Saturday, January 10, 2009

Somebody Needs To Tell President Bush...

...To quit while he's behind and just leave this poor country alone for his remaining 10 days.

Washington Post: Bush Prepares Request for Rest Of Bailout Funds--
If Congress Votes Down Measure, Veto Power Could Come Into Play

What He Said.

Last night, Bill Moyers gave his take on the situation in the Middle East (the Gaza situation specifically, but also touches on Iraq and U.S. foreign policy in general). I'll concur and leave it at that.

[Related reading: Israel tells Gazans to brace for war escalation (AP)]

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Barack Delano Obama?

The news that President-elect Obama is back in Washington DC, and meeting with congressional leaders about his economic stimulus plan, is-- by any measure-- the big news story of the week. But equally important is the smaller story buried in there... namely, that Obama has included $300 billion in tax cuts, accounting for 40% of the overall stimulus plan. While this is, of course, technically fulfilling a major campaign promise, it is also "a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package."

Spoiler alert for Mr. Obama... no such luck. Have Democrats really never watched Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football?

It's on this note-- how Obama's insistence on appearing 'bipartisan' and his fear of appearing overzealous may ultimately prevent any real change-- that I have concerns about a stimulus plan that I'd otherwise be excited about.

There's a couple of problems with the plan as it seems from reports. Tax cuts are a) giving conservatives the inch they'll need to take a mile, and b) missing the larger problems. Whatever little extra it puts into people's pockets will be eaten up right away. Most Americans are so pinched by the rising costs of food and heat that their measly salaries don't pay enough. Ideally, you'd figure out ways/incentives to get corporations to start paying decent salaries to American workers. But that's "socialism" (omgz!1!), so forget that. Let's just throw some bucks at everyone like President Bush did and hope for the best? What you actually need to do is put the money towards long-term projects and tangible results.

And yes, Obama will be very good at doing that type of spending we need to get things back up to speed (in terms of infrastructure repair and investment, etc), and that's good news. But it remains more unlikely than not that he will go the full FDR and made radical (and necessary) changes to the way our economy operates. He may want to on his own, but as we are constantly reminded (ie. this now-resolved Feinstein/Panetta saga), the Democratic party is run by fratricidal wimps and they (may) have already reigned him in. Obama wants to be "bipartisan" and that seems to translate to 'not picking any fights', which is counterproductive.

This is a decisive moment in history... exactly the time when we need to pick one or two big fights. Our most memorable presidents-- FDR on the left, Reagan on the right-- picked fights. People want things shaken up (and are also a lot more progressive than it is often noted). Our most memorable Presidents made making radical changes a key part of their time in office. Those who settled for tinkering around the edges are often lost to history.

Imagine, for instance, if President Kennedy had been "bipartisan" on civil rights. That would've meant-- to not cause any icky fights with conservatives or racist Southern Democrats-- being told by them, "Okay, we won't give blacks any rights, but we'll be nicer to them." Likewise, if Obama thinks that people like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell want to compromise in good faith, he's in for a rude awakening. "Okay, I'll build new bridges and solar panels, but I don't wanna pick a fight with CEOs and hedge-fund managers, or rethink American free-trade policy." You get the picture.

I remain cautiously optimistic for now, but I'm not sure how high our hopes should be.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Video Smörgåsbord

I'll have a better post for you later. In the meantime, enjoy some videos...

Jon Stewart has a few things to say about the situation in Gaza. He also takes a look at the super-serious work of the U.S. Senate. Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, gets to better know congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

Rachel Maddow talks stimulus.

Finally... flashback time! In August of 2001, Barack Obama appeared on the local Chicago food show, "Check, Please!". The future President gives the peach cobbler a thumbs up, and issues a warning on johnnycakes.

More Odds and Ends

The world moves fast. I try to help you keep up. Here's some news...

Here's something interesting: "President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that reforming massive government entitlement programs — such as Social Security and Medicare — would be 'a central part' of his effort to control federal spending." He named Nancy Killefer as chief performance officer, "a new White House position aimed at eliminating government waste and improving efficiency."

Congress also makes efforts (?) on earmark reform/transparency.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta... Surgeon General??! Michael Moore = pissed.

Also, optimism still seems warranted on Obama reforming military policy on accepting gays.

And brace yourself, folks... I'm actually reporting something good that President Bush did... here goes: "The home of a giant land crab, a sunken island ringed by pink-colored coral, and equatorial waters teeming with sharks and other predators are being designated national marine monuments by President George W. Bush in the largest marine conservation effort in history.... All will be protected as national monuments — the same status afforded to statues and cultural sites — under the 1906 Antiquities Act." Wow, that felt weird.

This news about new U.S. Medal of Freedom recipients? Notsomuch.

Are Senate leaders caving on their silly Roland Burris fight? Seems likely.

Finally, despite rumors of a ceasefire, it (sadly) appears like business like usual in Gaza.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How Do You Render a Conservative Speechless?...

...Ask them to justify the disparity between their angry rhetoric about greedy union workers and the auto bailout and their near-silence about the corporate/bank bailout that's turned into a trillion dollar free-for-all.

The divide-- in terms of $$$, transparency, demands for accountability, etc-- between the recent auto bailout and the larger Wall Street bailout has been a pet cause of mine (see this recent post in which Rachel Maddow shows you just how pissed off you should be). But also of interest to me is the divide between how conservatives discuss the two, because I believe it encapsulates what is so wrong with the modern GOP base. Remember how ballistic they went when Democrats tried to expand children's health insurance assistance in 2007? I do. Remember their big fight to rein in corporate excess before it consumed the global economy? Me either.

For instance, to get back on point, during the auto bailout discussion(s) last months, there was a lot of hand-wringing on Fox News, talk radio, Drudge Report, etc, about how awful these auto companies are (and hey, I'm not saying they're not) and how greedy and lazy union workers are. Stuff like that. Stories like this on the other hand? Notsomuch. Let the Moonbat Maddow worry about that stuff!

Failed billionaires > struggling auto workers? I intended to find out.

There's a political cartoon community on LiveJournal that I am a member of, and I'd seen lots of cartoons about the UAW and the Big Three in recent weeks, but none on the financial bailout. These cartoons had tons of comments and back and forth arguments, particularly from the defensive conservatives who posted them. I decided to respond, regarding auto workers in general, with this-
"Blue-collar work ain't glamorous. But it used to be the American dream (work hard, get a good contract, a raise, new house, etc). But now apparently the American dream is to work at Walmart and barely make ends meet.

And also like I said, now apparently we are a nation that subjects blue-collar workers to the level of scrutiny and condescension that failed CEOs, bankers, and executives only get in Nation magazine editorials. If Republicans want to know why they lost states like Ohio and Indiana, etc, this is it in a nutshell."

The responses I got? More rants about the unions. Nothing about the larger point(s) I was attempting to make. Which kind of proved my point in the end.

I decided to post a cartoon of my choosing, and see if I could finally get someone to address this. No such luck. I reposted the above quote to one prominent conservative member. No response. She later called BS on the idea that auto workers were being forced to take an unpaid vacation. When I posted the link to back that story up, she conceded and-- finally-- commented on the bank issue by stating, "my whole thing about this situation is--no, i don't agree with what the banks are doing with the bailout money. that's my money, dammit. they're using it to send all their employees to high-class resorts for a month. eff that... but what bothers me is they try to paint the auto industry as oh-the-poor-struggling-auto-industry. oh those poor union workers. but the thing is, when you produce an inferior product and no one wants to buy it...why should the government throw more money at you?" Translation: 'Yea yea, I'm super upset at this bank business... but how about those fucking unions, huh!??! Fuck 'em!'. Realizing I had received a comment that, again, proved my point, I responded back-
"I'm glad we can agree on that much then.

But notice that I had to keep nudging and nudging you before you even commented on that bailout... you know the one that is $683 billion more than the one that the auto companies are getting. The reason I posted this particular cartoon is because all the bailout-related posts here have been about the auto thing, completely ignoring the fact that their collapse-- while not discounting the failures of management and vision that lead to it-- was largely fueled by the larger economic collapse caused by the failures of Wall Street, etc. Wall Street got a $700B bailout with little scrutiny, little ridicule, and absolutely no strings attached. The auto industry got a $17B loan with tons of scrutiny, ridicule, and a whole lot of strings attached. Now that's not a comment or defense of the auto companies, just a simple noting of the obvious disparity there.

The point I made above still stands, and no one has really challenged that it is the case."

And I received no further reply.

I'll let this all speak for itself, though I'd be happy to get some feedback here.

[UPDATE: I have some more fun, continue to be proven right here, etc.]

Colbert and Colmes

Stephen offers Sean Hannity's former minstrel sidekick a new home...

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

Last week: U.S. says to Iraq, the Green Zone is all yours!...

This week: ...Except for this huge friggin' embassy! Your tax dollars, at work!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Odds and Ends

It's back to work in Washington this week. So, ya know, no big deal. Here's news...

President-elect Obama seems to have made a good pick in naming former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to be the new CIA Director. Panetta wrote in an op-ed last year that "Torture is illegal, immoral, dangerous and counterproductive. And yet, the president is using fear to trump the law." Sounds right to me.

He also made some key Justice Department appointments-- including former Clinton administration, ACLU, and Yale alum Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel-- which are garnering praise from all the right people.

And VA Gov. Tim Kaine is taking over the DNC Chair position from Howard Dean.

(Meanwhile the RNC Chair race seems to be revolving around whether it's funny to refer to black people as "negroes"-- Fox News says yes!-- in another sign that party has no intention of learning any lessons of any kind.)

More good news: "Tom Vilsack, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for agriculture secretary, said he would put 'nutrition at the center of all food assistance programs,' a signal that he will get involved next year when Congress moves to reauthorize nutrition programs that support school breakfasts and lunches as well as summer food for children."

Less good news, as Obama seems to want to revert back to Cold War-era insanity and misplaced spending... He may "tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China." Yikes.

In other news, Sen. Webb (D-VA) is tackling the overdue issue of prison reform.

Some recommended reading from Paul Krugman. First, in a blog post, he explains why Katrina began the unraveling of the Bush presidency. Then, his regular column, he looks at President Bush, the legacy of the modern GOP, and what it means for the future.

Finally, clean coal strikes again!

Random Thoughts

So the two biggest issues during my hiatus-- based on cable news coverage, anyway-- seem to be the whole Blagojevich fiasco and, of course, the ongoing war in Gaza. I offer brief thoughts on both.

The situation in Gaza appears to be getting worse... Israeli ground troops have now joined the air strikes in attacks, Hamas isn't exactly backing down, and world leaders' calls for a ceasefire are falling on deaf ears all-around. It's a mess. And it's, sadly, par for the course. What can be said about this latest outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian conflict that hasn't been said already? The Palestinians won't stop the violence until the Israelis make key concessions (giving back land, etc). But the Israelis won't make concessions until the Palestinian violence stops. But the Palestians... you get the picture. And then things escalate as they have until there's almost no one to root for... except, of course, for all the civilians dying senselessly.

And none of this matters because the public debate on this issue is beyond skewed. Like I said, it's a mess. I really hope that Obama is up to the task.

Next up, the Senate. It looks like Al Franken will be the junior Senator from Minnesota, and-- despite conservative protests-- Harry Reid insists he be seated as such, as is his right. Reid, of course, wants to stop Roland Burris from becoming Illinois' junior Senator, because of the Blagojevich taint. My thoughts? Franken should be seated. As should Burris. There is nothing wrong (thus far) with Mr. Burris (ummm, I may be taking that back) on paper. Yes, Blagojevich is a criminal who a) is likely to be in jail in the near future, and b) showed some real chutzpah in going through with this appointment. But the appointment itself remains legal, though Reid may have options. They forgave Joe Lieberman-- who's worked overtime in recent years to undermine the agenda of the Democratic party-- but they'll waste energy on this fight? Let the man spend 2 years in the Senate, and use him for every vote you can count, and then primary him out in favor of a better candidate in 2010. Pick battles better.

Oh, and in Colorado, former Denver public schools superintendent Michael Bennet is off to the Senate too. But there's no controversy there. How boring!!

Meet The Cabinet

Yay, back to blogging!? Did you miss me?

First up, the Charlotte Observer site has this handy guide to all of Obama's Cabinet picks thus far. Click each title and a box opens up with background info on each member. I'm sure they all look forward to the huge mess(es) they'll have to clean up starting in 15 days.

Needs updating obviously. Still contains Bill Richardson, who's out. Shoulda kept the beard.