Thursday, October 15, 2009

Commuters' Hell

I just love it when I get on my commuter bus at 5:30 AM to find that every pair of seats is occupied by a single person with their bags piled on the seat next to them. Some are even sitting in the aisle seat as if to block entrance to the adjacent and empty window seat. Others are wearing silk, probably scented, eyemasks, or their Bose “Conscience Cancelling” Headphones. Everyone pretends to be asleep, which belies the fact that some of them just got on the bus a few blocks away, or even in the line just ahead of me!

There are no smiles or eye contact as I fumble in the dark having to ask people to move their bags, which they didn’t pay for; so that I can have a seat, which I did pay for, only to find myself having walked into what is apparently a contest to determine the World’s Soundest Sleeper!

I actually have to tap someone on the shoulder to get his attention, and that person inevitably looks up at me as if I were The Grim Reaper, with an expression that screams “With all these other people, why oh why did you have to pick me to be one to give up the comfort of my two adjoining seats?”

Not wanting to begin my day with a confrontation or disrupt an entire busload of people, I must decide whether to move on in vain hope of finding a friendlier face, or persist and sit next to this person who appears to be trying to get me to spontaneously combust!

I sit.

But at that moment, every time it happens, I can’t help but ponder how nice it would be if I really was The Grim Reaper, and that I was only there to cause a bus accident!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Must Read Smackdown of "Dick Cheeny"

This post by David Rees has got to be one of the funniest, most appropriate, reactions to Dick Cheney's recent speech on national security his own insecurity that I've seen anywhere.

My favorite line:
As far as I could tell, his speech was actually some weird kind of mouth-yoga where you keep returning to "9/11" position every thirty seconds
Brilliant!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Suspect That Dick Cheney Loves International House Of Pancakes!

For a long time, it’s been considered somewhat unacceptable, even among prominent critics of the Bush administration, to suggest anything remotely resembling a conspiracy theory regarding 9/11.

No elected Democrat will touch the issue. Liberal talking heads on cable TV and left leaning columnists in mainstream publications routinely go out of their way to avoid even pondering the possibility of anything more insidious than a massive coordinated effort by radical Islamic terrorists.

In fact, on Daily Kos – which is usually considered to be one of the most liberal of the progressive political blogs – mentioning the mere presence of questions about the cause of the terror attacks on 9/11 is enough to get you banned from posting on the site.

But as more and more information trickles out about the extreme lengths the Bush administration, and particularly Dick Cheney, were willing to go in order to try to create a justification for war in Iraq, somebody has to at least ask this:
If you’ll torture people to get false confessions to justify a war, what else would you do - or not do, despite ample warning that you should - to get justification to start that same war?
With all due respect to the serious liberals who don’t want to be lumped in with the “tin foil hat” crowd in trumpeting the political equivalent of alien abductions stories, at some point in the stream of revelations about our despicable use of torture, we must at least recognize that every actual conspiracy, and in fact every crime, that is ever solved - begins with a theory!

Note: For those unfamiliar with the acronym, LIHOP stands for the theory that, when faced with warnings about an imminent terrorist attack that might have prompted preemptory action, members of the Bush administration let it happen on purpose! It's not quite as dramatic as the various "inside job" scenarios that are widely thrown around on the Internets, but it also doesn't require the same kind of "headgear" to imagine, particularly after hearing more and more evidence regarding how torture was actually used!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Cheney Speaks!



There’s lot’s of discussion and speculation lately over the fact that after spending eight years of secretly running the government from an impenetrable bunker, Dick Cheney is now all over the television defending his torture program.

Many people are scratching their heads and wondering why the most unpopular member of the previous administration wouldn’t just fade off into the sunset and hope to be forgotten as the country looks “forward and not backward” with it’s charismatic new President.

If I had to venture a guess as to why Cheney keeps talking, it’s this:

The only thing standing between Dick Cheney and criminal prosecution is the facade that torture was a policy decision, and that prosecution represents the “criminalization of politics.” In order to maintain that facade, there must be a continuous debate over whether or not it was “good policy” - that is, whether or not it helped to “keep Americans safe.”

To Cheney, it doesn’t matter whether or not people think that argument has merit. What matters is that both sides are continuously being aired, because in his mind, this means that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have to prioritize it among all of the other policy debates; and with the wide range of stated goals put forward by the Obama administration, investigating and prosecuting torture will never move to the top of the “to do” list.

On the other hand, if public opinion is allowed to crystallize around the idea that the Cheney/Bush torture policies were illegal and immoral, as might happen without Cheney’s constant bleating about how proud he is of those very policies, then it becomes much more feasible to investigate and prosecute without getting in the way of other priorities.

And it becomes more likely that the conversation shifts from the debate about policy, to a discussion and eventual public understanding of what really happened, which increasingly seems to have been something like this:

At the time when Cheney/Bush were in charge and had plenty of warning about an impending terrorist attack, they did not “keep Americans safe.” Instead, they were too preoccupied with the politics of trying to create “a permanent Republican majority!”

After the 9/11 attacks, instead of going after the terrorists who were actually threatening the safety of Americans, they immediately began to line up all the ways they could use fear of terrorists to rationalize and gain acceptance for policies that were criminal! Torture, the war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, rushed no-bid contracts to political cronies, were all rolled out immediately, using the pretext of being the only policies the President thought would “keep Americans safe.”

And they did it all with the expectation that they could always avoid prosecution by forcing the debate into being about policy, if ever the debate started to turn toward being about criminality!

So that’s why Cheney feels he has to keep yapping about how torture was good policy. He knows he’s not convincing anybody, but he’s keeping the fire burning on the appearance of a political debate, because that’s the only thing keeping him from being frog marched to prison!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Specter Switch Could Backfire Almost Immediately! [Updated]

With Arlen Specter’s party switch prompting a huge welcoming embrace from both the Democratic Caucus and the Obama White House, you have to wonder what kind of late game strategy might be on the drawing board to make up for the apparent initial setback when it comes to Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination.

At this point, all indications are that Specter will retain his status on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will force the removal of one current member – presumably Ted Kaufman, who recently was appointed to fill Joe Biden’s seat in Delaware and has the lowest seniority among the Democrats on the committee.

The GOP has already announced that Jeff Sessions (R-KKK,) will succeed the moderate Specter as Ranking Minority Leader on the committee. That leaves another GOP slot on the committee, and there is no reason to think they are inclined to appoint another moderate to replace Specter.

This means that, in addition to the distinctly rightward shift from Specter to Sessions as the head of the minority contingent, the ultimate outcome will likely be to swap Kaufman – the Senator selected to replace Obama’s own VP - for whomever the GOP decides to add to the committee to replace Specter - which could be someone as odious as Saxby Chambliss (R-Slimepit), or James Inhofe (R-Delusionville)!

Let’s hope Specter is worth it!

[Update] According to David Waldman at Congress Matters, the Dems apparently used some leverage over the Specter switch to get the GOP to agree to allow Specter to change sides of the aisle in his committee assignments without bumping another Dem and getting a GOP replacement (essentially building a bigger Dem majority on those committees). Waldman thinks the real concession came because the GOP “reeeeeeeeeelly didn’t want to give an inch on seating Al Franken!”

In addition, the Dems decided to strip Specter of his seniority on those committees until the end of the current congress, creating a situation where he presumably needs to earn the seniority back – which he won’t accomplish very easily if he keeps saying stupid things like wanting Norm Coleman to prevail in his legal battle to overturn the Minnesota election!

At the current rate, Specter may find getting elected as a Democrat to be a particularly rocky path, with the Netroots gearing up to, in the words of Jeff Lieber, “go Full Lamonty” on him in the primary; as well as the growing possibility that Pat Toomey, the scary monster who chased him from the GOP primary, will lose to another moderate like Tom Ridge and make the general election about which of two moderate conservatives is the most trustworthy!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Once You Boil It All Down . . .

Paul Krugman summed it up in three simple sentences:
Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.
And the evidence has begun to filter out that the perpetrators not only knew it was evil, but tried to cover it up!

First, there’s the Zelikow memo objecting to the legal basis used to justify torture that he says was deliberately rounded up and destroyed.

Then there’s Janis Karpinski, who is outspoken in her disdain for high level Bush officials who allowed U.S. Military personnel at Abu Ghraib - whom they now maintain to have been following orders deemed to be legal and justifiable - go to prison, rather than stick up for them at the time the abuses at Abu Ghraib first became public.

In my earlier post on this topic, I suggested that one of Obama’s multiple goals was to maximize the ability to “shake the trees” and bring out whistleblowers in order to build widespread public support for any future prosecutions.

At least one expert, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La Vega, agrees - explaining in this piece how appointing a special prosecutor now might cause those with important information about what actually occurred at the highest levels of the Bush administration to clam up.

For the torturers, I’m afraid the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no way they are going to force it back inside . . . and fortunately for the country, it’s not the torturers’ three wishes the genie is going to grant!

To put it bluntly, with all the evidence that the Bush administration carefully assembled a set of “legal” documents to justify “harsh interrogation techniques,” how can they possibly stick to their story when they were willing to let U.S. soldiers rot in prison to avoid telling it four years ago?

And for Dick Cheney, who remains the leading voice of belligerent defiance regarding Bush torture policies, and who now wants to declassify documents that would save his ass when he was perfectly happy to let them stay classified when they might save the asses of the enlisted men and women who went to prison for performing techniques he now says were "necessary," the response is both completely reprehensible and completely transparent!

Dick Cheney is a grown man, behaving like a child who would let his own dog be beaten, or even euthanized, for repeatedly “eating his homework!”

Image Credit: Vanity Fair, May, 2008

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Limbaugh: “Waterboarding Just Like Kiteboarding with Richard Branson!”

In his ongoing effort to defend the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” methods, Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today, compared techniques involving nudity and stress positions, as well as being repeatedly doused with water while clinging to safety from a forced supine position, to recent photos of Sir Richard Branson kiteboarding near his private island.

“How are the so-called torture pictures at Abu Ghraib all that different from what this supermodel is happily doing during her little island vacation with Richard Branson?” Limbaugh railed.

“These liberals,” he said, “are soooo outraged about what they call ‘torture’ that they forget the fact that a slap or two on a choice part of the body is just what many people desperately crave.” At which point, he demonstrated by slapping himself several times (in an unidentified, but loudly resonating and likely jiggling, location) and crying out “There, I’m torturing myself!”* - presumably while ogling the Branson pictures and reminiscing about his Viagra-fueled Dominican adventure spent with the fellow torture buffs who happen to produce Fox Television’s 24*.

*True

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jonathan Turley is a Stand-Up Guy, but He May Want to Sit Down Regarding Obama’s Response to Torture.



For many months, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley has been a leading voice for the rule of law and the importance of prosecuting war crimes related to torture. He’s very compelling, clearly a man of principle, and probably someone I would be proud to see some day sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But when talking about President Obama’s response to Bush era torture, Turley seems quite prone to slipping into spin, rather than fact. Here’s Turley talking to David Schuster about Obama’s decision to release the memos used to justify torture and simultaneously announce that CIA agents who followed the memos in good faith would not be prosecuted. Turley’s conclusion, that Obama is “blocking” an investigation, seems to be a pretty clear example of stretching to find the worst possible interpretation of a mixed set of facts.

While Turley has the luxury of focusing on only one, admittedly noble, goal – holding the perpetrators accountable for war crimes - President Obama has a couple of other goals as well. He needs to avoid the appearance of an overtly partisan investigation that might further incite the racist, gun toting, loonies associated with the recent teabagging phenomena from moving even closer to irrational violence. Second, he needs to maximize his ability to “shake the trees” and get good witnesses who can provide iron-clad evidence that results in irrefutable convictions that have widespread public acceptance (in order to achieve the desired “cleansing effect” on the soul of the nation).

So look at what Obama has actually done:

1) He released a set of memos that he knew would stir public outrage and increase the demand for accountability.

2) He announced that any agents who conducted torture while following orders in good faith would be immune from prosecution.

That’s it! Since we are already starting to see reports of evidence showing that some torture activities exceeded what was authorized by the newly released memos, even Turley would have to admit the likelihood that Obama knew he wasn’t offering immunity to everyone involved in torture.

Now, rather than calling for an investigation of whether or not what occurred was torture, the investigation can be centered on whether activities were conducted “in good faith” according to the rules promulgated in the memos. Even conservatives who insist that the methods currently identified as torture were necessary and justified, would have to condemn those who acted outside of the rules authorized by Bush’s legal “yes men.”

In addition, with those following the “rules” already being given immunity, for those who acted outside of those rules, the natural defense will be to try to argue that whatever they are charged with doing was sanctioned by superiors and thus was “in good faith!” In other words, Obama’s statement of immunity increases the incentive for anyone charged with acting outside of the rules authorized by the torture memos to give up the leaders who authorized them to stretch the rules or act outside of them!

My guess is that Obama knows there are such leaders, and may well be setting up the chess board so that they can eventually be prosecuted in a non-partisan fashion with the widespread public acceptance necessary to avoid derailing the rest of his policy goals.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sacramento Tea-Bagging! [Updated]

I took a few minutes at lunch today to walk through the crowd at today's Sacramento "Tea-bag" Tax protest. All I can say is WOW what a bunch of Crazy F-ing Nuts! So glad my tax dollars help pay for all of the CHP security to protect us from these angry mobs!! Here are a few pics:


Where were all these folks during the Bush administration's piling up of debt? Anyone want to take a guess as to how many of these folks will actually get a tax cut from Obama's plan?


[Update by seenos] Just had to add a few of my favorite tea-bagging pics from the day, with editorial comments:


Um, isn't that what we just did?


If we cut taxes to zero, perhaps these ladies will volunteer to defend the country for free! And what does the "No Turn On Red" sign have to do with taxes?


At least one teabagger seems to be having some reservations about joining the party!


Methinks thou protest too much!


Unlike the last president, who wanted to send your entire generation to war! In case you can't read it, the sign in the background says "Capitalism is NOT the Problem. Retarded Elitist Ivy League Lying Politicians Are!" Could you be a little more specific? Who isn't a retarded elitist ivy league lying politician these days?


One of the signs distributed by former GOP congressman, Mark Foley.


The media even found time to conduct interviews at a San Francisco tea party that had nothing to do with taxes!

And the moral of the story is that I can finally retire this image as the quintessential conservative protest photo, because the free market just produced a whole lot of new competition:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lawrence O'Donnell Speaks for Me!

Here Lawrence destroys Pat Buchanon in their argument over President Obama and his upcoming speech at Notre Dame. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Left-Over: The Next Phase.

It’s hard to believe that this blog has been around for nearly 3 ½ years!

It started on October 24, 2005, with Left-Over’s expression of excitement at the possibility that members of the Bush administration might be held accountable (for anything!) as Patrick Fitzgerald prepared to announce indictments in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation.

I quickly joined the party by comparing the Republicans of that era, quite unfavorably, to even those of the Nixon-Watergate era, with this eerily accurate prediction:
Unlike Watergate, when the sheer stupidity of the break-in and subsequent cover up led both parties to insist on investigations that drove out a corrupt administration, these Republicans are going to stick with Bush to the end, fueling a fire that will burn the party to the ground, and then keep scorching the earth beneath them for so long that nothing will ever come back!
And with that start, we were off and running, through what now tallies 888 889 posts, during a time when some amazing things have happened:

• The Chief of Staff for the Vice President of the United States was convicted of multiple felonies.

• A major U.S. city was nearly lost to Hurricane Katrina.

• Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan surpassed the length of the Vietnam war, and continue with no apparent end in sight.

• The 2006 elections marked a decisive turn against Republican leadership.

• During the primary season leading up to the 2008 elections, an establishment candidate with an aura of inevitability was defeated by a newcomer backed largely by ordinary people.

• The 2008 elections continued the wave of anti-GOP sentiment and gave us the country’s first African-American President.

• The many failures of the Bush presidency – which served as an incubator for greed and corruption - culminated in the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression.

While all of this happened, we were actively engaged in the task of absorbing each day’s developments and reflecting them back to readers in a way that was, perhaps, entertaining, sometimes informative, and at the very least, always therapeutic for us as writers.

Along the way, there were some memorable posts such as the ones listed below that I think best reflect what we’ve tried to do in this forum:

Vaccinate Against What?

The Last Commercial Break of the Bush Presidency.

Increasing Irrelevancy? Now That’s Something Bush Can Actually Achieve!

But all good things must come to an end! Writing a political blog is both a blessing and a curse, because accumulated momentum adds the weight of responsibility to keep that momentum from stalling. Writing sometimes shifts from being a joyous expression of ideas, to being a chore that must be done even in the absence of inspiration, made harder still by a dwindling amount of feedback from readers who are pulled in many directions from the sheer volume of information available on the Internet.

So it’s time to pull the plug and let it die.

Actually, let me rephrase that, since the nature of blogs is that they don’t really have to die completely. The words remain, always available to be discovered by an accidental tourist, even though new posts aren’t being generated.

That will be the new state of Left-Over, at least for a while. Who knows? It might even become a zombie blog that will occasionally lurch forward, if one of us has an irresistible urge to add a new chapter. Or maybe not!

Perhaps another way to look at the demise/hiatus of Left-Over is to take a lesson from artist Vincent Van Gogh, poet Emily Dickinson, and singer Billie Holiday – all of whom found widespread acceptance and critical acclaim after their deaths, despite toiling for years in relative obscurity.

I think it can clearly be stated that we’ve conquered the “toiling in relative obscurity” phase! There is nothing more to achieve in the art of "toiling in relative obscurity,” so now it’s time to move on to the next phase in the strategic marketing of this blog: We will now begin the stage centered on achieving posthumous notoriety!

Peace!

seenos

PS: Damn! I just finished writing this, and was dawdling before preparing to hit the “upload” button, when I stumbled across an article that hints at one of the few things that would compel me to come out of retirement and resurrect this blog (or begin a new one), as I read that Arnold Schwarzenegger is signaling the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer.

How could I miss being on the scene to make fun of that on a daily basis?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG Just Forced President Obama to Become a Populist!

Despite his amazing success at raising campaign funds through small donations from individual citizens, Barack Obama never campaigned as a populist. He promised “change,” but his rhetoric always suggested a pragmatic approach to achieving goals that left plenty of room for working within existing corporate and political structures, rather than adopting the “throw the bums out” attitude of true populists like John Edwards and Ron Paul.

Obama also took plenty of money from Wall Street in order to get his campaign up and running; and his cabinet choices (Geithner, Gates, Clinton, etc.) certainly seemed to indicate a desire to reassure the traditional forces of power that change wouldn’t happen too fast!

Of course, it could be argued that he really had no choice if he wanted to overcome the formidable obstacles that would stand in the way of his ascension to the presidency. Had he not taken a somewhat moderate, non-frightening, approach to achieving change, he may never have had the opportunity to begin his primary run on an arc that looked viable enough to overcome the “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton. And he may never have had the chance to attract the large and committed donor base that helped push him over the top!

Although Obama seems to have a sincere desire to promote broad-based opportunity for ordinary people, and to hold even corporations accountable for helping to solve the countries’ real problems, it could be argued that he did what he had to do to get in the position of moving the country in the right direction, while accepting that he had to do it in a way that was tolerable to the already rich and powerful.

In other words, he had to give them some slack.

And it seems that AIG has just taken that slack and tied its own noose. Perhaps a noose large enough to squeeze in the heads of all the Wall Street fat cats who have bled the economy dry to feed their own desire for personal wealth and aggrandizement!

Obama is now in the position where if he does not take a harsh populist stand against corporate interests trying to fleece the American taxpayer, he may not have a chance at a second term! He may lose the dedicated support of the millions of ordinary people whom he has relied upon to give momentum to his policy goals.

While it wasn’t Obama’s preferred path at the beginning, at this point, being a populist may be the pragmatic choice; particularly since, as an incumbent in 2012, he no longer needs Wall Street money to propel him into viability. He needs people – ordinary people – to continue to support him.

As one of those early supporters who is still yearning for a counterbalance to the greed and corporate excesses of the Bush years, I can only hope that this was Obama’s plan all along - that he knew, even as he promised change, that some things never change!

Perhaps AIG just proved him right!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let Me Spare the Washington Post From Its Own “Mea Crama!”

I’ve read lots of commentary on John Stewart’s public spanking of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, but nothing more fitting than Glenn Greenwald’s point that Cramer isn’t all that different from the rest of the traditional media in his willingness to pass on lies and then claim innocence when they turned out to be wrong.
Jim Cramer isn't an aberration. What he did and the excuses he offered are ones that are embraced as gospel to this day by most of our establishment press corps, and to know that this is true, just look at what they do and say about their roles. But at least Cramer wants to appear to be contrite for the complicit role he played in disseminating incredibly destructive and false claims from the politically powerful. That stands in stark contrast to David Gregory, Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams, David Ignatius and most of their friends, who continue to be defiantly and pompously proud of the exact same role they play.
Then sure enough, as if on cue, I find this Washington Post “report” suggesting that Barack Obama risks being seen as “too partisan” if he mentions the fact that he inherited a failing economy from George Bush.

Give me a break! Didn’t we just have an election in which John McCain’s last hope of prevailing went up in flames at the precise moment he suggested that “the fundamentals of our economy (were) strong, while everyone knew that they weren’t? I believe George Bush was still President at that time, so don’t give me Ari Fleischer suggesting that Obama’s credibility is at risk if he points out the obvious:
“There's a fascinating behind-the-scenes trend taking place for someone who remains a very popular president," said Ari Fleischer, a former Bush press secretary, describing the decline in Obama's approval ratings and an increase in disapproval numbers. "His response to that trend is to turn up the blame on George Bush and everything that came before him. And he was the one who talked about getting past partisanship.”
Jim Cramer just went on The Daily Show and had to apologize profusely because he had been (gasp!) "lied to by CEOs" hoping to boost the value of their stocks despite horribly overvalued assets. Unable to muster even a token rationale for his willingness to pass on such misleading information, Cramer had no choice but to bend over and take his punishment, while meekly wishing he had tried harder to expose the lies, and promising to do better.

So let me spare the Washington Post the same indignity that Cramer was forced to endure at the hands of John Stewart:

When Ari Fleischer is talking to you about Obama’s extreme partisanship, he’s lying!

When anyone tells you that the American people want the new President to shield George Bush from the undeniable fact that his policies sent the economy into a downward spiral, he’s lying!

They are lying just like the CEOs who so "painfully" lied to Jim Cramer, who then did nothing to correct those lies but actually gave them weight by letting them be aired on his show.

When the Washington Post presents lies as fact, they spread the same kind of bullshit that Cramer just had to eat in front of millions!

If the good folks at the Washington Post really want to be considered respected purveyors of news, instead of easily manipulated, misleading clowns like Cramer, I’d suggest they take the opportunity now to "try harder and do better," rather than waiting for someone like John Stewart to tar and feather them in front of the whole world!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Madoff Just a Tumor in an Economy Where Greed has Metastasized!

Sure, it’s a good thing that Bernie Madoff is likely to pay a harsh price for his crimes, but let’s not think that punishing him is a decisive victory that frees us to focus on the future while turning the page on past corruption and greed.

After all, throwing the book at Madoff is not going to stop white collar crime any more than throwing the book at a single marijuana user is going to wipe out drug use.

During the last eight years of the Bush administration, and arguably during every administration going back to Ronald Reagan’s, the American free market laissez faire economy has become riddled with greed, to the point of being slowly killed.

Catching and prosecuting a Bernie Madoff is a big step, but there are plenty of other tumors out there capable of killing the economy – plenty of other frauds and scams that will occur if the greed that has been allowed to spread is not systematically checked, both by investigating and prosecuting past crimes, and creating systems that prevent the opportunity and incentives that allow new tumors to develop.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

McCain the Barometer!

I really don’t have a good feel at all for what should be done for the auto industry. I’m torn between letting them fail, in order to make sure that the failed management types are flushed out of power; and finding a way to hold them together, in order to save jobs that are critically important as we try to stave off a major depression.

At the same time, what I do know about the auto industry and just about everything else, is that when John McCain takes a strong position – like pushing hard for bankruptcy for General Motors – I’m pretty sure that it’s an uninformed, politically-motivated, and probably disastrous idea!

At this point in his political career (and frankly, I’m guessing throughout his life if I’d really been paying attention), the man just exudes ignorance!

Friday, March 06, 2009

From Russia With Love Hate!

As some of you know, my office overlooks Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, which gives me a straight-on view of the courthouse steps in front of the California Supreme Court. Consequently, I couldn’t help but notice the raucous protest going on below me yesterday as the Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Political junkie and gay rights advocate that I am, I decided to spend my lunch hour mingling with the crowd and checking out the scene, while listening to some of the speeches on the steps outside the courthouse.

As you might expect, there was a large, very spirited, contingent of Prop 8 opponents, and it was gratifying to see the diverse group that included all ages, races, and socioeconomic categories, as well as many straight supporters among the crowd.

However, there were also a surprisingly large number of highly organized Prop 8 supporters, with huge signs and matching shirts with the slogan: “Marriage = One Man & One Woman.” While smaller in number, they were very loud and confrontational (though seemingly not violent). Also odd was the fact that as I walked through the crowd, it seemed that a very large percentage of them were speaking Russian to each other. I mean almost all of them!

I tried to talk to a few of them, as I was curious about what organization they belonged to, but had little success. Several of them couldn’t really communicate with me in English, and the others were reluctant to tell me anything. All I could get was one guy who told me they were from “the Jewish God,” and that they had “just met each other.”

Well, I did a little research and it turns out that there is a very large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union (Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, etc.) that have settled in the Sacramento area, and that most in this community are affiliated with one of over 50 to 60 evangelical Christian churches led by rabidly anti-gay pastors. Several of them are known to be involved with international organizations currently being tracked as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many of the members have become fixtures in vocal opposition to gay pride events in California.


Talk about hypocrisy! Most of these people came to this country in part to gain the right to freely practice their religion, and yet they are now using their religion to mobilize efforts to deny basic rights to another oppressed minority. It’s difficult to know how to process these undeniable facts without developing some negative ethnic stereotypes.

Ultimately, I guess I must simply take it as evidence that one all too prevalent component of human nature – the desire to feel powerful and important by finding someone inferior to demonize – suggests that either man can’t possibly have been created “in God’s image,” or that God is actually a somewhat cruel being who created man for his own sadistic entertainment! Either way, the actions of these people is proof that their own belief system is completely bankrupt!

All images were taken, quite discretely, with my Treo.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Not So Deep Thought:

If Rush Limbaugh is now the de facto head of the Republican Party, then does the party have a new de facto ass? Or is the Republican Party now a Gastropod?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Who’s Going to Pay For the Bush Library?

Life must be tough when you’re a recently replaced ex-President, who is trying to raise funds for a legacy-fluffing monument during the onset of a global depression caused by your policy failures!

According to this report, Dubya himself has been forced to hit the phones, but he must find himself asking the question: “Who ya gonna call?” in a world without “Ghostbusters

Bush left office with approval ratings in the 30’s, so you can probably take the other 60 to 70 percent of Americans off the call list.

The remaining base of supporters are largely made up of the same people who just listened to the leading conservative extremists at CPAC (Coulter, Limbaugh, etc.) treat Bush like so much toxic waste at their annual conference.

Other reports show that the Bush Library website, which is the primary means of eliciting small dollar donations, is lagging behind even some parody websites in Internet traffic (and no, the image above is from the real website and not the parody!)

Large potential corporate donors are likely too busy begging for bailout money to stave off bankruptcy to consider chipping in for the Bush Library. (Note to Tim Geithner: How about adding donations to the Bush Library to the list, with corporate jets and golf junkets to the Caymans, as banned uses of bailout money?)

Of course, there is also a new website specifically for “Bush/Cheney Alumni,” so maybe there’s hope that the “loyal Bushies” from his administration will pony up some money for the cause. But many of them are still trying to find jobs. So far, nobody has been willing to contribute so much as a blog post, or a testimonial to “set the record straight,” so it’s hard to imagine them generously opening their wallets for the ex-boss’s library!

I guess that probably only leaves his daddy’s friends, the Saudis, as the likely recipients of Bush 43’s telephone solicitations. Will they come up with the dough, out of loyalty to Poppy Bush? Yeah, they probably will!

But who knows? The Bush Bust™ has become a global phenomenon, and it increasingly looks like the U.S. can no longer be counted on as a gullible and insatiable market for oil. It’s highly possible that even the oil producing countries of the Middle East will retract into financial turtle mode rather than continue their binge spending ways amid an uncertain future.

And what possible use, really, do the Saudis have with a library propaganda generation facility designed to glorify a spoiled, petulant shithead who has no influence on anyone remotely connected to the current levers of power, much less any power of his own?

When it’s all said and done – and let me be the first to suggest it here – we might actually see the complete rebuilding of the city of New Orleans before we see the completion of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, at least in its current vision. They may have to scale it down to the size of a branch library in a small town neighborhood strip mall, once they find out who is still willing to donate!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

“Fiscal Discipline” Includes Finding What Was Stolen!

How ironic that Republicans are now giving self-righteous speeches about “fiscal discipline” after they presided over the largest bungling theft of taxpayer funds in the history of our country?

Now that a Democratic administration wants to use the power of government to ensure that the economy is revived by channeling funds to those who need it most (and who will spend it rather than socking it away in Swiss bank accounts to avoid taxes), the Republicans have become all high and mighty about the importance of “frugality” and “living within our means!”

Well, frugality is fine, and surely many Americans need to learn that a satisfying life does not revolve around conspicuous consumption. But if we are going to learn to be disciplined about spending, we should also learn to be disciplined about enforcing our laws against theft of taxpayers’ money, including everything that occurred during the Bush Global Theft Pandemic™!

Just think how much the economy would be helped if we could investigate, find, and re-claim for the American people, the following funds:

1. The money that went missing in Iraq.
2. The money sucked out of the economy by war profiteers like Halliburton and Blackwater, etc.
3. The taxes avoided by rich scammers who funnel their wealth into offshore accounts in The Caymans, Switzerland, Dubai, etc.
4. The windfall profits raked in by the oil companies through price manipulation and gouging at the pump during the fog of war.
5. The money stolen by fraudsters like Madoff, Stanford, and many others.

Obviously, this is not a complete list, but it’s a list that would likely add up to much more than the amount of the current stimulus package that blowhards like John McCain are calling “generational theft.” After all, fiscal discipline is more than just clutching your wallet. It’s also about making sure nobody gets away with robbing your house!

And speaking of “houses” and “generational theft,” how about if we remove the real incentive to hoard wealth from younger generations and put a stop to “generational theft” once and for all, by increasing the Estate Tax on old f**kers with 14 houses?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Developmentally, They Really Are Children!

UC Berkeley linguistics professor, George Lakoff, has a brilliant post called “The Obama Code” that was so widely distributed throughout the blogosphere, that I’m surprised [No I’m not] Professor Lakoff didn’t ask to be a guest poster on Left-Over!

It’s a great discussion of Obama’s subtle communication style, as it attempts to help progressives read between the lines of Obama’s multi-layered message. While it’s all great reading, this section caught my attention:
Conservatives tend to think in terms of direct causation. The overwhelming moral value of individual, not social, responsibility requires that causation be local and direct. For each individual to be entirely responsible for the consequences of his or her actions, those actions must be the direct causes of those consequences. If systemic causation is real, then the most fundamental of conservative moral—and economic—values is fallacious.

Global ecology and global economics are prime examples of systemic causation. Global warming is fundamentally a system phenomenon. That is why the very idea threatens conservative thinking. And the global economic collapse is also systemic in nature. That is at the heart of the death of the conservative principle of the laissez-faire free market, where individual short-term self-interest was supposed to be natural, moral, and the best for everybody. The reality of systemic causation has left conservatism without any real ideas to address global warming and the global economic crisis.
This section mirrors an idea that I’ve often pondered, one that was echoed in this DKos post that mockingly notes the failure of three notable GOP attempts to respond to Obama’s popularity - the “trifecta” of Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, and Bobby Jindal!
As best as I can discern, each of these stooges represent some sort of response to the Obama phenomenon. And while I can't blame Republicans for reacting to the Obama phenomenon, watching them try is both sidesplittingly funny and mind-numbingly sad. It evidences either a shockingly thorough ignorance or a deliberate denial of Obama's appeal.

Is it possible that they actually believe that [youth + melanin = instant majority]?
It all points to the image of conservatives as having a relatively simple-minded approach to interpreting the World – a somewhat childish, immature approach! In fact, I’ve frequently noted that the GOP seems to respond like spoiled children to just about everything that doesn’t go their way.

For example, tax cuts, which are to extreme conservatives very much like cookies to a small child. If one cookie tastes good, then they instinctively want to devour the entire box, and then run to the store to stock up on more cookies! It is as if, developmentally, they are incapable of understanding that eating too many cookies will rot your teeth and make you fat!

It’s Lakoff’s distinction between direct and systemic causation over and over again! And it’s what I alluded to recently when I expressed surprise that the GOP would actually expect people to blame Obama if the stimulus doesn’t immediately fix The Bush Bust™.

Somehow, it seems that extreme conservatives have a stunted capacity to comprehend the World beyond immediate appearances, and so they think that what appeals to the electorate about Obama is that he’s young, charismatic and multi-racial. Hence, their foolish wagers on Palin, Steele, and Jindal as the future leaders of their party.

They aren’t capable of understanding that what people really appreciate about Obama is that he’s, honest, thoughtful and has integrity, while devoting himself to pushing to improve the lives of Americans of both parties; In other words, “systemic” qualities, rather than “direct” visible qualities.

This also explains why Obama seems willing to give conservatives a sometimes puzzling level of respect - because they can’t help it! To do otherwise would be like getting angry at a developmentally disabled child for being “stupid!” Obama knows that conservatives can only learn at their own (slower) pace, and that the best way to help them learn is to be supportive and consistently set a good example.

On the other hand, there is a serious problem! While it makes sense to provide support and leadership to a spoiled and perhaps developmentally stunted child in the hope of enabling the chance to mature, it would not make sense to put that child in charge of the family budget, or let that child be the spokesperson for dealing with disagreeable neighbors!

Likewise, conservatives, with their simple-minded and childish understanding of the world, should not be placed in the position of governing the Nation. Hopefully, by watching Obama demonstrate how to govern in a mature, adult, manner, any voters capable of understanding the difference will be drawn away from supporting conservative candidates.

The extreme conservatives will surely continue their superficial and illogical criticisms, and will keep throwing their periodic tantrums over not getting enough cookies. But as we are beginning to see already, their numbers will continue to dwindle until, as a political force, they can all fit in the small bus!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Candy Crowley: What a Republican Cheerleader Looks Like!

After listing to Crowley’s ridiculous (but predictable) interview on Stephanie Miller’s radio show this morning, in which she offered her impressions of President Obama's address and the Republican response, I couldn't help but shoot off the following e-mail:
Dear Stephanie,

I am normally a big fan of your show, but today I was really disappointed to hear your interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, because it was clear that Crowley's entire purpose on the show was to make excuses for Bobby Jindal's terrible performance in response to President Obama's address to Congress (assuring us that Jindal is much smarter and more popular than he showed last night); and to tell us that Obama is not as popular as the evidence suggests.

Crowley wants us to believe that Obama only seems popular because it's his first month as President, specifically pointing out that George W. Bush was "just as popular" after his first address to Congress, and discounting Obama's high approval numbers in the post-address polls by asserting that they were “weighted toward Democratic voters” who watched the address.

Essentially, Crowley was relentless in her assertion that Jindal and the Republicans are better than they looked, while Obama and the Democrats are worse than they looked, and yet you didn't directly call her on any of it! You made a few quips about Jindal that were completely ignored by Crowley, who stuck to her "Republicans = underrated, Democrats = overrated" theme for the entire interview, before being sent off with enthusiastic appreciation for being a "News Goddess!"

Give me a break! Crowley was nothing but a right-wing hack propagandist trying desperately to keep the playing field level after Obama made his conservative detractors like Jindal look petty and foolish. She deserves absolutely none of the deference you gave her. She certainly shouldn't be treated as a respectable journalist, much less a "Goddess," when she has such a clear agenda that is out of touch with all empirical evidence about President Obama's wide support from the majority of the American people.

Really, Stephanie, Candy Crowley's assessment of the political terrain is worse than useless! Your listeners would be better informed if you left her off the show and substituted a couple more fart jokes!

Sincerely,

Seenos

Monday, February 23, 2009

Too Dumb to Live.

Inspired by this account of the ongoing PR battle surrounding the stimulus package, Kos points out the obvious stupidity in GOP efforts to use a growing deficit to argue the need for more tax cuts!

And if that’s not dumb enough for you, here’s more from the same article:
. . . the Republican Party has made its own bet: that the stimulus package that Democrats rushed through Congress will have been deemed a failure by the time the 2010 elections arrive, leading voters to rebuke Obama and reward the GOP with much-needed victories.
Seventy percent of the American people understand perfectly well that the current gaping wound to our economy was caused by George W. Bush and the Republicans.

The stimulus represents Barack Obama’s attempt to slather on enough antibiotic ointment to allow the wound to slowly heal.

And the GOP, in all their undiluted “brilliance,” think they can spend the next two years wiping at the ointment and picking the scab . . . and in 2010, if there’s still an open wound, people are going to blame it on Obama?

How do these people even make it though the day without stepping out in front of cars or lighting themselves on fire with their own kitchen stoves?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roland Burris’ Career Goes From Needing an Engraver to Needing an Embalmer!

This is the Roland Burriss monument, already engraved with a partial list of his many accomplishments.”

A close-up view of the list shows some pretty impressive feats, probably even worthy of his self-proclaimed title of “Trail Blazer."

Too bad he didn’t get to engage the family engraver in time to add “U.S. Senator” before the current embarrassment he has brought on himself. Nearly everyone but his dog is calling on him to resign. Even the White House is signaling that he should “think hard” about his future. His own Chief of Staff has just resigned.

Yet why won’t I be surprised if he keeps fighting for his political life, even as the embalmer is waiting alongside his career with a huge syringe of formaldehyde? It’s almost as if the lying, delusional demonic life form that inhabits the body of Rod Blagojevich has jumped, B-movie style, into Burris as well.

Of course, since it appears Burris has the engraver on retainer, he might as well go ahead and get some work out of him. How about:
First African-American in Illinois to Become:

A Laughing Stock Who Was Canned by the Democratic Party After Lying Under Oath to Get a Senate Seat.
Then again, I guess there’s no need to mention the “Democratic” Party, since everyone knows that in the GOP, such behavior gets you a leadership position!

Friday, February 20, 2009

California Budget Aftermath . . .


• Nate Silver breaks down the implications of Abel Maldonado’s open primary gambit, and concludes that it might seem appealing to some voters, but it tends to favor the minority party and could produce a land of a thousand Liebermans!

• Big surprise: According to Brian Leubitz, the “dinosaur” media are positively drooling over open primaries.

• Governor Schwarzenegger is set to appear on This Week with George Snuffalupagus on Sunday to crow about his “great victory,” and answer the decidedly non-burning question:
Is there a future for Arnold's "post-partisan" politics?
“Post-leadership” politics, more like!

• Yet Arnold says the budget compromise was due to his optimism and hard work:
I am an optimist, and I never give up. I approached this problem the same way I approached bodybuilding, when I said I would be a world champion but was told I was crazy; and the way I approached Hollywood when the critics said a guy named Schwarzenegger with an Austrian accent would never be a box-office winner. My goal in these negotiations was a responsible budget for California that fixed our system once and for all, so I went for it with that same optimism and determination.
Yeah, right! Let’s recap, shall we?

Here’s how Arnold approached bodybuilding:

And here’s how Arnold approached Hollywood:

(Note: The images are just an added bonus. It's the links that tell the story!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The GOP Can Kiss Off Statewide Office in California Forever! [Updated]

As Californians wait on the edge of the cliff for a single GOP vote that will keep the rest of the party from being the ones to push us all into the abyss, the current “last hope,” Abel Maldonado, is apparently throwing around a list of demands required to get his vote.

Reportedly, he aspires to run for statewide office, and wants to guarantee his ability to survive a GOP primary, and so he is willing to overtly hold the entire State hostage to his demands!

This naturally makes me wonder how any Republican could possibly hold such aspirations in a predominantly democratic state, when they have stubbornly clung to a destructive ideology even after it became clear that it meant burning down their own house to prove a meaningless point.

Rather than giving in to Maldonado’s demands, the Democrats should call him out for what he is – an extortionist who is willing to sacrifice California for his own personal ambition!

Make it clear that Maldonado, and any other Republican who refuses to negotiate in good faith with efforts to salvage a dire situation with a difficult compromise, will never win a statewide office in California!

Make it clear that continuing to reject every possible solution to pull California out of an economic freefall is a direct affront to, and in fact an attempt to undercut, the ability of President Obama to carry out his national policy goals; and that any one of them who aspires to any elected office beyond their gerrymandered wingnut districts will face a fierce challenge based on their failure to consider California, and by extension the entire Nation, during this critical moment!

Only if Maldonado, and others who may have higher political ambitions, begin to see their obstructionism as an albatross that will hold them down forever, will they begin to release their grip on Grover Norquist’s member long enough to extend an open hand to their fellow Californians.

[Update] Now that the deal is done, with Maldonado finally agreeing to support it in exchange for some probably meaningless concessions, it's important to realize that Dan Weintraub is right when he points out that the GOP obstructionist tactics won!

The narrative has to continue to be driven forward that the budget process in California is broken, and the GOP took advantage of it - like the thief who steals your car stereo through an already broken window! They will do it again and again until we fix the window (and probably install a good car alarm too!)

Already, there are two ballot initiatives beginning to circulate that would follow John Garamendi's suggestion to reduce the required margin on budget issues from two-thirds to 55 percent (which is better than nothing, but still amounts to merely rolling up the window enough that they can't get their entire arms through!)

Monday, February 16, 2009

State of the CA State Budget!

For those of you not in California - we are in the midst of a ginormous budget mess. For the last 100 days state leaders and the Governor have been huddled together trying to come to an agreement on how to squeeze 41 Billion dollars out of a dysfunctional California economy. Three days ago an agreement was finally struck with a balance of "Taxes", cuts and borrowing. The legislature convened to vote on the massive 26 bill package. Then somewhere in the middle of the procedure the Minority Republican Senators decided that the deal was off - even though their leader, the Assembly Republican leader and the Governor were all on board.

So now we sit waiting for one Republican Senator to decide to vote yes on the package. The State of California perched at the edge of a financial cliff................. and one Senator can keep it from happening. But instead that senator wants to play games, give cryptic interviews and bask in his new found media spotlight.

And so we wait!

You can follow the ongoing mess Twittered here by my pal John Myers from KQED radio.

And while you are awaiting more tweets - enjoy this clip of Senate Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg at the end of a 28 hour session Sunday night 2/15 - putting the right wing Senators in their place!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not So Deep Thought

Why is it that every politician, on either side of the aisle, must have a stool that has exactly three legs? Wouldn’t the American people be better served by a four, or even five, legged stool? Or how about a La-Z-Boy?

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Wish Sean Hannity Was Right!

Among the desperate Republican efforts to discredit the stimulus bill was Sean Hannity’s claim that the bill is so full of wasteful spending that it includes large sums of money that would be used to build such things as "Frisbee Golf Courses."

Of course it wasn’t true. In fact, the bill expressly prohibits spending on such parks, but Hannity is such an ignorant tool that he apparently failed to read the bill before spewing his criticism.

And it’s too bad Hannity isn’t right about the bill! I’ve been a Frisbee golfer (actually known as "Disc Golf") for over 20 years, and I love the sport enough to wish there were more courses all across the country. The reason for the paucity of good Disc Golf courses is pretty obvious: It’s not a big money maker like "ball golf," but instead is truly a "sport of the people" that just might be the perfect addition to any plan for dealing with the current economic crisis.

Instead of appealing to Wall Street CEO’s looking to blow their obscene bonuses on something other than hookers, Disc Golf attracts a motley crew (many of whom look like they belong in “Motley Crue!”) It attracts young kids, looking for a cheap, relaxing good time. It attracts old geezers, with their homemade disc/cooler carts. Basically, Disc Golf requires only a few things from players: a couple of discs, the effort needed to find a course, and free time (the last one is the reason I don’t play more than I do!)

And it’s still way too difficult to find a good course!

I once joined a group of friends in an informal “cross country” Disc Golf tournament where we set out to play 108 different holes in one day. In order to do this, we had to put in nearly 400 miles of driving to connect enough courses to get to 108 (we probably would have stopped at 100, but we needed a multiple of 9!) In order to finish, we had to tee off our first hole at 5 AM, and yet we found that even at such an ungodly hour, we were sharing the course with a variety of assorted characters who seemed as if they had been up all night throwing discs.

It’s an odd and exclusive group, disc golfers, and I suspect that going forward there are going to be many more people who fall into the cultural and socioeconomic categories that tend to lead people to the sport.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, based on the kind of self-selection that determines the exclusive world of disc golfers, if we are really heading into "The Next Great Depression (or, as I prefer to call it, “The Bush Bust™”), and will be experiencing up to a decade of double digit unemployment, we’re going to need a lot more Disc Golf courses!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Game Board Is Set: Advantage Obama!

After watching the President’s press conference and listening to several senators, particularly Ben Nelson (D-Umbshit) and Barbara Boxer (D-Lightful), give their post conference assessments on the Simulus Bill, what began to gel in my mind was a range of future scenarios that all work well for Obama.

Two consistent themes emerged: “We need to act immediately” and “Republicans are making us get 60 votes!”

With the general acceptance of these two ideas, Obama is in pretty good shape – because if the compromised version of the stimulus bill works, despite being watered down in order to get a few GOP votes as well as support from the Ben Nelsons and Joe Liebermans of the World, Obama can still take credit for pushing it over heavy Republican objection.

If it doesn’t work, Obama can approach Phase Two with a statement sounding something like this:
Look, the economy was dying! It was on the table with its heart stopped and we needed to act immediately to shock it back to life. I would have preferred to use our full power in order to maximize the chances of jolting the economy back to life. But the Republicans made us get 60 votes, which meant that we had to dial down the power to conserve enough energy to pick up a few more votes. We did this, in the hope that it would work anyway, if we acted quickly enough!

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.

The scope of the problem was too great for the reduced shock we ended being able to provide, and now we have another decision:

Do we turn up the dial to full power, where I wanted it in the first place, and keep trying to save the patient?

Or do we proclaim the patient dead?

I think we, as a people, are too resilient and too resourceful to just give up in the face of adversity. I still think we can save our economy if we have the determination and discipline to keep trying!

And that’s why I’m asking the Congress to provide an additional $xxxxxxxxx as quickly as possible, so we can carry out the responsibility we have to our children and grandchildren to get this economy beating strongly again!
I'd say the Republican couldn't refuse, but I know better. They just can't refuse without looking even more useless than they already do!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Is it just me, or as Susan Collins becomes more prominent as one of the faces of Republican centrist nitpicking over the most needed components of the “Bush Depression Prevention Bill,” is she beginning to look more and more like Arlen Specter in a wig and a dress?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What the Players in the Stimulus Battle Really Want!

As Barack Obama prepares to barnstorm the country in a campaign style push to build support for the quick passage of an economic stimulus bill, I think it’s worth breaking down the apparent desires of the various players regarding this bill.

First of all, however, I want to highlight the most obvious truism spoken about the bill in recent days, which was Obama’s light hearted mocking of his critics while pointing out that “spending is the point” of stimulus! More specifically, as both liberal and conservative economists would likely agree, the point of stimulus is to get more money in circulation – by putting it in the hands of those who will turn around and spend it. The only real disagreement, on the surface, between liberals and conservatives is over how to get that money in circulation, with liberals favoring direct spending and conservatives favoring tax cuts as an alternative method of “putting more money in peoples’ pockets.”

That’s the basic political debate, albeit one filled with lots of blowhard posturing and hidden agendas that get in the way of the basic logic behind the point of the stimulus bill. So here is how I would characterize the real desires of these various players:

Barack Obama – He wants a bill that will work at easing the economic crisis, so that the initial steps of his presidency will be seen as a success.

Conservative Republicans – They want two things: the inclusion of as many tax cuts as possible that might provide benefits to the wealthy as “collateral stimulus;” and a reduction of actual stimulus such that the bill will fail and allow them to blame it on Obama.

“Centrist” Republicans – They want only one thing, which is to remain electable in their States. (It should be noted that in the House, there are no centrist Republicans; and in the Senate, there are only “Centrist” Republicans from centrist or liberal-leaning States who would otherwise have the same desires as Conservative Republicans!)

Centrist Democrats – They also seem to want only one thing, which is as little change as possible! This, I suppose, is the same as saying they want to remain electable in their more conservative districts or States (a benevolent interpretation), or that they are stealth Conservative Republicans (a more skeptical interpretation).

Mainstream Democrats – They are the hardest to peg as a group. Some undoubtedly want a bill that will be effective in turning around the economy; a few apparently just want some pork; and others (cough, Harry Reid, cough!) mainly want to avoid making the Republicans embarrass themselves with a real filibuster against saving the economy!

Majority of the American People - They wants a bill that will work at easing the economic crisis, so that the initial steps of Barack Obama’s presidency will be seen as a success.

So I guess the point of this exercise is to say that, with Obama set to conduct a series of town halls with real people about the stimulus bill, he will finally have a chance to talk to a group that he knows want the same thing that he does!

That group will likely be more accepting of the basic logic behind the point of stimulus than the members of Congress - which is that getting the money to those who will spend it is best accomplished by spending to provide jobs to those who don’t otherwise have them; and not by cutting taxes for those who already have sources of income being taxed (and who may have the flexibility to put the additional money in their pockets rather than spending it!)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Damn, Now I’ve Got to Give up Cheez-its!

Well, it looks like Kellogg is the first self righteous bunch of bastards who think they are too good to be associated with Michael Phelps over a single sleazy tabloid photo of Phelps taking a bong hit:
The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company said Thursday that Phelps's behavior _ caught on camera and published Sunday in the British tabloid News of the World _ is "not consistent with the image of Kellogg."
Frankly, I would agree with them if they had said that Michael Phelps “is not consistent with the image of Kellogg.” Phelps is an amazing physical specimen, while Kellogg pretty much specializes in ruining the physique of its customers!

On the other hand, take a look at their list of products and tell me the image of Kellogg isn’t completely consistent with Phelps’ “behavior!”

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

So Much for Three-Dimensional Chess!

For those convinced that every time Barack Obama make’s an inexplicable move (like Hillary Clinton for State, keeping Robert Gates as Def Sec, or using his influence to enable Joe Lieberman to stay in the Dem Caucus), he must have a complex plan that involves so many future moves that nobody else is smart enough to figure them out, I think Tom Daschle’s withdrawal for HHS kind of ends that line of argument.

Barack Obama may be inspirational and brilliant, and certainly he is worlds above what we’ve had leading us in Washington for the last 8 years, but there’s no way Daschle’s withdrawal amid a cloud of controversy can be spun as more evidence that Obama is way ahead of us all in his strategic planning!

This proves that Obama’s judgment is fallible, and I say this knowing it’s a statement Barack would accept and agree with. In fact he has said as much, admitting in a recent speech that “there will be setbacks and false starts,” and accepting responsibility for the vetting failure that caused him to lose a key cabinet choice.

It also proves that the most important role for Obama’s supporters, going forward, is not to sit back and wait to see what the chess master Obama will do, but to make known our wishes, even when they don’t mesh with Obama’s stated policy goals. We should express our skepticism when his methods for achieving our preferred goals seem to call for skepticism.

Like, say, when he nominates an anti-labor Republican as Commerce Secretary knowing full well the Democratic Governor is only going to appoint another Republican!

“Bipartisanship” may sound great on paper, and in fact it may be Obama’s quickest and best chance of fixing a sick and dying country. But until Republicans, and even Blue Dog Democrats, show that they view “bipartisanship” as something other than a one way street to getting more of what they want (i.e.: not the change we’ve been hoping for), I find it hard to envision a successful strategy that doesn’t ultimately end up marginalizing conservatism conservative obstructionism to the fringes of social acceptability, and creating something approaching “unipartisanship” toward progressive leaning Democrats.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Leaaaaave Michael Phelps Allllooooone!!!!!!

I’ve already had it with breathless speculation from various media outlets about how Michael Phelps’ career may be "in ruins” because he was photographed taking a bong hit at a party. Enough with the self righteous condemnation about a failure to live up to his responsibilities as a role model! Or how he’ll undoubtedly be punished with the loss of corporate endorsements!

The guy made a mistake and apologized. End of story! Yeah, he’s a role model who didn’t live up to the ridiculous standards of perfection society places on, well, athletes and perhaps clergy, and that’s about it! Everyone else, particularly media critics and overzealous photographers, get to f**k up without consequence. If Phelps ends up in rehab, or begins swimming like he’s constantly bloated on Cheetos or Taco Bell “sixth meals,” he’ll have to deal with the consequences. Otherwise, the kid is a swimmer, who is competent enough and disciplined enough to have won eight frickin' gold medals!

It’s not like he spent the last eight years in the most visible and influential position in the World as an alcoholic, former cocaine abusing, man-child who completely failed at everything he touched, and whose mistakes actually killed people! Phelps didn’t enable the destruction of the World’s economy, while authorizing war crimes and ignoring his responsibility to protect Americans from natural disasters and runaway corporate greed!

Unlike George W. Bush, who will still have plenty of eager corporate donors willing to help build a Presidential Library and “Think Tank” as a monument to his complete and utter failures, Michael Phelps is an unqualified success in his real responsibilities - the ones he carries out in the pool!

Phelps’ mistake hurt no one and will likely have no impact on his swimming ability (either positive or negative). In fact, if he wasn’t motivated to prove he can out-swim anyone on the planet again in the 2012 Olympics, I think the odds on another eight gold medals in London just went up exponentially with the growing chorus of finger pointers trying to boost their own self worth by calling him a failure!

As for me, a lifelong swimmer who actually spends hard earned money on swimming related products, if I hear of any corporate sponsor dropping Phelps specifically because of this momentary lapse of judgment (and some slimeball with a camera and an opportunistic desire to tarnish a hero), I will never spend another dime on anything from that company again!