Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Health Care Summit

If you missed all or part of the health care summit, you can watch it on the White House site here. I thought there were some very good moments. Meanwhile, DailyKos TV compiled a highlight reel:

It probably won't be surprising to learn that Repubicans were trashing the summit before it concluded and before it even started. It probably won't be surprising that Lamar Alexander was lying when he said reform would make premiums go up and Barack Obama was telling the truth. The same amount of coverage would cost less; some people might buy better coverage as a result of lower costs, but they would still be getting more for the same amount of money. It probably won't be surprising that NPR was rather muddled and timid in their fact-checking. (Substitute "highly deceptive" or "wrong" for "lying" if you want, but that would mean that Alexander was rather dumb or ill-prepared on a central point for the Republicans' opening statement, and all the other Republicans magically made basically the same mistake.)

Meanwhile, true to form, right-wingers continued their War on Compassion in mocking Louise Slaughter and the woman she mentioned using her dead sister's dentures. See Balloon Juice, No More Mister Nice Blog and Digby for more.

Digby also has sharp posts here and here on the optics of the summit. (I linked the contrasting Krugman and Brooks responses in an earlier post.) Greg Sargent has a number of good posts on moving forward. I agree with his take that Obama's summation was mainly telling the GOP it's over. Sargent also notes the public supports reconciliation if they like the bill, and reports that Obama plans to annouce the way forward this coming week. Good. "Pass the Damn Bill."

Lastly, as usual, The Daily Show offered some of the best coverage on the summit:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Summit's Eve
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorVancouverage 2010

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bipartisan Health Care Reform Summit 2010
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorVancouverage 2010

Anthony Weiner on Health Care

Weiner's a scrapper, and for the right things. Gotta like that. This was posted on 2/24/10, so I'm assuming this House speech occurred then or the day before. David Dayen has a little more.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Summit Fever

Not safe for work, but funny:


I caught most of the summit. Obama was genuinely impressive. The Republicans mainly trotted out the same old BS. A few Republicans made some decent suggestions, but they're either a) already in the bill, or b) too small to make a difference on their own. If this gives the Dems some cover to pass health care reform via reconciliation, great.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Beat the Devil's Tattoo"

Eclectic Jukebox

ACORN, Fake Pimps and the New York Times

Bradblog has been doggedly pushing for corrections on the ACORN "scandal." Major media outlets got played, and most still haven't admitted it. The New York Times' stance has been particularly ridiculous.

Posts one and two should get you up to speed, and the ACORN category has (and will continue to have) much more.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shaun White's Winning Run

On a lighter note... I still need to see the video of his first run, which had already clinched him the Gold Medal. But this is pretty damn wild.

Torture for Ash Wednesday

Andrew Sullivan has another excellent piece on torture up, "May the Judgment Not Be Too Heavy Upon Us." It seems that Marc Thiessen, the most prominent and zealous torture proponent of the day (save perhaps Dick Cheney) and a Catholic, went on a Catholic TV show to argue that torture was consistent with Catholic teachings. Sullivan does a thorough job with Thiessen (as he has before). Here's a sample:

Then we have the astonishing argument from Thiessen that the torture-victims in the Cheney program he supported were grateful for being tortured, because when they were forced beyond what they could endure - which, of course, is Thiessen's unwitting admission that what he was doing was definitionally torture - they were grateful. They were grateful because their duty to Allah had been fulfilled and they were then free to spill their guts. They had done their religious duty and had been brought to a spiritual epiphany that allowed them to tell us so much.

There is much to say about this but let me on Ash Wednesday simply remember the Catholic church's own shameful history of torture. It was done, according to the Inquisitors, as a way to free the souls of the tortured, to bring them to a religious epiphany in which they abandoned heresy and saved themselves from eternal damnation. It is hard for modern people to understand this, but as a student in college of the years in which my own homeland used torture to procure religious conversion, it is important to remember that the torturers sincerely believed that what they were doing was in the best interests of the tortured. In fact, it was a sacred duty to torture rather than allow the victims to die and live in hell for eternity, a fate even worse than the agonies of stress positions or even burning at the stake. Why? Because the torture they would endure in hell would be eternal, while the torture on earth would not last that long.

This is not an exact parallel to the way in which Thiessen defends torture. But the meme that it somehow relieved the victims, that it liberated them, that it helped them to embrace giving information without conflict with their religious faith is horribly, frighteningly close to this ancient evil. For a Catholic to use this argument on a Catholic television program and to invoke the Magisterium of the Church in its defense is simply breath-taking in its moral obtuseness.

Read the rest. I'll be doing a post on Thiessen at some point, who's a partisan zealot, and tells outrageous falsehoods all the time. As Sullivan's pointed out before, Thiessen argues both that prisoners were subjected to pain to make them talk (and that they were grateful for this) and that this was not torture.

I've dismayed to see so many public figures running around casually endorsing torture, especially because, well, they don't know what the fuck they're talking about, and they haven't made any real effort to find out. I'm also dismayed to see that The Washington Post, once a great paper, has continued its slide in hiring Thiessen as a regular columnist. I suppose it's the soft bigotry of Eichmann expectations, but I'm not surprised that media outlets won't call torture torture and won't call for investigations, let alone accountability. But to hire someone who endorses torture is a new low. (In the WaPo's case, he's actually another someone in addition to Charles Krauthammer, Richard Cohen and some guest columnists.) Endorsing torture is about all that Thiessen brings to the table. And as Sullivan noted not long ago, Dan Froomkin, who the WaPo fired (and was the best blogger they had) fact-checked and dissected both Thiessen and Krauthammer multiple times on torture. I don't believe anyone who honestly, seriously studied the subject could not know that Thiessen is making outrageously false claims, and his strongest "evidence" is hearsay. And while he seems like he's a true believer, I think he's also a liar. He tries to pretend torture isn't torture even when glaring evidence has been presented to him. He knows that others don't buy it, and that Cheney and the gang are in legal jeopardy to be tried for war crimes. Here's hoping there's still a full investigation, because otherwise, I don't see any reason the same abuses won't happen all over again. At times, these scumbags are actually bragging about it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roger Ebert and His Voice

Esquire has a moving article, "Roger Ebert: The Essential Man," on Ebert's life since losing his lower jaw and ability to speak. Among many other things, it chronicles the technology that restores his voice in a way, and the writing that's kept his voice alive. (Hat tip to Drioxbie.)

I don't always agree with Ebert's tastes, but he's a good writer and typically offers thoughtful, honest reviews. He's also long been a champion of foreign films, documentaries and hidden gems. If there's some little known film you discover and love, there's a decent chance Ebert liked it, too, and may have included it in his film festival. It's nice to visit his site to read his old reviews of the classics, and when he's on, he's on.

I'm not surprised he liked Broken Embraces, which is a lovely little film that centers on a filmmaker who has lost his sight. Ebert's capsule review is:

Broken Embraces. Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" is a voluptuary of a film, drunk on primary colors, caressing Penelope Cruz, using the devices of a Hitchcock to distract us with surfaces while the sinister uncoils beneath. Involves a blind man who lost his great love in a car crash and years later learns the truth of her death, and how another man destroyed his last film. Penelope Cruz, Almodovar's constant Muse for over a decade, plays a prostitute who was with the blind man's producer when she fell in love with him-true love, and doomed. Dripping with primary colors, especially red, this is the year's most sumptuous film.

Still, my favorite line of the actual article is:

When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Link Love (Feb. 2010)

Here ya go...

Campaign for America's Future
Crooks and Liars
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
The Baseline Scenario
Beggars Can Be Choosers
Blue Gal
The Bobblespeak Translations
BooMan Tribune
The Brad Blog
Brad DeLong
Brilliant at Breakfast
Cheyanne's Campsite
Climate Progress
Comrade Kevin's Chrestomathy
Comrade PhysioProf
Confession Zero
The Conscience of a Liberal — Paul Krugman
Crooked Timber
The Daily Dorkmonger
Dan Froomkin
D-Day's News Desk
Doctor Biobrain
Drinking Liberally in New Milford
Economist's View
Evil Slutopia
The Existentialist Cowboy
Ezra Klein
Freida Bee
Gin and Tacos
Glenn Greenwald
Godless Liberal Homo
Group News Blog
The G Spot
The Hunting of the Snark
Ice Station Tango
Impolitic Eye
The Inverse Square
It's All One Thing
Jack and Jill Politics
James Wolcott
Jesus' General
Kevin Drum
Lance Mannion
Last Left Turn Before Hooterville
Lawyers, Guns and Money
Les Enragés
A Lovely Promise
The Mahablog
Matthew Yglesias
Media Bloodhound
Meta Watershed
Mock, Paper, Scissors
Morning Martini
Naked Capitalism
The Newshoggers
No Comment - Scott Horton
No More Mister Nice Blog
The Non Sequitur
Neural Gourmet
Obsidian Wings
Once Upon a Time - Arthur Silber
One Good Move
Ornery Bastard
Orcinus - David Neiwert
The Plum Line – Greg Sargent
The Political Cat
The Poor Man Institute
PBD - Progressive Blog Digest
Pushing Rope
The Reaction
RIP Coco
Sadly, No!
Scholars & Rogues
Seeing the Forest
Simply Left Behind
Steve Audio
Steve Benen
Steven Hart Site
Suzi Riot
Talking Points Memo
TPM Cafe
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taylor Marsh
That's Why
They Gave Us a Republic
Think Progress
A Tiny Revolution
Unqualified Offerings
We are Respectable Negroes
Welcome to Pottersville 2
Whiskey Fire
Wolfrum Chronicles
Zaius Nation
Eclectic Jukebox
By Ken Levine
Kung Fu Monkey
Culture Vultures
So Much to Read
Atomic Romance
Blue Herald

I've moved several blogs on my blogroll to the inactive section, to my regret. If you've quit, but come back, let me know...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Common Sense Policies Fail

This John Cole post is a keeper. James Joyner proposes that Americorps volunteers should not need to be on food stamps, and that a modest stipend would fix this. It's not a bad idea. But Cole runs with it:

But here is the thing- we can’t do anything about it. I’m sure the House could pass a bill containing a small stipend for Americorps volunteers- in fact, I bet it would get a good bit of support. It might even be very popular with the entire country, as well as being good policy! Likewise, I bet almost all the Democrats and even some Republicans in the Senate would be in favor of passing that bill.

Except the bill would never pass, and I’m surprised James does not recognize that he is operating in a fantasy world. Once the bill hit the Senate, the fun would begin. Even though in the past there were probably numbers of Republicans who supported Americorps, the large majority of them would just flat out say no.

Wanting to negotiate in good faith, having never learned a lesson ever, the Democrats like Baucus and Conrad would slow down the debate to give the Republicans time to participate. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe would work for a couple weeks with Senate leadership, get a couple things they want in the bill, then sigh and utter their public regrets that they just can not support the bill. Chuck Todd, the Politico, and other dullards in the beltway media would run a few pieces wondering why Obama hasn’t reached out more to moderates. While this is happening, the wurlitzer’s media blitz starts...

Malkin would start printing the addresses of Americorps volunteers, and would have her internet sleuths post a facebook picture of an Americorps worker drunk four years ago while in college. By this time, the noise machine is in full swing, and Rush, Glenn Beck, Hannity, the Heritage Foundation, the rest of the Koch funded “think tanks,” Fox News, the NY Post and the Washington Examiner, the NR, and the Weekly Standard and the other wingnut welfare publications would all embark on another disinformation campaign.

Somewhere around this time, Randy Scheuenemann and Meg Stapleton would post a bunch of nonsense on Palin’s facebook page, maybe declaring that Americorps is just like Hitler Youth Corps. This would get picked up by the Weekly Standard’s resident Palin fluffer, Matt Continetti, repeated by the increasingly loathesome Michael Goldfarb, and mainstreamed into CNN by Stephen Hayes in one of his typical fact-free appearances. Bill Kristol would pick up the ball and run with it, and before you know it, Fred Hiatt’s fishwrap would have 20 editorials railing against Americorps...

Read the rest. (There's a brief follow-up of sorts here.) Watch the Maddow video in the previous post. Satirizing these maddening dynamics gives some comfort, but the point is that average citizens are getting completely screwed by the current setup.

"They're Not Embarrassed"

This is a home run by Maddow on the stimulus bill and Republican hypocrisy. GOP politicians have loudly attacked the bill, and claimed it was a failure (most every expert deems it a success, and say that if anything it was too small). Then they've turned around and taken credit for the federal funds sent to their districts and states. If you don't follow politics that closely, this will get you up to speed on why it's so hard to get anything productive done:

Steve Benen has been tracking this specific sort of hypocrisy for months, and Obama described it when he met with the House Republicans. I've read some astoundingly counterfactual political analysis pieces by supposedly neutral and savvy reporters in the past few days. If most reporting was half as good as this piece, we'd be in much better shape. If the headline-mugging, "gotcha" journalism reporters practiced was this substantive, versus the gossipy sort they dish out, politicians wouldn't lie or screw over their constituents nearly as often. For instance, Joe Lieberman could be pushed on why he opposed policies his constituents favored and experts endorsed, and why Democrats, Republicans and Independents in Connecticut all disapproved of his job performance. Most congressional Republicans could be shamed on a daily basis, for lying, for hypocrisy, for laughable bullshit and (most importantly) screwing over their constituents. The press likes to sell conflict and scandals, and there would be plenty to cover- if only they cared about policies and how they affected American citizens.

I often wonder about the stupid-to-evil ratio of this or that political player. I don't doubt that many movement conservatives truly believe the demonstrably false dogma they preach (in private, some really don't believe that global warming exists). But being a zealot, a liar, and a scumbag are not mutually exclusive. And hell, I give the GOP too much credit at times for being more stupid than evil. It's obvious to anyone following politics that the GOP is obstructionist. But sometimes, I think they really don't understand how destructive and reckless they're being. Maddow builds an ironclad case not only that these people are acting in bad faith - they're doing things they know will hurt their constitutents. It'd be great to have reality-based discussions with smart people with different perspectives. Currently - and for some time now - the Republicans have been sociopaths. I don't see how anyone who follows politics for a living could miss this - or excuse it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

No Way to Run an Empire

"Caligula had to appoint that horse. Here they are nominated by acclamation." - Roy Edroso

(This post was originally part of "American Political Insanity Explained," but I thought it might be better as a separate piece. So. Ahem.)

While it's not a surprise that there are evil bastards in the world, and that plenty of people in power are selfish and/or flat-out idiotic, I'll admit to being surprised at the ruling class' almost total lack of concern for basic competence. Is this any way for the business class to run a business? Don't the neocons have any interest in being competent imperialists? Where's the basic self-respect from our would-be Machiavellis and Neros?

While "enlightened self-interest," which generally points toward more liberal policies, might be too much to expect from an entrenched establishment, I at least thought that "savvy, evil self-interest" might win the day. When you're in the top 10%, or especially the top 1% (or 0.1%) of the population in the richest country on Earth – and you will remain so, even under extremely progressive policies – giving a slightly larger sliver of that wealth back to the country is smarter than becoming more greedy. One, it's revolution insurance (as Digby's called it), and two, as Paul Krugman and others have shown, the economy as a whole will do better, and this could easily make you, an evil rich bastard, even more money, which is in your view the goal - nay - the very pinnacle of human achievement. Alas, our evil rich bastards are letting their country down. They would rather fight for the best staterooms on the Titanic (and burn all the lifeboats reserved for the unwashed lower orders).

While the Democratic Party certainly has its problems (especially the Blue Dogs and the Larry Summers crowd), the current Republican dogma is incoherent and completely unworkable for actually running a country. The Bush years showed this, painfully. It's one thing to be a ruthless scumbag, but to be so reckless about everything is stunning. Over the past few decades, several conservatives have proudly adopted the nickname "the Prince of Darkness," (or something similar) yet none has been an evil genius – just evil. (Bush was more the Inspector Clouseau of evil.) No one's ever really doubted that Dick Cheney is a nasty asshole, but his fans mistakenly thought that he'd be their asshole, and that his nastiness would translate into tough, effective foreign policy and basic competence. Instead, even the would-be emperors seem more driven by psychological need than any steely-eyed realism.

The Emperor has no clothes, but in the Beltway, saying so means one isn't "serious." The Mayberry Machiavellis of the Bush White House thought policy was irrelevant and only public relations mattered, but driving all of this was the staggering hubris that they could not be wrong, could not fail, and could re-shape existence itself, unlike the reality-based community. They have plenty of company today in both politics and the press. Call this approach what you will: the fantasy-based community, inept McCarthyism, Tinkerbell thinking, the Green Lantern Theory, or perhaps the foam finger brigade. What's essential to them is to yell that America is the bestest country ever – and shout down anyone treasonous enough to actually work to make it so. It's hard to deal with a crowd that puts almost all their energy into tribal rituals affirming their inherent superiority and attacking those too "uncivil" to play along. Granted, not everyone actually bought into that revolution against the British Empire, or the whole principles of American democracy. Still - this is no way to run an empire.

American Political Insanity Explained

For your consideration:

1. The Bush years were absolutely disastrous, on multiple fronts.

2. Those disasters were the direct result of movement conservative ideology, and horrible mismanagement by the Bush administration and the GOP.

3. The majority of the American public rejected the Bush/GOP approach in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

4. The Republicans looked at all of the above, and said: "Let's propose the same policies as Bush."

They added, "Let's obstruct all legislation and presidential appointments, and all attempts to clean up the messes left by Bush and our party."

(The conservative base looked at all of the above, and said, "Bush and the Republicans weren't far right enough.")

5. The American media looked at all of the above, and said: "Obama and the Democrats should adopt the Republicans' policies."

They added, "That would be bipartisan. And America is a center-right nation. When voters said they wanted change, that meant they wanted the Bush approach. They didn't want the Republicans to change their policies or their level of cooperation."

Furthermore: "The million teabaggers gathering on the National Mall to call Obama a fascist, socialist baby-killer who will institute death panels to kill white grandmas have a point."


I could have kept #4 and #5 simpler, but I think this list covers most of the current dynamics. As the saying goes, insanity is trying the same approach over and over again expecting different results. The largest problem in American politics is the failure, or refusal, to acknowledge that the Bush years were horrible (#1) and that this was not accidental (#2). It's struck me that almost everything else flows from these factors – basically, the denial of a glaringly obvious reality. There are multiple theories for this. There's D.C. being wired for Republican rule. There's the Beltway gang's love of "he said-she said" reporting and disdain for discussing actual policies and their probable consequences (who will benefit). There's their isolation from the negative effects of the Bush years, and the simple truth that a ruling class is disinclined to question an establishment that favors them. Still, the biggest reason may be culpability. Bush and the GOP caused most of the damage. The more corporatist Democrats were happy to join in. The media largely said nothing, or acted as cheerleaders, or even as gleeful bullies themselves.

Some journalists and politicians will sorta admit to #1, but not #2 - thus, on economic matters, lately we've been hearing, "It doesn't matter who made the mess - the important thing is that it gets fixed." It's a neat partisan trick, but why the press plays along is another matter. Bush and the GOP nearly doubled the national debt from 5.73 trillion to 10.7 trillion, with 1.8 trillion in tax cuts (overwhelmingly to the rich) and pushed two wars without end – and in the Beltway, it just doesn't matter. Blue Dogs like Evan Bayh can have their Come-to-Ayn-Rand moments, and suddenly discover they're deficit hawks – except when it comes to military spending, which should be unlimited. (On other issues, like torture, the Village position is also that it was no one's fault, but that nothing should be fixed.) While it's fair to judge Obama on how he puts out the fire, it's colossally irresponsible to ignore who set the fire – especially when the same people in Congress and business and on the op-ed pages are trying to set more fires. This dynamic may be most maddening in politicians' reluctance to take on Wall Street, even after Wall Street players tanked the global economy and have shown staggering arrogance since – and eagerness to do it all over again. The Republicans aren't alone in sucking-up on that front, although they are the most shameless and reckless.

Some of this is nothing new. Conservative think tanks have been trying to sell a crucial pair of lies for decades now – that Reaganomics have been great for America, and that the New Deal was somehow a failure. (Even John Yoo's latest groundwork-for-a-torture-defense op-ed attacks the New Deal in passing.) Curiously, for this crowd, cutting social spending and giving more money to the rich are always the magic solutions to every single problem America faces (even though it's never worked out as sold). Meanwhile, there's a direct line from Watergate through Iran-Contra to the abuses of the Bush administration, with many of the same players (and their allies) involved. The Cheney gang felt the real mistake of Watergate was getting caught. Then-Congressman Cheney zealously defended the Reagan administration's abuses of power in Iran-Contra, and the perpetrators were barely punished. Shockingly, when men and women abuse power and aren't held accountable, the consciences they never possessed before do not magically sprout into existence. Strangely, when such abuses and bad policies go unchallenged, they tend to show up again.

As antiquated as the Senate and its rules are, it couldn't do as much harm if the GOP, and the Blue Dogs, and the media, responded to #1 and #2 with honesty, humility and responsibility. However, adopting a responsible, reality-based approach would depend on the culprits forsaking a sliver of personal gain, and might necessitate that they confront their own flattering, delusional self-images. The Conventional Beltway Wisdom is generally wrong - and often inane - but the political class will always believe in self-gratification. Unfortunately, the chances are not high that Paul Ryan will admit his policies will benefit the rich and devastate the middle class, that Jim Demint, Rush Limbaugh or Joe Lieberman will stop being assholes, that the teabaggers will realize they're fighting for the same people who have screwed them for thirty plus years, or that "centrist" David Broder will stop to take a whiff of reality rather than writing his latest Mad Libs column concluding that Democrats should let Republicans call the shots.

If there's a single story that exemplifies (American) politics, it's the Emperor's New Clothes. The only questions are who's the emperor, who are the crooked tailors, who are the public dupes who play along, and who are the truth tellers. No one likes to think he or she is a dupe, but the entire Villager mindset is built upon the painfully false, self-flattering notion that they're the wise, cynical, insightful ones. There's a grain of truth to this, because like members of the Bush administration, they create their own reality, and their inane, counterfactual analysis can become self-fulfilling. But in another sense, even as their games screw over most of the American citizenry, the Villagers are both the grifters and the marks for their own bullshit.

None of this means progress is hopeless, but any strategy that doesn't acknowledge (on some level) points #1-5 is likely to fail. The Democrats want to listen to all ideas? Fine – but they have to acknowledge privately that most of those opposition ideas stink, even if they don't call out every single one of them publicly. They want to keep a civil public image? Okay, that's one way to play it - but they have to acknowledge to themselves privately that the Republicans are obstructionists, and not working in good faith. Many conservatives have openly sought the destruction and failure of the Democratic Party. FDR was denounced as a "traitor to his class" in his day, and gave a great speech where he named his foes and 'welcomed their hatred.' A national political discourse with one party attacking false scapegoats and the other too gutless or corrupt to call out real villainy is simply toxic. The Democrats want to treat TV gasbags respectfully? Fine, that's only smart – but they have to go into those interactions knowing how vapid and superficial most of the chattering class is, and calculate accordingly. The Emperor has no clothes. In the short run, it might be wise to account for the Beltway's love of hippie-punching with some planned concessions, but the long game just can't be won using rules that say you – and the American people as a whole – must always lose.

(A companion piece of sorts is here. This post edited slightly for clarity.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Failures of Movement Conservatism

Politically, movement conservatism did well for quite a while, from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush the Younger, but the majority of American voters rejected it in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Discontent may help it rebound in 2010 and 2012, which is troubling, because movement conservative policies have been absolutely horrendous for America.

Back on 1/3/10, Digby linked "Remembering Naught" by Devilstower over at Daily Kos. Here's the key section:

As tempting as it is to forget the bad times, the reason there's a whole friggin' biological system built around the idea of burning these events irrevocably into your cerebellum in 18pt type is so you don't do it again...

Don't forget the naughts, because this decade, no matter what anyone on the right might say, was conservatism on trial. You want less taxes? You got less taxes. You want less regulation? You got less regulation. Open markets? Wide open. An illusuion of security in place of rights? Hey, presto. You want unlimited power given to military contractors so they can kick butt and take names? Man, we handed out boots and pencils by the thousands. Everything, everything, that ever showed up on a drooled-over right wing wish list got implemented -- with a side order of Freedom Fries.

They will try to disown it, and God knows if I was responsible for this mess I'd be disowning it, too. But the truth is that the conservatives got everything they wanted in the decade just past, everything that they've claimed for forty years would make America "great again". They didn't fart around with any "red dog Republicans." They rolled over their moderates and implemented a conservative dream.

What did we get for it? We got an economy in ruins, a government in massive debt, unending war, and the repudiation of the world. There's no doubt that Republicans want you to forget the last decade, because if you remember... if you remember when you went down to the water hole and were jumped by every lunacy that ever emerged from the wet dreams of Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney, well, it's not likely that you'd give them a chance to do it again.

Because they will. Given half a chance -- less than half -- they'll do it again, only worse. Because that's the way conservatism works. Remember when the only answer to every economic problem was "cut taxes?" We have a surplus. Good, let's cut taxes. We have a deficit. Hey, cut taxes even more! That little motto was unchanging even when was clear that the tax cuts were increasing the burden on everyone but a wealthy few. That's just a subset of the great conservative battle whine which is now and forever "we didn't go far enough." If deregulation led to a crash, it's because we didn't deregulate enough. If the wars aren't won, it's because we haven't started enough wars. If there are people still clinging to their rights, it's because we haven't done enough to make them afraid.

Forget the naughts, and you'll forget that conservatives had another chance to prove all their ideas, and that their ideas utterly and completely failed. Again.

Digby added:

I don't deny that the corporate Democrats are screwed up too. But they didn't invent this political world. As I quipped before, they just learned to stop worrying and love the money. This world of graft and corruption and unfettered greed was the conservative movement's idea of utopia. And they got it.

I tried to make the same basic points in "The Persistence of Ideology" (which also covers the current conservative zeal for torture). Movement conservative ideology, or dogma, has been exposed as completely disastrous, except for perhaps a select few. Yet conservatives are still shilling it. And the media mostly do not call them on it. Of all the chronic and horrible flaws of our mainstream media, the biggest is probably ignoring how horrible the Bush years were on almost every conceivable front. Neil's Irwin's good WaPo articleon the "lost decade" economically has gotten a fair amount of attention. It's not as if America's economic woes are some big secret, though, even though the details are important. But despite the demonstrated failures of conservative economic policies (and throw in some blame for Bill Clinton, Summers, Rubin and the gang), it's hard to go more than a week without reading about some conservative (or purported "moderate") touting tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful, and slashing social spending such as education, hospitals, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (Steve Benen and Balloon Juice track these claims pretty diligently). Libertarian John Stossel attacks regulation and extols Ayn Rand (more on his cherry-picking in another post, perhaps, although I think it's fairly obvious). Schwarzenegger and California deserve their own post, but he continues to refuse to raise taxes on the rich (if anything, he'll cut them) and has threatened deep cuts to social services.

Back on 11/10/09, Paul Krugman noted the latest bile from Dick Armey, and wrote:

There’s a persistent delusion, on the part of many pundits, to the effect that we’re actually having a rational political discussion in this country. But we aren’t. The proposition that the Community Reinvestment Act caused all the bad stuff, because government forced helpless bankers into lending to Those People, has been refuted up, down, and sideways. The vast bulk of subprime lending came from institutions not subject to the CRA. Commercial real estate lending, which was mainly lending to rich white developers, not you-know-who, is in much worse shape than subprime home lending. Etc., etc.

But in Dick Armey’s world, in fact on the right as a whole, the affirmative-action-made-them-do-it doctrine isn’t even seen as a hypothesis. It’s just a fact, something everyone knows.

Truly, sometimes I despair.

Conservative partisans don't seem to get that acknowledging the failure of Bush policies is not itself partisan. Media figures are afraid to state the obvious for fear of being called partisan. Reasonable people, pretty much by definition, are interested in what works, regardless of political labels, and seek to avoid what doesn't. The old line is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. I'll explore this more in later posts, but: Opposing Reagonomics, and really all of the Bush administration's policies, is not (necessarily) a partisan matter at all – it's basic sanity.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Day of Shame 2010

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy reminds me the February 5th is the Day of Shame, the anniversary of Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations. Full of falsehoods, and not very convincing for all that, the presentation played a crucial role in selling the Iraq War to the American people. Most Americans didn't listen too carefully to what was said, but they trusted Powell. While Powell has since tried to portray himself as a dupe, he knew that specific charges were dubious or outright bullshit, and certainly knew that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were exploiting his credibility.

It's important not to let this go down the Memory Hole, especially when so many people in politics and the media are trying to pretend the Bush years never happened and/or no one's to blame. This was not an innocent mistake. It was deliberate deception. For the most part, those in power and influence who bought the case for war haven't truly acknowledged their error. Richard Cohen is a blithering idiot, but he's not alone in insisting that he was wrong for the right reasons, while those who saw through the bullshit were somehow right for the wrong reasons. Cohen is dead wrong as usual, and couldn't accurately describe the anti-war objections if his life depended on it. It's one thing to have been wrong, though, but it's quite another never to learn anything from such mistakes. Too many people with power and influence haven't, and that's what's dangerous.

I'd recommend, as always, the books Angler by Barton Gellman and The Dark Side by Jane Meyer for a good overview of the staggering abuses of power and horrendous mismanagement of the Bush administration. The Frontline specials on the Bush years, particularly "The Dark Side," "Cheney's Law," "The Lost Year in Iraq" or the compilation "Bush's War," are also excellent.

There's plenty more that needs to come out, though, and among other things, the Justice Department should be doing a full investigation of the torture regime. The Obama administration has in some cases borrowed from the Bush playbook. Granting prisoners due process is a strength, not a weakness. Meanwhile, the number of people running around casually or emphatically endorsing torture – despite its immorality, illegality, ineffectiveness and endangerment of Americans – is truly disturbing.

The Day of Shame website has more, and links to other posts. My most extensive post on the subject is this one from 2008. Peace.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ryan Bingham – "The Weary Kind"

This song is the theme from the film Crazy Heart, and just got nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.

I saw the film this past weekend. If it feels like you've seen it before, it's probably because you have. Down on his luck, aging, self-destructive musician is nothing new – but an old standard can be great if it's well done. I love Jeff Bridges, and most of the cast, but unfortunately, the plot and the major emotional beats feel more and more predictable (even rote) as the film progresses. I was just hoping for a bit more. Still, the acting's strong, and the music's pretty good. It's a decent rental.

Eclectic Jukebox

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Blogroll Amnesty Day 2010

It's Blogroll Amnesty Day again! The basic idea is to link smaller (or small) blogs. This event was started by skippy and the much missed Jon Swift (who explained its origins here). My most extensive post on it was this one (complete with Godzilla references, of course). Blogroll Amnesty Day also requires shout-outs to promoter of indie blogs Blue Gal and to Mike Finnigan, because at Mike's Blog Roundup, every day is Blogroll Amnesty Day.

There are simply too many good blogs to read them all, but trying to find some good ones that may not be on your regular reading list is worth the effort. Let's get started...

Evil Slutopia: How can you pass on a title like that? Follow the link to read Jezebel's important post on how you can "Support Brilliant Writing in the Blogosphere." (Very much in the spirit of Blogroll Amnesty Day...)

Godless Liberal Homo: Again with the intriguing blog titles. As you'd expect, you can find said godless liberal homo discussing Cornel West and Noam Chomsky. (While eating brie, no doubt.)

The Non Sequitur: Wait, what's the name of the logical fallacy George Will just employed? The Non Sequitur will dissect it.

Incertus: Run by Brian and Amy, Incertus recently celebrated its sixth blogiversary of thoughtful posts. (Hmm, what's with all the Latin blog names?)

Distributorcap NY: Photoshop and video satire, plus detailed posts on economics and history.

Steve Audio: Sharp insights, common sense and good music picks.

Feel free to promote your own blog (assuming it's real and not promoting cold sore cures and whatnot) in the comments. I'll do a blogroll link love post later this month.

(Edit: Added the pic that I left out last night.)

Obama Meets the GOP (The Comic Takes)

I posted Obama's meeting with the House Republicans earlier, but here's The Daily Show take:

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And here's Seth Myers in great form on Obama and the GOP on Saturday Night Live: