Archive for February, 2011

Ouch.

Feb 26, 2011 in Politics

Republicans are having trouble manufacturing a poll showing that they’re on the side of the people. See here and here.

A key component of strike breaking is using the press to disseminate anti-democratic propaganda. For instance, Koch Industries can’t go on the airwaves in Wisconsin and start detailing their hatred for workplace representation because it’d be so obvious that it would be public relations suicide. The favored method is to produce a poll or press release carefully constructed by a third party client and release it to the local media who will dutifully report what is given to them thereby giving the message the patina of authenticity. It’s a standard media trick. The problem in the case of Wisconsin is that the polls didn’t reflect the intended message that Real Americans were against the agitators and “union thugs”. Quite the contrary, “Real Americans” don’t share the same reflexive hatred for workplace democracy as elites. And when one considers the immense amount of propaganda dedicated to convincing people that they have no rights as workers it’s a remarkable achievement.

-mg

The Republican outrage machine misfires for a brief second.

Feb 23, 2011 in Politics

I have a hard time keeping up with all of the things Republicans expect me to be outraged about so I generally tune out the constant peddling of idiotic news items that the “liberal media” churns out on a daily basis. One thing that’s guaranteed NOT to become a hot topic is a rather pointed question posed to Newt Gingrich about his many divorces and affairs:

In a question-and-answer session, Isabel Friedman, a student at the university who’s also Democratic activist, pressed Gingrich on how he squares his pro-family values with the fact he has been married three times and has admitted to two extramarital affairs.

“You adamantly oppose gay rights… but you’ve also been married three times and admitted to having an affair with your current wife while you were still married to your second,” Friedman said, in comments first reported by Politico. “As a successful politician who’s considering running for president, who would set the bar for moral conduct and be the voice of the American people, how do you reconcile this hypocritical interpretation of the religious values that you so vigorously defend?”

In a video of the interaction posted on YouTube, Gingrich appeared none-too-happy with the question.

Of course he wasn’t happy. Republicans spent a good chunk of the nineties telling everyone, especially each other, that Bill Clinton’s sexual exploits was the single most important issue on the minds of Americans. Of course that wasn’t true. Clinton approval numbers surged during the Republican’s moral witch hunt and he continued to be viewed favorably by the electorate up until his departure. The man who led that charge, Newt Gingrich, was embroiled in his own extramarital affairs at the time. Ten years in exile later he needs to sweep all of that under the rug in hopes that the moral crusaders of the RW will believe his new shuck and jive about finding Jesus….again. Apparently, Newt is still under the impression that the old days of the Religious Right can be resurrected but obviously reminding Iowa caucus goers that he’s an opportunist at heart fucks up the narrative he’s been working very hard at for years.

-mg

Fantasy meets reality

Feb 23, 2011 in Politics

Oil is not part of the economy. Oil is the economy:

Oil prices may surge to $220 a barrel if political unrest in North Africa halts exports from Libya and Algeria, Nomura Holdings Inc. said.

Crude futures rose to almost $100 in New York today, the highest in more than two years, as violence in Libya threatened to disrupt exports from Africa’s third-biggest supplier. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi vowed yesterday to fight a growing rebellion until his “last drop of blood.” Protests in Algeria led to the ending of a 19-year state of emergency.

“If Libya and Algeria were to halt oil production together, prices could peak above $220 a barrel and OPEC spare capacity will be reduced to 2.1 million barrels a day, similar to levels seen during the Gulf war and when prices hit $147 in 2008,” the Tokyo-based bank said in a note today. …

“These are levels that effectively kill the global recovery,” Schork said in an interview. “You can never say never, but $220 is blatantly not sustainable.”

Nomura forecasts that a jump to $220 would probably cause a temporary collapse in global oil consumption of 2 million barrels a day. That’s more than the 1.5 million barrels of daily growth anticipated this year by the IEA.

Get used to it.

One lesson to be learned here is that with peer competitors the planet over consuming more and more of the resources that we assumed were ours there is no longer any swing capacity that would have in the past absorbed geo-political market shocks. Previously, we relied upon Saudi Arabia to open up the spigot whenever the economy needed goosing. They can no longer fulfill that role and Iraq is nowhere near a point where its infrastructure is developed and secure enough to pick up the slack.

Another lesson is that energy security is becoming increasingly reliant on local gendarmes and despots. And while corrupt dictatorships can guarantee stability in the short term they can topple quite easily when the local “Mohammedans”, as our friends on the right have lately begun referring to them, start to take matters in their own hands. The biggest nightmare scenario currently would be for the unrest to spread to Saudi Arabia and if the Abdul Aziz family goes all bets on Western Civilization are off.

-mg

The War on Women, among other things.

Feb 22, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Women

Of course, the Tea Party was simply the most diehard rightwingers, the cultural base, going apeshit and spouting pure babble about socialism, going after the things Republicans have been talking about wanting for years yet providing no real solutions to real problems. Well, guess what? They didn’t change on the social conservatism. Given the chance to reorganize our taxes and spending, the Republicans are punting on it no differently than Obama. Instead, they’re going after the little pet peeves in the budget they’ve hated for years for entirely different reasons, things that don’t amount to more than a few drops in the budget bucket. Going into discretionary spending and taking revenge on all their bugaboos, e.g. those who don’t perpetuate the Republican agenda like NPR. One Republican even introduced a bill that cut funding for Obama’s teleprompters (once again, teleprompter talk = stone cold crazy Rovian anti-truth bullshit reversal of plain truth that Obama can manhandle a roomful of Republicans in unscripted debate). And, of course, in Madison, WI they’re using the budget excuse to simply bust the unions even when the unions have made all monetary concessions.

Well, another not-so-secret surprise is their rapidly unveiled War on Women, seeking to turn back the clocks on women’s rights in multiple domains in a perfectly telic array of swiftness and boldness. So not only are they playing culture war games in the budget by cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, but they’re defining rape down, telling women to stay at home instead of working, and trying to ban abortions even when the mother’s life is at stake. Gosh, obvious much?

So it’s on. It was really easy for Republicans to bitch and moan for two years, having no responsibility but to say no and block everything that could be blocked, and then evading responsibility for the blocking. But as soon as they got back into power they turned into the biggest pile of incompetent and useless dicks, reminding us that when they were in power it was a daily process of ruining the country by working against working people, women, and minorities at every step. It just boggles the mind what ammo they will have handed the Democrats by 2012. The thought in the public mind of trusting a Republican Congress and president again will seem indefensible. Obama just has to promise to keep the brakes on the Republicans while pushing a solid middle-class based agenda to win a second term.

But really, our country has to stop acting surprised when they elect Republicans and get this kind of shenanigans. How many times can we fall for the same bait-and-switch? Republican Leader Rush Limbaugh has been on the air for twenty years and is generally detested by the public, yet he was railing against “feminazis” back in 1990. It’s always been the agenda. They called themselves the Tea Party and bought themselves another chance, so what’s it going to be next time? What new moniker can the same old people with the same old ideas apply to beguile the public next time?

-hw

Was for Middle East democratization before Bush discovered it as a rationale for war, still for it now.

Feb 21, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

Somehow, amazingly, the media icons on the right like Beck and Limbaugh are reverting to George H.W. Bush/Reagan Republicans, who knew that it was better to strike a deal with a dictator than risk a populist uprising that could lead to a government actually representing the interests of the Middle East.

There is, of course, great potential for bad as well as good in these kind of transformative moments in history – the Arab 1848 as it were. We should be vigilant on that score. But it is bizarre to read conservatives who praised the Iraq war that led to the empowerment of al Sadr and the deaths of hundreds of thousands in a country occupied by the US to be now retroactively endorsing the other Saddams of the Middle East.

Their thinking is also predicated on the 1979 Iran revolution that tossed out the Shah, who we had installed in the ’50s. It just led to “America is Satan,” so who needs more of that, right? Except one example of one country in an era already thirty years past doesn’t write the rules for everybody until the end of time. This is about sunshine hitting the Middle East, and dictators losing the ability to control what their citizens learn. This is about a group of countries mostly composed of young people with cell phones and internet cafes. This is about truth getting in where it couldn’t get in before.

Plus, we’re so in the middle of the storm right now. What do you want the Middle East Revolution to be about? Say it. They’re listening. It should go without saying that we reserve the right to dislike a democratic government’s choices, but we must always advocate for democracy over totalitarian regimes.

If you can’t hold that simple line in the sand, don’t talk to me about the Constitution, which was based entirely on philosophies that extend to all human beings. We don’t have rights because we’re Americans, we recognize rights that are universal to our species and enforce their boundaries in the courts. Siding with an authoritarian regime as a matter of principle is to have no principle at all.

It’s one thing to make do with a ruler that cannot be easily displaced, but when the people are storming the castle, one roots for the people, not the corrupt dictator inside. That’s the kind of principle that resonates with me.

-hw

Wisconsin, unmasked.

Feb 18, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

The curtain has dropped…the unions conceded on the finances, but Governor Walker isn’t having it. It isn’t about the budget, it’s about using a fiscal crisis to go after Republican dreams of destroying unions. All that’s left to disagree about is the right to form a union, yet there’s no deal because that’s what Republicans are hungry for.

Much like cutting funds for NPR or Planned Parenthood, it’s never really about a balanced budget. Only question…when will these guys ever stop acting like scumbags and govern semi-responsibly?

-hw

Early Christmas

Feb 18, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives

Please, Santa, let them do it. Recent comments from GOP players indicate that they think they’ll be able to blame the Democrats for shutting down the government; far be it from Iowa Liberal to deny these guys their dreams, but we all remember how the last GOP-led shutdown ended. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

Knock yerselves out, GOP friends. Have all confidence in your ability to control the spin, and we’ll see you at the polls!

Why be original?

Feb 12, 2011 in Energy, Environment

…when our technology has advanced enough to the point where we can copy nature’s efficiencies? This is the future:

-hw

Word!

Feb 11, 2011 in Foreign Policy

Worth repeating:

“People power” protests of the kind we have seen in recent weeks in Cairo and Alexandria have toppled far more rulers in recent decades than all the world’s terrorists and guerrillas combined. … In Egypt, Mubarak survived the massacres of tourists in the 1990s carried out by Islamist groups. He did not survive peaceful rallies in the heart of his own capital.

There is a lesson here for those not too fanatical or deluded to learn it. Put down the bomb, the sniper rifle, whatever weapon you have, and grab a placard, go on Twitter, organize a rally. True, many peaceful protests have been repressed too, as we have seen most recently in Iran; but they offer a much surer road to regime change than does blowing up innocent people.

The more terrible the regime, the riskier, but why Palestinians haven’t always known Israel is too liberal to resist peaceful resistance is beyond me. Then again, the internet is doing the most to change the world, and it’s hopefully only getting started.

-hw

A matter of degree.

Feb 10, 2011 in Politics

I flipped my dome when I read this:

There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals.

I’ve been saying this for years to those who could not understand my stance as a libertarian socialist (more informative than the increasingly popular liberaltarian label some are choosing). I’m opposed to all forms of tyranny, whether from the government or private entities (i.e. corporations).

Btw, that quote is from Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, what he hath spawned is a legion of social conservatives dedicated to using government power to fulfill their ends and libertarians completely blind to corporate pillaging. But it’s good to see that that element of common sensibility was there in the beginning, that it may be nurtured to bloom again.

-hw

Don’t you remember the hippies?

Feb 10, 2011 in Politics

David Neiwert uses Kelsey Grammer’s divorce (from his blonde trophy wife for one twenty years younger) to make a larger point that some of us can relate to.

We’ve all encountered it: former college pals, or hometown buds, or old flames, or coworkers, or brothers-in-law, or grandfathers — all convinced now that you’ve become a bad person because you’re aiding and abetting those evil liberals in their attempt to destroy America. And what happens on an interpersonal scale is often ugly. It happens at Thanksgiving tables, at weddings and family reunions, when you go home to visit and see your old friends, or at work with people you’ve been friends with for years.

There are several reasons for it. The first is that the relentless message of the right-wing talkers, whether at Fox or on the radio, is simple and unmistakable: Liberals are bad people, sick in their souls, and they want to destroy America and your way of life. Day and day out, that’s the message the True Believers get. And boy, do they believe it.

The second is that, as Nicole reported awhile back, it’s been definitively established that Fox News watchers are deliberately malinformed — that is, they believe a broad array of things that are factually untrue, but have been told by Fox News that they are true:

Fox News is deliberately misinforming its viewers and it is doing so for a reason. Every issue above is one in which the Republican Party had a vested interest. The GOP benefited from the ignorance that Fox News helped to proliferate.

As we’ve explained on many occasions, this kind of rhetoric alienates people from reality — including the people who choose to live in that reality. By functionally unhinging people — there is no other way to describe the effect of persuading people to believe, doggedly and unshakably, in things that are provably untrue, even in the fact of irrevocable factual evidence — it serves to drive a real wedge between them and everyone else, while conversely forging powerful bonds with the like-minded.

Finally, it must be understood that the mission of both Fox News and talk radio is not merely to propagandize with disinformation, but also to inflame. This is why conspiracy theories — which, functionally speaking, are narratives intended to induce simultaneous feelings of powerlessness and paranoia — abound on Fox News. There’s no one quite as congenitally angry as a congenital Fox Watcher.

No wonder Grammer didn’t want to snuggle. What Fox News does is make people want to go out and beat up liberals. As Joy Behar says: What a turn-on, eh?

This isn’t a problem just affecting Hollywood marriages. It’s affecting millions of personal relationships, and in a decidedly poisonous way. Fox News, as Bill O’Reilly likes to say about the “far left,” really is bad for America — bad for our politics, bad for national discourse, and really, really bad for our friendships and family ties, the very real fabric of our society.

Conservative mythology states for a fact that conservatives were hated and treated as Neanderthal (and since when did anthropologists started dropping the “h” and say “Neandertal?” Their Latin name is still Homo neanderthalensis…talk about a pointless change) troglodytes in society with the advent of the dirty hippies and the Geraldine Ferraros of the world. They’re uncool in universities so they have to spawn a book industry whining about it (while being decidedly anti-intellectual on any scientific manner that interferes with their religious beliefs/economic incentives). They can’t believe that their views aren’t more popular among artists. And yes, no doubt many conservatives have been given a lot of heat in their personal lives for their beliefs by the occasional liberal who’s feeling self-righteous.

Yet, is what conservatives want simply exaggerated revenge, where Republicans just sit around telling each other that liberals are demons hellbent on destroying our good Christian prosperous society until they can’t contain the rage anymore and start ranting at family functions?

-hw

Playing victim is one of the most consistent strategies among bigots.

Feb 09, 2011 in Christian Right, teh gay

Looks like Iowa Republicans are introducing a bill that would legalize just about any form of bigotry and discrimination by businesses if the person working there says it’s their religion.

Of course, the bill is designed to be a Jim Crow law for gays, but the wording is pretty loose and could apply to any marriage the person found objectionable.

Either way, this is utterly indefensible, but it’s representative of the mentality of bigotry.

In order to justify their desire to discriminate against gay people, the few remaining homophobes have concocted a scenario where they are The Real Victims. They can say what they want, set up churches or mosques that preach what they want, and turn away gay people from their homes every day of the week if they so desire—and I would defend every one of those rights to the last ditch. There is only one thing they can’t do. They can’t choose to offer a service to the general public, and then turn people away on the basis of race or sexuality. They can’t put up de facto signs saying ‘No blacks, no Irish, no gays’ at their B&B.

Precisely. The victimhood must be shifted to the bigot. Naturally, this argument was used against blacks and other minorities, most recently by Rand Paul. Who is the government to tell you you have to let a black person buy your gas? Many variants involve turning tolerance around to say that tolerance also must include the intolerant…except they mean to the point of letting them actually practice that intolerance, thereby changing nothing.

This isn’t a form of prejudice—it is a way of preventing prejudice.

But it’s teh gay, and these so-called Christians simply can’t control their hatred enough to treat them as the American citizens they are.

-hw

Double-take.

Feb 05, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

I just used this link, but by Jove you’ve absolutely got to give it a second look. Quick question: How much would anything the Tea Party said make sense if Republicans stopped labeling the 2009 budget as Obama’s?

Strangely, CATO, the actual libertarian guys, were pointing out the inanity all along:

What about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama’s expansion of the children’s health insurance program? Didn’t these all boost spending in 2009?

The answer is yes. But these boondoggles amounted to just a tiny percentage of FY2009 spending — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget — as the pie chart nearby illustrates.

I always wonder why reality offers so many opportunities for people with loose regard for the truth to fudge the facts. It’s just so obvious, yet so subtle. Just like the crash. I mean, Bush walked out of office handing Obama an economy in freefall and a massive deficit, and the GOP has just painlessly and guiltlessly labeled it all Obama’s doing. Call the Bush budget Obama’s budget, call the Bush recession Obama’s recession, and keep saying it over and over again. They certainly got rewarded for the constant lying, so what’s going to get them to stop?

-hw

Chris Christie, Democrat-eater.

Feb 05, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

Supposedly one of the sharper tools in the GOP shed, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, heard that Illinois cranked up its taxes through the roof so he pulled a stunt worthy of James O’Keefe, traveling to Illinois (on taxpayer dollars?) for this pitch (hat tip to Atrios):

Christie, along with governors in Indiana and Wisconsin, has been trying to pry jobs from Illinois after Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a record 67 percent tax increase Jan. 12.

Illinois raised its flat personal income tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent, but that is below New Jersey’s graduated rates for taxable incomes above $40,000, Quinn’s press secretary, Brie Callahan, said in an interview last week. And while the Illinois corporate rate is increasing to 7 percent from 4.8 percent, that is still below New Jersey’s 9 percent rate, she said.

“We, of course, welcome Gov. Christie and we welcome him spending New Jersey dollars on the Illinois economy,” Callahan said Friday.

Illinois faced a shortfall of at least $13 billion in the 2011 budget year.

What are the Republicans shaving off the budget for next year, $70 billion? Even a hundred billion? Let’s be nice and say so. Not much of a dent in a trillion-plus deficit, is it? Yet according to each and every Republican Obama is responsible along for the huge deficits of the past two years (even Bush’s 2009 budget, with its $1.2 trillion deficit). So it’s plain to see that Republican talk on spending is always, always superficial and insufficient to address our challenges. Yet when one state buckles down and tells citizens they’re going to have to pony up to pay for the government they democratically chose, this Republican Christie can’t wait to try pulling a stunt to punish their act of responsibility. And, yet, like most Republican stunts, it is composed of pure fail. Imagine dragging your $3 hot dogs over to the next stand because you heard they doubled their prices…to $2.50.

Meanwhile, Christie nixed a Jersey/New York tunnel that would have put a lot of his citizens to work and brought much-needed infrastructure to the region, forcing 45 extra minutes of commuting onto the citizens driving economic productivity.

Senator Frank Lautenberg issued a statement today that read, in part: “The Governor was given a deal from the federal government on Sunday that put no extra imposition on the state of New Jersey for its obligation to the ARC Tunnel project, and the Governor refused it. It was clear from the beginning that Governor Christie planned to kill the ARC Tunnel no matter what… This is a tragic day in New Jersey’s history. Two weeks ago, Governor Christie made the biggest public policy blunder in New Jersey’s history. Today he repeated it… The Governor has put politics before performance, and it is the people of New Jersey who will pay the high price.”

Politics over performance? That’s GOP dogma, purely expressed.

-hw

So how’s that new Republican Congress working out?

Feb 02, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives

Well, besides doing a deal after the election to gouge the country for another trillion dollars in the name of continuing a tax cut policy that didn’t work the past ten years, they’re also expanding the number of permissable forms of rape, trying to make sure the country doesn’t have universal health care, and working on plans to further allow the destruction/poisoning of the environment.

No, I’m not using hyperbole, that’s what they’re actually doing. I guess we’ve just entered this frame of mind that they couldn’t possibly be doing those horrible things because patriotic Americans wouldn’t possibly do such horrible things, but no, they do. Like pro-Mubarek counter-protesters in Egypt, there is always a constituency for barbarism.

Senate Democrats and Obama should make a field day out of squashing every screwed up thing the GOP tries. If you can’t win on protecting rape victims, providing health care for all, and preserving our environment, then you just don’t belong in politics (politics being a very different thing from governing effectively).

-hw

P.S. And we’re talking about an EPA already so neutered by corporate interests that it approved bee-killing pesticide for use on all major crops. Hey, it’s only our food chain at risk here.

Kill the kill-switch idea.

Feb 02, 2011 in Politics

One thing Egypt should be teaching us is that this Internet kill-switch that Senators Lieberman and Collins (“centrists” so watch out, they’ll swing that cudgel) want to institute should be instant laugh fodder. It’s a tool for dictators facing revolution, not a president in a democracy trying to save us from some theoretical “emergency.”

Of course, the GOP would have jumped at the chance to give Bush this power, but here’s hoping their situational libertarianism will speak out against giving it to Obama. Then we can use that against them when they try to give it to a Republican president. Not that they’ll care much…

-hw

Lookin’ out my backdoor.

Feb 02, 2011 in Politics

2011 blizzard

Here’s a picture of the snow out the backdoor. It’s probably difficult to judge the amount but using the doorknob on the garage door as scale I’m sure you can get a rough idea of what’s been dumped on us. As I type this I can’t make out any distinctive features of Mount Mercy University which is only a few hundred feet from the property line. Amazingly the power is still on but I wouldn’t doubt if the lights flickered at some point.

This is Al-Jazeera’s revolution.

Feb 01, 2011 in Politics

It’s a good thing American cable companies refuse to air Al-Jazeera, as it pleased the Bush administration so.

Now the thing those who spoke of freedom so hated has, as I knew back then, become the instrument of freedom. Understanding that we don’t know what kind of government will take over, popular revolutions against totalitarian regimes is good technique, and the information revolution has made them ever easier. Perhaps the next government won’t be any good- and they’ll throw that one out too. Knowing the character of the younger generations in these countries is what eases my worries.

There is some egg on America’s face, with Egypt being one of the premier examples of us embracing and even funding a non-democratic government for realpolitik. We may lose several such “friends” in the coming years if this is a true revolution, but by doing what we’re doing and providing rhetorical support for revolution without interfering, we’re helping clear a path towards a hopefully better future.

Anyway, we’re getting some pretty good coverage of Egypt, but once again Andrew Sullivan’s blog is the place to go. The web hasn’t just fomented revolution, but revolutionized how it is covered.

-hw

UPDATE:

UPDATE II: Link TV is now showing Al-Jazeera.