GOP: The Grand Obstructionist Party, Part II

Posted February 25, 2009 on 10:45 pm | In the category Bobby Jindal, Economy, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Three GOP governors are competing for Überscrooge and each manages the affairs of a state with reprehensible basic human services programs. Recently Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal stood on the Capital steps wearing what looked to be his bigger brother’s overcoat proudly throwing his unemployed constituents under the bus by stating his intention to refuse federal stimulus funds aimed at increased unemployment benefits. He was joined by Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina who is determined to provide as little support as possible to his un-or under-employed constituents. And Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi simply cannot stand the thought of opening the floodgates of minimal federal support for his constituents. They stand in stark contrast to Governors Crist of Florida and Schwarzenegger of California who recognize the human needs of their constituents, the failure of past (and present) Republican economic policy, and the responsibility to put the country ahead of their narrow political ambitions.

The three obstructionist governors share a disinterest in the welfare of their lower-class constituents, and a blind commitment to economic policies that have become something of a joke after the disasters of the Bush economy. And two of them – Sanford and Jindal – are playing to the nutty rightwing fringe of the Republican party to put themselves in position to steal the next presidential nomination from the current party darling, Sarah Palin.

It will not matter much which of these putative candidates end up with the nomination as long as they hold onto their frozen-in-time economic theories. But it does matter to those of their constituents who need help to survive in the current Republican-produced economy. To put their behavior in some context: CQ Press has for 18 years published its state livability rankings and its most recent publication placed Mississippi dead last, barely edging out South Carolina which came in 49th four spots behind Louisiana (45th). For discussion of how the rankings are developed, see this LINK.

America’s Health Rankings, done annually by the United Health Foundation since 1999 puts Louisiana at 50th place in the country, Mississippi at 49th, and South Carolina at 48th place. For details on these rankings see this LINK.

So, governors of the three least desirable states in terms of the health of the population and livability in general (including education, poverty, income, infant mortality, education, etc.) are carrying the flag for the Republican party while their constituents are left to fend for themselves. In his response to President Obama’s speech to Congress last night Jindal’s message was to simply follow his example, meaning that soon the entire country could be in the same miserable situation overseen by these three obstructionist idealogues.

In other news: Michael Steele told a Fox News host (who else!) that he was “open to” punishing Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter for their votes on the stimulus package, by withholding RNC monies for their re-election bids. He then said he was “open to everything, baby”. Simply cannot make this stuff up.

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The Vanguard and Le Triomphant meet at sea

Posted February 16, 2009 on 9:01 pm | In the category Europe, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Fleet Commander Reginald Marmaduke calmed a nervous Europe with the news that the recent crash in open sea of two supposedly allied navies’ engineering marvels, the nuclear subs British Vanguard and the French Le Triomphant, only proved the superiority of western European technology. In a statement he later claimed was not meant to be a tip of the hat to Dr. Strangelove, he suggested that if Indian and Pakistani nuclear subs had collided, one could never know what the consequences might be, but that it would surely be due to poor marine training. Not to mention Russian subs. British and French subs, on the other hand, run so quietly that their collision was a sign of excellence, since neither the French nor the English, though outfitted with the latest French and British sonar devices, managed to notice the other one on collision course. “Both the Vanguard and Le Triomphant are among the most silent submarines ever developed,” Bruno Tertrais, a senior researcher at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said today in a telephone interview. “The Atlantic is a big place, but coincidences can happen.”

Europeans, who came very close to being blown to smithereens all the way to Tschernobyl by this coincidence, were relieved to hear The Rt. Honourable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B announce that British nuclear defence capabilities were not compromised by the collision, as he noted that the whole schlamazel could have been avoided if only warnings sent out by radio transmission seamen had been sent in a language that anyone in either boat could have understood. As a consequence, he proposed that British, French and US nuclear submarine captains be sent to Canadian écoles bilingues as part of their basic training. N. Sarkozy, chief poobah of Paris, said that while he had not yet been informed of the accident, since neither navy had reported it for weeks after it happened, he still expected a detailed analysis by engineers of the Foundation for Strategic Research some time in 2012.

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GOP: The Grand Obstructionist Party, Part I

Posted February 15, 2009 on 5:08 pm | In the category Bush/Cheney, Economy, Politics, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Some of us thought the Democratic Party won the last election. Eight years of the Bush/Cheney fiasco and the budget-busting, deficit-building, war-mongering GOP-led Congress through most of those years had taken their toll on virtually every part of America and in November the people spoke. But the just-completed “debate” on Obama’s recovery plan makes it clear that the GOP refuses to accept both the results of the election and the fact of their mind-boggling eight-year mismanagement of the country’s affairs.

Obama has won this round in the fight to get the economy off its back but at some cost to his view of bipartisanship, and hopefully considerable cost to the American people’s trust in the intentions, courage and judgment of the Republican Party. The recovery program proposed by Obama included a mix of tax cuts, infrastructure spending, other employment-related programs, investments in historically underfunded health and education programs and funds to maintain needed relief programs for the unemployed and underemployed. Based on past experience there was never much of a sense that the tax cuts would be especially productive but they were included to move toward Obama’s apparently mythical bipartisanship.

But in this time of national crisis the GOP produced a bunch of whining know-nothings, committed to pure obstructionist behavior. They wedded sarcasm to ignorance in cherry-picking minuscule pieces of the bill to criticize while working to gut any spending that might advance the interests of the American people. For some it seems hard to remember when President Clinton built huge budget surpluses which Republicans have turned into the largest budget deficit in the country’s history – due largely to ill-advised tax cuts for the very rich and a trillion dollar war, which the GOP eagerly funded.

What would they have us do? Boehner, McConnell, Kyle, Cantor, McCain et alia do not have a clue. They mumble about tax cuts, which they tried under Bush and which increased the budget deficit and made the very rich a bit richer; and they cry about spending money after wasting past and future trillions on the Iraq mess.  But at the end of the day they have no ideas, only the capacity to do all possible to obstruct and drive the country into ruin in the hope that they will get another chance to enrich their pals and further their narrow interests at the expense of the country’s future.

The Obama stimulus package is surely only a down payment on what is necessary to turn the Bush/Republican economy around. The fact that three GOP Senators forced reductions in education-related spending while increasing tax cuts in the bill is an indication of trouble to come as they will no doubt continue to obstruct until the country is in total free-fall and then hope to move in to finish their task of turning American into their own banana republic.

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JOURNALISM LITE: THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS

Posted February 10, 2009 on 3:33 pm | In the category Politics, Press | by Jeff

“Media is just a word that has come to mean bad journalism.” – Graham Greene

A friend recently recommended that I needed to watch one or two daily White House press briefings – something I tended to avoid during the Bush years. His suggestion ended up reinforcing my sense of journalism as a profession gone awry. While I have only been able to stomach one such briefing, I’ll have to return from time to time to see if the bar has been raised from the floor on which it currently resides.

The briefing I watched last week came the day that former Senator Daschle removed himself from consideration for Health and Human Services Secretary AND Health Czar in the White House. Since his removal was an accomplished fact and since everyone within 10,000 miles of Washington knew why, it seemed that the interesting related issues would be what next for health care in America, what did Daschle’s removal mean for that program and who might be named as a replacement? Right out of the box an enterprising reporter asked whether Daschle took himself out of the post or was forced out. Press Secretary Gibbs reiterated that it was Daschle’s decision. And maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but so what? The next fifteen minutes was consumed by a series of mindless repetitions of the exact same question in not very subtly different forms, everyone apparently hoping for the big scoop – that someone in the White House just might have told Daschle to quit. And each question got the exact same answer that Daschle had made the decision to quit. Obviously many of the press did not believe that and had to make it clear that they were all tough-minded reporters in search of a truth that Gibbs was sweeping under the rug and that actually was rather banal and meaningless.
This is merely one example; virtually the entire briefing was comprised of these and similar process questions – who did what to whom – assiduously avoiding the substance of any issue.

So it was no surprise to watch PBS Newshour last night and catch Judy Woodruff discussing the stimulus package with guest experts and again avoiding anything that might smack of substance. Her interest focused on why president Obama had to go on the road to campaign for the package. Again, everyone within 10,000 miles of Washington knows the answer to that one but does not know so much about the substance and content of the package itself, the alternatives offered by the Republicans and the relative merit of the two sides’ arguments. If they hoped to get to that via Woodruff they were disappointed. The one exception came from guest Ellen Fitzpatrick who went off course to remind Woodruff and the viewers that the $700Billion dollar TARP giveaway to bankers was done with Republican support under the Bush presidency and that now Republicans were basically being obstructionist while offering no ideas other than criticisms. But the threat that the program would veer dangerously into substance ended at that point.

We are poorly served by a press that frequently does not understand the fundamental issues, refuses to grapple with them in any substantial way and prefers to ask relatively meaningless process questions, either because they are not especially bright or because they are fundamentally lazy. Probably something of a mix.

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