Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dr. Minyard, please call the Wolfman

If you read this blog, you probably read, and you've likely seen this. But it's too good to pass up. From the New Orleans Parish race for coroner. (Yes, they vote for ghoul in New Orleans. What can I say?) Something is wrong with the thingy to embed video in the blog, but watch it here.

Fearless prediction

Scott Brown will prove not ready for prime time.

Bonus prediction: That will not prevent some pundits (and perhaps GOP insiders) from proposing him as a presidential candidate in 2012.

Giant among midgets

Did you see President Obama with the Republican House Members on Friday? Reminded me of nothing so much as Gulliver among the Lilliputians. Seeing some of the highlights, you could almost--almost--feel sorry for the GOPhers, having to contend with a man as intelligent and well-prepared as the President, and in a venue where they could not dominate the debate by talking over their opponent or shouting him down.

Think we'll see Mr. Obama meeting with Senate Republicans next?

If you're asking yourself whether there are congressional Democrats who can also dominate the opposition, I think there are. Barney Frank (my congressman) comes to mind. Alan Grayson, the Freshman from Florida who noted that the Republican health-care plan was "die sooner"is another, although he doesn't show a lot of intellectual heft. In the Senate, there's Dick Durbin, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed (both of RI) and, of course, rookie-of-the-year Al Franken. But don't we miss Ted Kennedy?

Organizing for America distributed this video from yesterday's confab/confrontation. It's a bit more than 2/3 the length of the entire event.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Party of no

No surprise, but worth no-ting:

According to the NYTimes:
One day after the president upbraided Congress in his State of the Union address for excessive partisanship, Senate Republicans voted en masse against a plan to require that new spending not add to the deficit (it passed anyway as all 60 members of the Democratic caucus hung together). And some Republicans peremptorily dismissed Mr. Obama’s main job-creating proposal, expressing no interest in using $30 billion in bank bailout money for business tax credits.
When will the American people realize that the GOP is not just the Party of No, but the Party of No Policy, not to mention the Party of Hypocrisy?

Achilles heel

As you've probably seen, ad nauseum, by now, when President Obama attacked the Supreme Court's recent campaign-finance ruling, Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and seemed to mouth the words "Not true." (Some commentators thought he said more.)

Some people have compared Alito to Joe Wilson (R.Whacko), who called Obama a liar during a speech earlier this year. But give the Justice a pass: he had just been dissed, from about 12 feet away, by the most powerful man in the world, and dozens of millions of people around the world were watching.

The President's ire was understandable on a number of levels. As a constitutional-law expert (he taught the subject), he is aware of how the majority reached out for a case that would give it the opportunity to reach a decision that was (a) not required; (b) far broader than necessary to reach the issues raised; and (c) unnecessarily overturned 100 years of understanding about the nature of campaign-finance laws. From a political perspective, logic suggests that the decision will heavily favor Republicans. So it's not surprising that Obama was ticked.

In his address, the President raised a sore point about the decision: it seems to open the door to foreign money flooding into US elections. Although Justice Kennedy's decision said that the court would reserve a decision on foreign money to another day, in truth under his decision there is no way to keep contributions from other nations out.

The fact is, there is no clear way to define a foreign corporation for purposes of the Supreme Court's decision. If a corporation is organized in another country, but owned by Americans, is it an American company? If a corporation--like CITGO--is organized here, but owned by people from another country (in CITGO's case, Hugo Chavez's Venezuela), is it a US corporation? What about a US subsidiary of a foreign company? The financial world treats a public corporation as being effectively owned by anyone with a bloc of 15-20% of the outstanding stock (unless someone else controls as much or more). So, if a foreign person or company owns 20% of a large, otherwise American company, can that controlling foreign company direct the subsidiary's money to US campaigns?

That is the Achilles heel of the decision. There is widespread, indeed, I think general agreement that we should not let foreign contributions affect the selection of our leaders. And this is a question that the Supreme Court will have to confront. Indeed, the best chance for getting the court to re-think last weeks' ruling is for a state or, better, Congress to pass a law defining and restricting contributions by corporations that are defined as foreign. When confronted with having to decide what a foreign corporation is, the justices may realize how wrong-headed they're ruling was.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Button your lip

Last night, Cong. Bill Pascrell (D.NJ) was on the CBS Evening News, telling Katie Couric that he doubts the President can deliver on all the promises he was to make in his State of the Union address.

I have some advice for Cong. Pascrell and the rest of the Democrats who can't wait to tell tales out of school: SHUT UP!

Do you think you would have seen a Republican dissing George W.'s proposals on the day of the State of the Union, or after?

Democrats don't have to adopt Republican policies or principles to accept the fact that party discipline has given the GOPhers a big edge these past few decades. Keep the debate inside, and button your lip when someone sticks a mike or a camera in your face.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Showing the White Flag

We Democrats commonly complain that, whatever we do, Republicans accuse us of being weak on security. Thus, although President Obama has launched many more strikes at the Taliban in Pakistan than the Bush administration, the GOPhers still claim that he is not strong enough in fighting terrorism.

There is merit in this complaint--the shameless Republicans, unfettered by any attachment to mere truth, engage in demagogy whenever it will benefit what they see as their political interest. What we Democrats ignore, however, is that we are their enablers. The truth is that, although we are not weak on security, we are weak on so many issues that our posture gives Republicans credibility even when they lie outrageously.

Case in point: Republicans tried to distract attention from the disaster area that the economy became on George Bush's watch by raising the volume on their constant wail about the deficit and the need to cut taxes. They found allies in some anti-government tea partiers--people who don't believe government can do anything. Some feckless 'Democrats' got scared and started talking about the need to rein in the deficit. Fourteen months after the Republicans were vanquished with their tails between their legs, that view has become the conventional wisdom.

Now is exactly the wrong time to worry about the deficit. The economy has just started--maybe--to recover from Bush's disaster. Unemployment is high and stubbornly resistant to improvement. Big banks are paying huge bonuses, but not lending. As Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz (two Nobel laureates) and other economists have convincingly argued, what we need now is another big stimulus package, replacing the absence of private demand with public demand.

Yet we are now told that President Obama is going to call for freezing the non-defense part of the budget for three years. WHAT IS HE THINKING? That is a recipe for economic stagnation and political disaster. It plays into the Republicans' hands. Remember, the GOP has no interest in economic recovery; continued distress will play into Republican hands this fall and in 2012.

What the President should do tomorrow night is to stand in the well of the House and give the Republicans (and their Democratic enablers) hell. He should tell them some home truths about where we are and how the only path out of our distress is muscular government spending, because private enterprise is cowering in the bunkers. He needs to say that while the deficit is a real problem, in the present crisis it has to take a back seat to repairing the economy. In short, he needs to stand his ground--or what should be his ground.

Since Vietnam, Democrats have, unfortunately, become all too practiced at showing the white flag when opposed by tough and outwardly confident Republicans. Democrats cut and ran after Walter Mondale told the truth about taxes and got skunked in 1984--even though they knew he was right. Think of the Republican Lite years of the Clinton administration. What did Bill Clinton stand tough on, except when he, himself, was under attack? Think of how Democrats knuckled under to Bush's demand for unconstitutional powers in the so-called War on Terror. Even now, where is the prominent Democrat willing to stand up and say that dangerous terrorists must be released, because the Bush administration so traduced our Constitution that we cannot hold them?

One thing about Republicans: they don't act this way. They show matchless effrontery in maintaining their refrain about cutting taxes. That would be incredibly stupid and self-destructive as national policy, but at least the Republicans are consistent. They don't bend, they don't show fear. And as a result, they get credit for consistency, if nothing else.

We need to learn from our enemies. In Esther Forbes' wonderful Johnny Tremain, the patriot James Otis says on the eve of the American Revolution that Americans must fight for "the right to stand up." We won that right. It's past time for Democrats to exercise it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saying it all

Jusstice Stephens, dissenting, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission last week:

It might also be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom the Constitution was established.

Now, are there any questions?