.
I've noted the bizarre locution Bush used last night to describe the torture endured by John McCain. I hope the press corps will follow up. But one piece of evidence that the omission of the t-word by Bush was deliberate comes in Fred Thompson's speech as well. He went on at length about the hideous treatment handed down to John McCain in Vietnam. It was the longest section of the speech. Wanna guess if the word "torture" came up at all?
What was done to John McCain was a war crime. His enduring of it, and his refusal to be released ahead of his fellows does indeed speak to enormous character, which is why so many of us love the man. But today's great crime is that what was done to him is now being done to others ... under orders from the president of the United States. You can either defend this, or you can use semantics to cover it up. The Bush administration has chosen the worst of all paths in this, and the taint of their actions is now spreading.
We have to start speaking English again. Asking Fred Thompson directly whether he believes John McCain was tortured in Vietnam is a start.
Update: one other thing. Thompson does not mention, again bizarrely, the stress positions that feature very prominently in McCain's own account of his torture. Why not?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Obama's DNC Bounce Smaller Than Others and Shrinking
Bevy of Polls Show Expanding Obama Lead
As I've noted previously, the past year or so has seen the publication of several books debunking Southern mythology, of which Blackmon's Slavery is only the most recent and thorough.
Minneapolis-St. Paul -- Even without George Bush in the Twin Cities, the GOP cannot escape its miserable record over the last eight years. (Indeed, trying to spot a recognizable Republican in town has become a favorite early-convention game.)
So you can see why Sarah Palin was such an appealing pick for John McCain. Along with all the things she brings to the table -- fresh face, mother of five, hockey mom -- Palin is notable for what she doesn't bring: a track record.
If McCain had picked any of the far more experienced candidates on his short list, they would have come fully equipped with a long paper trail implicating them in the horror show that is the Republican Party of the last eight years.
Palin has barely left a footprint on the GOP scene. And the McCain camp immediately scrubbed one of the few marks -- an ad on her campaign website featuring an endorsement from newly indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
So with a party brand as damaged as the GOP's is right now, lack of experience isn't a bug, it's a feature.
The drama that could unfold in the next few days is simply immense. The emotions involved - especially among the Christianist base who have immediately bonded on purely religious and cultural terms with Palin - are epic. What I fear is some kind of pure emotional-religious wave that redefines the GOP for ever as a purely religious party, swamps all genuine questions about governance, celebrates this woman as the epitome of modern conservatism and rides the tidal wave of fundamentalist fervor to the White House.
This is not what McCain intended or wanted.
He wanted a reformer. He's got a saint. He doesn't understand the profound forces he has unleashed with this pick, especially when all the facts are on the table. I predict that as this story develops, it will be Palin who is effectively running for president for the GOP. Or if she is forced to withdraw, McCain will be forced back to Romney, but they will blame Palin's demise on the librul media, and hoist Palin like a martyred mascot on a freight train.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the problem of teen pregnancy and the tragic impact it has had on so many aspects of life in the nation's capital. Reader response was heavy and, in some ways, disturbing. While I never used the terms "black or "African American" in the column, many readers saw the teen pregnancy problem in only racial terms.
What brings this to mind is today's statement from Sarah and Todd Palin disclosing that their unmarried 17-year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant. The presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee and her husband expressed their pride in becoming grandparents. As a grandparent of six, I can appreciate their feelings, and extend to them a hearty welcome into the enviable grandparents' club.
I'm also happy to learn that their daughter will have the unconditional love and support of the entire family as she and her husband-to-be raise their baby.
I only wish the angry readers who weighed in on my column showed similar understanding and, if not love, then at least a little respect for the young women I wrote about.
Instead, this is some of what I got:
"How long has this 'problem' been going on in the black community? Since the dark ages, er, the 60's, say. From day one they should be held accountable for their behavior…Remove the kid if necessary and establish some kind of homes for them. Better the state rear them instead of the current crop. The girls have so little self-love they long for getting knocked up or just believing they're being loved." 7/19/2008 3:12 PM.
"One often reads, hears or sees profiles of young men who grow up poor in gang infested areas and try to understand the tough choices they make that lead them astray. Stories of young women who fail to keep their knees together until a man fit to be a father comes along are rare." 7/19/2008 5:59 PM
"What children see they will do and what they do they will become." 7/19/2008 5:46 PM.
"Stop handing out welfare and housing to teen mothers and teen pregnancy will be cut by ½ in a few years." 7/19/2008 10:59 AM.
Sarah Palin, husband Todd, and daughter Bristol are well suited to tell the rest of America that there is more to the problem than that.
The basic reason why Bush I, along with Cheney and Powell, didn't press onto Baghdad in Gulf War I was the fear of miring the U.S. Army in a decades-long, perhaps brutal occupation of Iraq. When Bush II came on the scene, and with the nudging of neocons like Rumsfeld and Kristol, this fear basically became a virtue of sorts. Sure, it would have been preferable from the neocon viewpoint for Iraq to have been a "cakewalk" as was projected, but the fact that it wasn't, wasn't bad either. Heads they win, tails we lose. In this chaos theory of the world, either outcome was considered conducive to the neocon policy goals. A quick, easy win and exit from Iraq would have obviously both enhanced the neocons credibility while freeing the U.S. army for deployment elsewhere (say, Iran). But a prolonged Iraqi occupation served other goals: the emersion of the U.S. in the Middle East, and the furtherence of Permanent War either way.
The Palin pick strikes me as being very similar. Sure, it would have been much preferable for the McCain camp had the media and everyone swooned over Palin. But the fact that the Palin pick has instead unleashed a whirlwind of controversy, well, that isn't so bad, either, from the standpoint of a chaos theory driven campaign strategy. After all, as some conservatives like Bill Kristol have already claimed, if the McCain campaign was doomed anyway (and I don't see how that would have been case, but for the sake of argument...) than controversy or no, the Palin pick explodes the political dynamic, enlivens the conservative base (itself a double-edged sword for generating opposition among liberals and the public to the GOP's Christianist authoritarians), which serves the McCain team and his party just fine as well.
Nevertheless, since much of the article has been quoted already, I'll just point out the last few paragraphs:
A number of Republicans said the McCain campaign had to some degree tied its hands in its effort to keep the selection process so secret.
“If you really want it to be a surprise, the circle of people that you’re going to allow to know about it is going to be small, and that’s just the nature of it,” said Dan Bartlett, a former counselor to President Bush.
Former McCain strategists disagreed on whether it would have been useful for Ms. Palin’s name to have been more publicly floated before her selection so that issues like the trooper investigation and her daughter’s pregnancy might have already been aired and not seemed so new at the time of her announcement.
“It’s a risk,” said Dan Schnur, a former McCain aide who now directs the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “No matter how great the candidate, it’s a significant risk to put someone on the ticket” who hasn’t been publicly scrutinized.
“They obviously felt it was worth the risk to rev up the base and potentially reach out to Clinton supporters,” Mr. Schnur said.
So, in order to keep the pick a "surprise", the McCain team essentially sacrificed any virtue to be derived from either a public or private vetting. It's hard to believe it came down to that. Truly staggering. Clearly the McCain team doesn't take the job of being president and any threats the country faces all that seriously.
“Those that die without Christ have a horrible, horrible surprise.”
What this pastor means by "horrible, horrible surprise" is of course, hell-fire and eternal torment (from the God who loves you of course). Now, as Posner notes, this is pretty standard fare at most evangelical Christianist churches. Essentially, most Christianists believe, or at least read and hear taught in their churches, that when non-Christianists die, they go straight to H. E. double-hockey-sticks. But this is a rather remarkable belief to hold, is it not? Surely this idea deserves some kind of serious scrutiny as to its validity. What are the implications of such a belief? If you seriously believe that most human beings do not "have Christ" and will therefore, have a "horrible, horrible surprise" awaiting them at death, then what would your feelings be towards humanity in general, to the value of human life, to the effects of natural disasters, war, poverty, hunger, and death? Well, if the people are not Christianist, then for the believer, these catastrophes are not only unremarkable, they may actually indicate that those who face them are only getting what they deserve for not "having Christ". Aside from the inability to prove such a belief, the Christianist doctrine of hell would be pretty damnable itself if a religion, oh say, Islam, believed such a thing (which it appears they do).
Was Palin in church that day? Does Palin believe this? If Obama can be questioned about his pastor's sermons, surely our media could ask Palin to comment on this.