Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Political ...

Of course there was that Glenn Beck rally yesterday. It was held on 9/12 last year, because he wanted to link it to 9/11(/01), but Beck also has 9 values and twelve principles, or nine principle and 12 precepts, or some damn thing. But this year, 9/11 falls on (as apparently Beck called it) "the sabbath". Beck did not want to make the faithful come to a rally on a Sunday. So Beck looked around for another day, and 8/29/10 was the day that fit everybody's schedule. Just happened to be the anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Oops, just a coincidence, says Beck, I had no idea. But what the heck, while were doing a rally, lets do it at the Lincoln Memorial, like King did. Let's talk about how Beck's people are taking back the Civil Rights movement. Let's say that African Americans don't "own" Martin Luther King (because anyone who complains about someone owning someone is being hypersensitive).

Beck tells us the rally would be non-political, and Beck's supporters say that it is so. Instead there was religion, apparently. Christianity, of course, obviously. But not politics.

I didn't pay attention to Beck's rally (at least in listening to the text), but I watch the Daily Show when I can. One day, perhaps last Monday, they had a story about a mosque (actually another frickin' civic center) in a place called Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Seems residents there are afraid of this civic center. Now there has been a fire and gunshots at this place.

Is there a connection between Glenn Beck's religious message and America's sudden revival of animosity towards Islam? A connection with the sudden equation of all of Islam with terrorism? I haven't heard one mention of Osama bin Laden, and almost nothing about al Qaeda.

You tell me what the connection is. What the cognitive dissonance is.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kelly tries being more reasonable ....

Jack Kelly's column today does nothing to convince me that he is not wooing the Tea Party. But Kelly does do a good job of trying to be reasonable. He notes that Robert Gates is cutting American defense spending (to have his department do its part to help address a growing deficit). Kelly admits (ruefully) this is a necessary step, but thinks that the rest of the government should do its part as well. Kelly's suggestion, return government spending to 2007 levels. Along the way he takes the opportunity to take a shot at the stimulus, calling it failed, and commenting that it cost more than the Iraq war.

Turns out, as far as I can see, Kelly is correct in at least one way (official congressional outlays for the war). But while looking around, some websites suggested that the final cost of war might be in the neighborhood of two and a half trillion. At the very least there is the issue of paying the long term medical costs for tens of thousands of wounded (some very seriously) soldiers.

Kelly's version of reasonable is to suggest that the government walk it's non-defense spending back to it's 2007 levels. That was, Kelly says, the year the Democrats took over, and "They were exactly starving then". Except that the issue is not Democratic politicians starving, it is the poor starving, the environment going undefended, workers unprotected from dangerous working conditions (and so on). Not that Democrats have (likely) gotten that much done in the last three years (something like three filibusters a week by Republicans), but the poor, the environment and business regulations are not really Kelly's target anyway (just an added bonus).

Kelly (and his Tea Party buddies) want to gut the stimulus and, of course, the health care reform. Just as Kelly (probably deliberately) ignored the cost of caring for wounded soldiers, he complains that some farmers in California were forced to curb irrigation to protect a fish, and in so doing ignores the larger amount of support farmers receive (and please note, I myself am ignoring what farmers, and agribusiness in general, give us to eat; that's a different fight).

All of which is to say one person's reasonable is another person's continued oppression of the poor.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What I think the deal is

My new favorite pundit, Glenn Greenwald, has a pretty incisive column today. Greenwald uses the example of an obvious lie told be Charles Krauthammer - that a majority of Americans oppose same sex marriage. The lie was exposed by a Yahoo news story from August 12, 2010 (where a razor thin majority, before the margin of error favors same sex marriage).

Personally I want to point out that Republican politicians and pundits did exactly the same thing with health care reform. Back in the spring of 2009, polls showed Americans favored health care reform, that current costs were too expensive although there was concern about how it would be implemented. But as 2009 wore on, Republicans hammered on the theme that Americans opposed health care reform, and achieved some results, possibly because of the spectacle of the town hall meetings (August Quinnipiac Rasmussen). Kaiser generally stated at the time a slim percentage of Americans were in favor of HCR. Frankly it may matter who asked the poll question. To jump ahead a bit, by March 2010 a clear majority of those polled opposed HCR. It is still bouncing around, although it looks like a slim majority now oppose HCR reform. And my contention is that this was caused and achieved by a relentless Republican chant that it was so.

Back to Greenwald's column, he basically hits the high notes concerning the behavior of conservative pundits and politicians. How if a majority of Americans support or oppose something, then Democrats are supporting unpopular policies, and playing the bigot card because they have nothing else. Greenwald makes the point that conservatives are distracting people from the biggest issue in America, the recession (particularly related to jobs) mostly by finding fringe issues (New Black Panthers, ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, the Ground Zero mosque, illegal immigrants, same sex marriage, even Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech). But these wedge issues are also further polarizing Americans, playing on people's race-based fears, turning them into hatred.

Meanwhile, some Democrats, particularly those who might have won seats in majority Republican districts, are joining in the criticisms of their own party, helping to legitimate the outrageous accusations of the conservatives. And then there is the Obama administration. For all the good they may have done in some areas, they seem more interested in helping and supporting Wall Street than in helping ordinary Americans. This instead of helping the poor like Obama campaigned on.

Greenwald spares no one in his critique of American politics, which I think is a good thing. I don't know how many people read his columns (or if any of the right people do), but at least he is trying. I have wrtten before about why I think Obama has not tried to do more, but increasingly I am feeling that Obama should take the risk of playing into the hands of conservatives, to do the right thing.

Meanwhile, though, Greenwald is doing, in my opinion, the best job of focusing our attention on what is important.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The mosque(/community center) of the phantom

It’s Sunday and once again, I would like to complain about today’s Jack Kelly editorial column. My theme (or perhaps motif, if you will) of the past few weeks has been how I believe Mr. Kelly is preaching now to the Tea Party, This week’s column does nothing to dissuade me.

This week it is the Ground Zero mosque, which is actually two blocks away from Ground Zero and not strictly speaking a mosque (but anyway …). Kelly brings up (in my opinion) two issues, what the President said and that the President said anything at all.

First as far as talking about what the President says, Kelly somewhat distorts recent history, in my opinion. First, when Obama spoke first about the Mosque/community center on that Friday the 13th he talked about religious freedom in America and the right to build the mosque/community center. Of course the next day, perhaps based on reactions, he damped down expectation by saying he was only talking about the right, not the wisdom. Kelly states “the right to build the mosque was not in controversy”. I would disagree with that little bit of history re-write. I believe the original call was for the Mosque/community center not to be built, period, and only more recently line has become “move the location”. Sarah Palin called for Muslims to “refudiate” the mosque, and Newt Gingrich compared Muslims to Nazis, both simply saying don’t build the mosque/community center, without conceding it would be legal to build. Sean Hannity suggested that the mosque would be used as a wedge to change the constitution to make the US adopt Sharia and become a theocracy. The New York Post had at least one column describing how the constitution was being “slimed and perverted” well before the President spoke on that Friday. As Dayvoe of Two PJ’s noted(a day before the President spoke), someone from the American Family Association said he wants no more mosques anywhere. I believe there will be pressure here and there not to build any individual mosque, but I suspect most new mosques would not face serious opposition.

Now I will admit that Obama forcefully talking about the rights of Muslims one day and then questioning the wisdom of the location the next was disappointing. Kelly chooses to suggest that those who praised Obama speech on Friday night, specifically Greg Sargent and Glenn Greenwald, were made to look like fools on Saturday by Obama subsequent remarks. First I will say Kelly should be careful about calling others fools (and leave lots more I could say about that alone). Second, I don’t think that Obama took an oath to avoid making journalists look like fools. Third, I doubt that anyone reading Greenwald (or Sargent I assume, since I have not read his stuff) would think him a fool in any way. Journalists/pundits report/opine about what is in front of them, and obviously politicians sometimes change tacks to play to various constituencies. I have written that I believe Obama wants to avoid giving opponents the opportunity to label any of his stands as explicitly black, and Obama may have thought his support of the mosque/community center would fall into that category (remember 4 out of 10 slaves brought to the US were Muslims).

Kelly’s other point was that by weighing in on the issue, Obama took a local issue to a national level. I think there is no doubt that Obama’s statement both ratcheted up and redefined the issue (after all, he is the President). Now let’s be clear here, this is an issue dealing with New York City, America’s largest and most important city, and an issue that has been identified with 9/11, at least the second most important incident in the American experience in this new century (we did elect an African American President for the first time in US history too). The mosque/community center had been in the works for some time, but a blogger named Pam Geller who writes Atlas Shrugged was an opponent starting back in December of last year, and ramping up this past spring (Atlas Shrugged seems to be an oft quoted conservative blog). Republicans in New York City and State appeared to start opposing the mosque/community center back in the spring (perhaps timed to coincide with primary races ramping up). Rick Lazio started to show up on national TV morning news shows in July. CNN asked a question about the mosque/community center in a national poll on August 11th, two days before the President spoke.

Since the President spoke, the media’s focus has shifted somewhat, in continually mentioning that the mosque/community center’s developers have the right to build it, and we hear much more about moving the site than before. Is that a reasonable compromise, to move the mosque/community center, or should we even expect that Republican bullies can force the mosque/community center’s developers to compromise? The only thing I can say for sure is that the question would likely not even be conceivable if the President had not spoken.

I think the Tea Party is happy to find an issue to distract voters with. Their own candidates (and other conservative Republicans) are sounding fairly loopy, opposing rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but wanting to privatize Social Security, eliminate Medicare, change the 14th amendment and maybe even repeal civil rights legislation. Kelly suggests Democrats are desperately tarring opponents of the mosque/community center with the labels of terrorist or bigot, yet Kelly calls Speaker Pelosi “Nanzi”. Mostly Kelly wants to preserve the illusion that Republicans and particularly the Tea Party is making progress by preaching small government and hatred of different peoples. Of course that message is seductive (see Reagan Democrats), but I want to believe that the American people are smarter than that, that we can look at the twin histories of the Great Depression and World Ward II, and know that Americans don’t turn their backs on each other (or when we do it doesn’t turn out well), and that politics of hate are the politics of genocide. It is the tension between the (famous and first Republican) Lincoln’s quote about fooling people versus Menken’s line about underestimating the taste of the American people. I choose to bet on Lincoln.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Fairness can be a tricky thing. One feels compelled to stand behind and defend the Democrats if one is (somewhat of) a liberal. And indeed I will defend Obama for continuing the War in Afghanistan and the domestic wiretapping thing. I think he has to do these things because if he ended them abruptly, he would be accused of being an angry black man with an agenda (after all) and we would not have another black President for fifty years. Of course, Obama is still accused of being an angry black man with an agenda (after all), but only by people who seem pretty transparently to have their own agenda.

I am not happy, however, that Obama is continuing (even ramping up) the war in Afghanistan or continuing the wiretapping thing, among other things he is doing. I think he could make a case for dropping at least one of those activities without appearing to be a socialist.

But back to fairness, the tricky thing about it is if you want to give credit where credit is due. Or draw equivalencies.

The "credit where" part is in relation to Ann Coulter. She agreed to speak at "Homocon", a convention of gay conservatives (surely the very essence of an oxymoron - gay conservative). She is now getting pressure from other conservatives, for example WorldNetDaily has dropped her from a speaking engagement. Now, as of right now she is sticking to her guns, saying she was hired to speak like she is hired to speak at a lot of places, and that is what she is going to do (will she provoke them? this would be a target rich environment for her).

Of course there are Log Cabin Republicans (maybe this is the same group) but at the moment I would not think that gays would want to stay in the Republican party. After all, it seems like mostly Republicans leading the charge to reinstate Proposition 8 in California (although Governor Schwarzenegger does oppose it, for example). Ross Douthat suggested on his NYTimes blog that conservatives/Republicans should have pushed long ago for civil unions for Gays to defuse the issue. I think that would have been a good temporary compromise that could have evolved over time, but it would no longer be possible. Now you wonder what gay conservatives think of Republicans that seem to hate them.

Meanwhile, there was one other point I wanted to throw out there (so to speak). After Dr. Laura went on her "n-word" binge the other day (11 times in a few minutes?) and then retired from the radio shortly there after, Sarah Palin has apparently asked who liberal attacks on her are any different than conservatives demanding Rahm Emanuel resign after he called some fellow Democrats "f-ing retards" in a closed door meeting. Now there are some differences between a closed door meeting and speaking over the radio, and context/usage, but really, at the end of the day, Palin has a point.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

War with terrorists or with ... Islam?

Glenn Greenwald is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. Yesterday he took a break from his intelligent criticism of Obama to write the first of at least two posts on the "Ground Zero mosque" (which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque, as various people keep pointing out). The essential point of Greenwald's column is that those who oppose the "mosque" (civic center) are basically forced to connect any random Muslim to the Al Qaeda.

By the way, as the complaints about the (misnamed) "Ground Zero mosque" rise to a wail, has anyone heard the name Osama bin Laden recently? Do we actually care about .... who was I thinking of ...oh, yeah, terrorists.

Two Americas, one not so pretty.

Ross Douthat had an interesting column in the NYTimes yesterday. It was interesting in large part because he is trying to justify discrimination, not to say out right racist hatred, as something not just acceptable but desirable for America. The Republicans have latched on to the anti Islamist fervor (in regard to the "ground zero mosque") as a way to discredit Democrats, and the theorist Douthat is trying to equate that with those other quintessential American ideals like democracy, fairness and tolerance.

Douthat talks about two Americas. The first is the mythical America we generally invoke in times of crisis, the one where our founding fathers decided to create a nation where democracy would rule but not be tyrannical, where people had many rights and can exercise them as long as they don’t (legally) harm anyone else. The second, though, is the real America of history, where we speak (American) English, we are a majority Christian (originally protestant) nation and we expect newcomers to assimilate.

In that context, Douthat talks about how Mormons were forced to give up polygamy and American Catholics pushed Rome to take more liberal stances on various issues. He also talks about how immigrants were allowed in the US for a while, then immigration was cut back and those that were already here were pushed to conform and assimilate.

OK, so Douthat only chooses examples where American religious discrimination resulted in a more unified (if less tolerant) society. He uses this to suggest that since the Muslim religion is so different culturally, we are justified in our discriminatory attitudes, because what will result from our pushing them to be more like us is a more harmonious American society.

The problem with justifying discrimination in religion is that it then becomes impossible to reject it in other contexts, if indeed anyone actually tries. If you tell Italians or Estonians they have to learn English and dress better, are you going to celebrate African American heritage or gay culture? Are you going to give blacks or gays jobs? I mean, you may not trust gypsies, but at least they aren’t black or gay. Which is to say a gypsy “dressed for success” can pass for a WASP, but the black will always be black and the gay person holding hands with the wrong gender will always stand out.

Frankly, I see no reason to think the growing Republican (and even some Democrats) opposition to the mosque as anything but political opportunism. It is impossible to see it as particularly principled.

I think I agree with Douthat’s characterization of the two Americas. But while he limits his description to discussions of religion and the assimilation of immigrants, I see a characterization that covers the range of our social behaviors, from slavery and segregation through women’s rights and now the current controversies over the mosque and gay marriage. And I see in most cases that we fail time and again to live up to our own principles, that we are at best late in correcting our mistakes, and at worst cause or prolong the suffering of many of our citizens or other people around the world.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's the economy, ...uh, smart guy

It is generally acknowledged that income inequity is at a very high level right now. I don’t know if it is setting records, and I don’t care. I believe that tax policy over time is often blamed (probably along with the reduction of regulatory law and enforcement). I believe it is suggested that tax policy could also help ameliorate this situation (along with tightening regulatory law and enforcement). But …

I hadn’t realized I should be worried about how well the rich are doing. But pundits keep telling us in sonorous and solemn and gravely concerned tones that the rich make up perhaps a quarter of the spending in the economy (that 3% of the economy spends a fourth –that’s a quarter, right – is obscene in itself), and “If they pull back, even a bit, the recovery could be derailed.”. Meanwhile, I have heard elsewhere that companies are looking at the healthcare plan and thinking they should either keep employees at or reduce their hours back to 25 or 30. Now, I don’t know the terms of the law per se, but I am guessing that being full time is one of the prerequisites to qualifying for employee provided healthcare. Before I look at that in any detail, let me also mention I heard Laura Tyson, economic adviser to Obama, say (as several others have) that companies and wealthy individuals have something like a trillion dollars they are sitting on (this was on Meet the Press). What are they waiting for? Honestly I don’t know, and haven’t heard anything. My only speculation could be that they are waiting for the Republicans to take back the Congress, and get to work undoing anything Obama has already done.

Another interesting thing Laura Tyson said was the while the overall rate of unemployment is around ten percent, the rate for people with college degrees is around four and a half percent, and less than four for people with even higher degrees. Which means those with high school degrees (or without even high school degrees) have an unemployment rate somewhat higher than 10%. Then of course there are those who are considered under-employed. What is under-employed? Working hours fewer than 40 is one definition (another is working a lower wage job than you might be qualified for). So part of the current misery being experienced by the bottom 50% (or 90% or however you want to look at it) is being blamed on the government’s evil policies causing uncertainty.

But looking at this, are we supposed to believe that the companies who are keeping (or reducing) hours to 25-30 would otherwise raise the hours and offer health insurance to those employees, if they weren't faced with an onerous tax burden? And I don’t even know where to begin with the trillion socked away. But my major thought is, we are seriously suppose to feel bad for the rich? We are supposed to agree they should be able to pay their employees less and less, so we can benefit from their restrained spending? We should encourage our legislators to repeal “Obamacare”, so that employers are not too expensive.

Or we could look at the high school graduates, who are finding that the only work they can find (if they can find work) is for 30 hour a week jobs without healthcare. What are they supposed to do if they get sick? How are they supposed to provide for their families?

But we need to stay focused on the rich, who are much more important.

The PG's other gossip columnist ....

Once again, it’s time for an analysis of today’s Jack Kelly column. Actually today’s column is a puzzling two-fer, puzzling because the only thing the two topics have in common is that Jack uses them to take shots at Obama.

Kelly’s first topic is a story of a briefing. Some members of the press were invited to the White House for a high level briefing, and when they arrived they found Obama himself was giving the briefing on sanctions and diplomacy with Iran, with regard to Iran's nuclear program. Apparently the journalists all agree that Obama talked about three legs of policy, the door for diplomacy being held open should the Iranians wish to talk, sanctions to give them an incentive to do that, and a military option for some point in the future should that become necessary.

What’s interesting is that the journalists disagree what Obama’s emphasis is. Conservatives heard TOUGH TALK and diplomacy, liberals heard DIPLOMACY and sanctions. And I will say I am not surprised, that particular type of confusion seems like something Obama is actually pretty good at. For example, it seems like a number of people during the campaign heard what they wanted to (and many are now disappointed or annoyed with Obama). I will say that if Obama managed to work some magic on these journalists, I think that is a great thing. After all, now the Iranians themselves will be confused about which Obama is going to concentrate on: diplomacy or tougher sanctions. Apparently this bothers Jack Kelly, or maybe he just needed to fill space.

His second topic and perhaps real beef is that Obama had celebrities to Camp David, plays golf and has a wife who takes vacations.

Now there are so many ways that I could respond to that.

This has to do with policy how?

Obama doesn’t know his place. Not that Kelly said anything quite like that, but just talking about it makes one wonder why he cares (and, like all those conservative commenters, I will leave it at that).

Bush didn’t play as many rounds of golf in his entire Presidency at Obama already has. Now, at least one account says Bush stopped playing rounds of golf after he gave an impromptu press conference on a golf course where he denounced a suicide bombing, then said “Now watch this drive” (a moment captured, as I recall, in Fahrenheit 9/11). Other accounts say that Bush gave up golf so that a parent would not see him playing on the day of any soldier’s funeral (although I don’t believe Bush made a practice of going to funerals, in fact not even one). This might be a point that Obama might want to think about. On the other hand, we all know that Bush loved his vacations.

This week’s column strikes me as a series of cheap shots. It makes essentially no point about policy, it is simply a way of spreading gossip. It does hit two or three high points that the Tea Party laid out in their manifesto back in February, shots at “educated elites” and shots at “elitist, self-styled aristocrats” who run government. Which brings me back to the point I made last week, that Jack Kelly seems to be working as much (or more) for the Tea Party now as he is for the Post Gazette. Which ought to be a problem for the PG.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Does Kelly drink the Rooibos?

I had some trouble with Jack Kelly’s column today, because the logic is so twisted. The over arching message is clear enough, that our federal legislators no longer represent us Kelly’s column even has that classic phrase “There was a time, not so long ago…”, referring to a false nostalgia for a bygone era (the Reagan administration).

So who does Congress represent, according to Kelly? This was part of the problem I had with the column; Kelly doesn’t say exactly, he relies’ on a Rasmusssen survey that uses the categories of “political class” and “Mainstream America”. Which reminds me of something I heard in 1978 when I took high school political science (hey, I was interested and it was easy). Our teacher told us that in America (probably everywhere) 30% of the people read the newspaper for news, while 70% read the sports pages and comics (this would translate for today’s equivalent of TV news or information from the internet). But I don’t think this classic distinction of news consumers is what Jack Kelly has in mind.

Actually, Kelly does pause to take a shot at the usual suspects (Democrats) by saying “Part of the problem is partisan and ideological. Democrats are more fond of government, less respectful of the rights and wisdom of ordinary Americans.”. But surprisingly he then goes on to blame Republicans (who ”controlled Congress from 1995 to 2007”) for ”plenty of corruption, big spending, and disregard for the opinions of ordinary Americans”. Kelly declares the problem “primarily structural, and will require structural fixes”. In this column, although he never says anything about the Tea Party, I think Kelly sees Democrats and Republican partisans as the "political class" and Tea Party members and sympathizers as "Mainstream America".

Just to be clear, Kelly repeats this information from the Rasmussen poll (I paraphrase), the “Mainstream America” group favors the free market, want to repeal “Obamacare” and “reduce” illegal immigration, while the political class disagrees. Sounds like the issues the Tea Party is interested in to me.

I certainly agree polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans are dissatisfied with Congress. The way I would interpret that is this. Liberals/Democrats see a Congress hamstrung by record numbers of Republican filibusters in the Senate, so while the stimulus and health care reform did pass, they were compromised to death and nothing else can pass. Conservatives/Republicans see Democrats holding the majorities in Congress and holding the White House, so they are spending money left and right, sending the deficit/debt skyrocketing and putting us at risk for hyper-inflation.

Whether you agree with Jack’s stated assessment of the situation, or mine, you may have trouble following the logic behind Kelly’s suggestions to fix the problem. I did. First he proposes term limits. I can see the logic there, although I have always been ambivalent at best about them. Yes, term limits make Congresspersons more dependent on donors (particularly lobbyists who pay attention) because they want to get re-elected, but term limits also let a Congressperson ignore their constituents if they so choose (at least in there last term they don’t have worry about re-election) and there is less institutional memory in Congress. But I would regard that all as worth debating.

More puzzling is Kelly’s recommendations for changes in rules for donations. Kelly wants donors to voters registered in the same state as the candidate is running. He claims this will limit the effect of special interests, and it likely will, although it would likely hurt Republicans as well as Democrats. And Kelly wants to raise the contribution ceiling to $10,000. Kelly explicitly says he thinks this would not be enough for one donor to buy a Congressperson, but it would be enough “so an otherwise competitive candidate can raise the campaign funds he or she needs from among his or her constituents.”.

Again, if you view this through the perspective of the Tea Party, this makes sense. I have mentioned before the NYTimes/ABC poll that found self-identified Tea Party members to be wealthier than the norm for voters (they are probably the suburban “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads” of the 2000 election). So while one Tea Party donor couldn’t own a candidate, one district’s or State’s Tea Party could marshal considerable resources, especially if the national Democrats or Republicans were prevented from acting. The “otherwise competitive candidate” is the Tea Party nut-job who most voters would run from.

I have to admit, I am not sure exactly what to do with Kelly’s next paragraph. A $200 million dollar fund to be divided between the Democratic and Republican parties, no party donation larger than $100,000? I will say simply that I am sure the Tea Party would prefer the traditional parties to be limited while they would not be (because, as far as I am aware, they are not yet an official party). I don’t see where the NRA or the American Medical Association is limited by Jack’s plan (or the NEA or the AARP), so I don’t see where the worst of the attack ads would be eliminated. But I guess that’s OK with Jack and his new found friends the Tea Party.

So yeah, pretty obviously Americans (as polled) are annoyed by Congress, for reasons you may think are good and/or bad. But Jack Kelly’s prescriptions for reform, which strike me as designed to help the Tea Party, are not at all an obvious good thing.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

This is really impressive ...

But not in a good way.

This was in today's New York Times. Bicycles. World government control of Denver. Riiiiiight.

Dan Maes is the front runner for the Republican nomination for the Colorado's governor race. He suggests the likely Democratic nominee (Denver's Mayor John Hickenlooper) "is bringing the city under United Nations control by promoting bike riding and other sustainability measures." (quote from the NYTimes, paraphrasing Maes). That is because Denver joined the "International Council for Local Environmental Initiaives" (in 1992, Hickenlooper was elected in 2003). So Hickenlooper put 400 red bikes around the city of Denver to rent. Red bikes. Commie.

Did I mention the NYTImes describes Maes as "a Tea Party Favorite". He says -
"“At first, I thought, ‘Gosh, public transportation, what’s wrong with that, and what’s wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what’s wrong with incentives for green cars?’ But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty,” Mr. Maes said of the organization, which was established in 1990 during a conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York."

And then he says "He added: “This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms.”"

res ipsa loquitur. I hope Coloradans understand english.

On another hand, it falls to Bernie Sanders (the actual socialist) to argue for a compromise on the estate tax. Republicans want to eliminate it (despite their hysterics about the deficit and debt), and the Democrats do not want to offend wealthy donors. We live in interesting times politically.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

We're supposed to become ditch diggers

Before we look at Jack Kelly’s column today, we need to make sure we are on the same page economics-wise.
Deficits matter (now).
Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and (then Republican) Arlen Specter had no effect on the stimulus bill, when Harry Reid let them take a chain saw to the Senate version.
Deficits matter (now).
Tax cuts are a “tried and true” method for getting out of recessions past, like uh…. Well, it’s not the way we got out of the great depression, unless we didn’t really get out of it until Eisenhower was elected. And Kennedy cut taxes ….
Deficits matter (now).

Actually, Kelly spends fully a third of his column detailing the tax problems of three Democratic politicians. And you know, fair enough, it looks like all three have done stupid things. Mind you, if you want to talk about whether Geithner should have paid his Medicare and social security taxes while he was at the IMF, then liberal bloggers are going to want to remind everyone about two mishandled wars (at least one unnecessary), deficits, a housing bubble filled with toxic assets, etc.

It is interesting how Kelly advances his argument. He mentions Timothy Geithner didn’t pay the aforementioned taxes, but wants to let the tax cuts on people making $250,000 and up expire (as Congress first agreed to do when it passed the tax cuts, just my two cents). Then Kelly describes what would happen if *all* the tax cuts expired - THE LARGEST TAX RISE IN HISTORY (back to their previous levels). Which would be bad, because that would stall the stalled recovery, in addition to adding revenue to the government (even though deficits matter (now)).

Um, anyway (my head is starting to hurt) apparently generic Republicans repeat their mantra about small businesses being hurt by the three to four percentage points their marginal tax on their income above $250,000 would go up. I suspect these are the same small business men whose families would be turned out on the street if the “death tax” every comes back (those families whose two million dollar plus estate puts them close to the edge of poverty).

Kelly simply assumes the reader agrees that government stimulus doesn't work, and that tax cuts do. Kelly can get away with that because a lot of liberals have turned on Obama, and because Democrats in Congress were possibly counting on Obama to stick his neck out so they wouldn't have to. Now Republicans are incessantly chanting deficit, and Democrats are only whispering in return.

According to Kelly, we have to cut popular programs (read politicians will balk). OK, after we do that (or maybe not), we can raise money by giving away … I mean selling drilling rights, federal land and hydro electric dams (????). I guess the people who slip Kelly an envelope of money each week to shill for them added some extra instructions.

Hmm, in this time of recession, who could afford to buy a hydro electric dam? Who has had record profits in the last few years?

How well will your electric cars compete (you liberals) when the new owners of the dams either raise the price of electricity or simply stop bothering to produce any. Think I am being too paranoid? Enron and the California rolling blackouts.

So at the end of the day, Jack Kelly's column on the danger of deficits is really just a sales pitch to sell America's environment to the energy companies. And we saw how careful they are with the environment just recently in the Gulf.