Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That sound you hear is flip-flopping

No, it's not Mitt Romney.  The Mittster does not have a monopoly on flip-flopping among Rebuplicans.  

Turns out T-Paw is a pretty good flipper himself, as Michael Tomasky illustrates.

Build on this

Can Democrats build on Kathy Hochul's upset win in NY-26?  Unless GOPhers manage to backpedal faster than Bobby Orr getting back to meet an odd-man rush, the answer is:  Yes.  Rebuplicans stand to be crushed next year, broken on the wheel of their plan for Medicare--that is, the plan to kill it.

But if Democrats want to build something more lasting than the Rebuplicans did in 2010, they need to win over voters on more than Medicare.  The Times quoted a couple of Republican voters who pulled the lever (well, actually, pushed the button) for Hochul:  "'I have almost always voted the party line,” said Gloria Bolender, a Republican from Clarence who is caring for her 80-year-old mother. “This is the second time in my life I’ve voted against my party.'”   "'Pat Gillick, a Republican from East Amherst, who also cast a ballot for Ms. Hochul, said, “The privatization of Medicare scares me.'”  If Hochul is to be more than a one-term congresswoman, she's going to have to find common ground with people like this.  Constituent service is one way to do that, but in these contentious times, it's likely to be more important to find issues on which there is common ground.  In suburban and exurban conservative districts, suspicion of big banks and Wall Street might be one of them.  Can that be used to get these voters to support reforms such as the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that has been such a lightning-rod for Rebuplicans beholden to those very interests?  Perhaps.  Indeed, the biggest risk for Democrats may be that so many of their own people are in thrall to the same masters.

Just another reason for Democrats to re-discover their roots.

The conventional wisdom: wrong again

Democrat Kathy Hochul has won the special congressional election in NY-26, one of the most conservative upstate districts.  The Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, faded at the end.  Indeed, once again, the conventional wisdom proved wrong:  As late as last week, the MSM was attributing the close race to Davis' presence siphoning off votes from Jane Corwin, the Rebuplican candidate.  Even TalkingPointsMemo bought into this line.   

But When Davis' support melted away, a substantial part of it went to Hochul, as did the undecided.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Best line of the week

Or the month.  Maybe of the year.

Comment on a story about Harold Camping's reaction to finding that he was wrong that Saturday would be the Rapture:

"Oh cheer up Harold. We all make mistakes. Its not the end of the world."

It's all over

Hold the phone.  The Republican race is over.  Herman Cain has officially announced his candidacy for the nomination.  

Maybe true

Tim (the Man Who Vetoed Money for Infrastructure Before the I-35 Bridge Collapse) Pawlenty has announced that he is in the Rebuplican presidential race.  That's a relief to GOPhers  battered by the run for the exits of respected national leaders like Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels and, of course, Donald Trump.  Not to mention the self-inflicted damage incurred by New Gingrich as a result of his sudden brush with honesty last Sunday.  

Pawlenty's announcement--in a web video--is entitled "A Time for Truth," demonstrating that--especially in Rebuplican hands--veracity is an elastic concept.  Think of how Gingrich said that anyone who quoted his comments on Paul Ryan's budget proposal would be spreading a falsehood.  According to Pawlenty, this country is in big trouble.  Some of us would say that's because Obama and the Democrats have had only a couple of years to undo the disaster that was W.  Or we might say that Pawlenty's words are really meant as a preduction of the future:  what would happen if he and his party take over the White House and enshrine ignorance in the Oval Office.

(Note that Pawlenty is running in the Rebuplican presidential race.  That's not the same as the race for the presidency.  As the public learns more and more about what the GOPhers want to do to the nation, the possibility that Mr. Obama will be defeated next year diminishes with each passing day.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dropping like flies

Rebuplican candidates for President are dropping like flies.  First Mike Huckabee.  Then Donald.  Then Newt Gingrich angered the "conservatives" by dissing Paul Ryan's budget.  Now New has been revealed to have owed more than $250,000 to Tiffany's in 2006.  That will help his populist credentials.  (In Newt's defense, clearly he was just trying to help the wealth trickle down.  Oh, and he was presumably spending it on his current wife, not his next one--a welcome change from past behavior.)

Last night, Chris Matthews called Sarah Palin "profoundly stupid." (Usage alert:  isn't that a contradiction in terms?)  Matthews may be revealing his misogyny, because also yesterday Rick Santorum, yet another as-yet-unnanounced Rebuplican candidate for the Oval Office, told an interviewer that John McCain doesn't understand torture.   Yes, he really did.  Talk about profound stupidity.  Say what you may about McCain (and this page has), if anyone in the United States government understands torture, it's him.

Oh, and Michele Bachmann says she may "move up" her decision on whether to run for President.  

Fun times!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How far we've come

There was a time when we actually enforced the antitrust laws.  Indeed, I took antitrust from Donal Turner, who was the chief of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division under LBJ.

Which leads me to ask who in his or her right mind would think that Microsoft should be permitted to purchase Skype--a service that it could (and should, if it wants to be in the business) easily develop on its own.

Friday, May 06, 2011

On code names

Some American Indians have expressed anger (or disgust) over the use of the code name Geronimo for Osama bin Laden.  One one level, the name may have been meant to pay tribute to the wiliness of both the al Qaeda leader and the chief of the Chiricahua Apaches.  But tying the courageous Indian leader who was defending his ancestral lands against invaders to a mass-murdering religious fanatic was, at best, insensitive.

Which brings up one of my pet peeves:  the whole use of code names these days.  I'm thinking particularly of names for military operations--"Iraqi Freedom," "Desert Storm," but the example of Geronimo/bin Laden shows the same confusion.

Code-names are supposed to be CODE.  They are meant to conceal, not reveal.  Historically, the names given to operations had nothing to do with the objective; that was the whole point.  So, the invasion of North Africa was Torch, of Sicily Husky and of Normandy--as we all know--Overlord.  None of the titles had anything to do with the target.  During WWII, the names were picked at random from a long list (sometimes a name was rejected as being perhaps too revealing or perhaps embarrassing if known).

That's the other thing about code-names:  they are not revealed at the time; that would defeat the purpose.  They are held secret until revealing them will not hurt anyone.  

What we have today is clumsy propagandizing meant to evoke heroic warmaking.  Arrogant foolishness.

Will they ever learn?

"Raid Account, Hastily Told, Proves Fluid"

The title of a piece in the NYTimes this morning, recounting the shifting descriptions of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  The article goes on, "it was a classic collision of a White House desire to promote a stunning national security triumph — and feed a ravenous media — while collecting facts from a chaotic military operation on the other side of the world."  

Now it's become a self-inflicted wound.  Not serious, but wholly unnecessary.

I've never been in the Oval Office or the Situation Room.  I've never dealt with vital issues of national security.  But I don't need that kind of experience to know that talking about the details of an operation like this, especially within the first forty-eight hours, is just plain dumb.    Even in today's world of instantaneous communications, the story is going to change as it's examined.  The chances that the details will look better when re-examined are slight, and if that occurs, the original story will still be the one people remember.

For a White House full of very smart people, this was just stupid.  And it was totally foreseeable, because it happens every time there is a story like this.  Remember, "Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job?"  

What the administration should have said was:  "United States forces killed Osama bin Laden at a hideout in Pakistan on May 1st.  His body was positively identified.  His remains were treated with respect and in accord with Muslim custom, and  he was buried at sea.  Further details will not be forthcoming at this time."

At a joint news conference with Harry Truman, Winston Churchill told reporters, "I think no comment is a splendid expression.  I am using it again and again.  I got it from Sumner Welles [FDR's trusted aide]."  Mr. Churchill was a wise man.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Joke's on them

In the dear dead days beyond recall--that is, before the announcement that US forces had killed Osama bin Laden--Donald Trump wore a bulls eye at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.  (For those who have forgotten, it was last Saturday night.)  As you have probably heard, host Seth Meyers (allegedly of another Saturday Night Live, though you couldn't prove it by me) noted that The Donald had announced that he was running for President as a Rebuplican, "which is surprising, because I thought he was running as a joke."

Good line, but grossly unfair to Mr. Trump, because--as we know--the Rebuplican Party is a joke.

But seriously, why haven't you heard any of the commentariat note that the weakness of the Rebuplican presidential field (something that has been mentioned) is directly related to the party's intellectual bankruptcy?  The mix of fallacy, foolishness and outright lies that pass for thought on the Right must be toxic to any serious political debate.  Oh, a few of the Rebuplican leaders--I'm thinking of Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan--can sound sensible when producing a sound bite or a set speech.  But as Paul Krugman has shown in his columns, what passes for reasoning quickly crumbles when challenged by real knowledge and thought that is not constrained by "conservative" cant.  

To make this argument, I ought to be able to show a plausible Rebuplican candidate who is not running, because he or she cannot stomach--or surmount--the bunkum that the party now celebrates.  I cannot do so, but I think that is because the anti-intellectualism of the Right has so hollowed out its intellectual basis that there is nothing left.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Don't cheer, boys

The killing of Osama bin Laden is a signal achievement in the struggle against those who would use terror as a legitimate weapon to impose their narrow, rigid view of the world on others.  It was a necessary step, once he was located.  Had I been the President, I should have ordered it.  

Yet I cannot celebrate the death of any person, even one who has brought so much death and suffering to so many others.  

For a long time, I have admired Capt. Tom Philip, commander of the U.S.S. Oregon at the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War.  As the Spanish ships came out of the harbor, the overwhelmingly superior US fleet engaged them.  When one of the Spanish ships began to blaze, sailors on the Oregon began to shout.  "Don't cheer, boys," Capt. Philip called out.  "The poor devils are dying."  The simple humanity of that statement moves me.  

And so my feeling this morning is, Let's not cheer.  Let us, instead, regret the necessity to take human life in defense of human dignity.