WTF’s Up With The Cow??

January 31, 2009

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Filibuster?

January 31, 2009

Jon Perr at Crooks and Liars reports that Republican senators may be gearing up to filibuster the stimulus package.

Remember when GOP senators led by Bill Frist were going to launch the “nuclear option” over a threatened Democratic filibuster during the confirmation of Samuel Alito? The the Democrats in the Senate were the do-nothing, obstructionist party? Remember all the bullshit about how real democratic principles demand an up-or-down vote?

Not so much, apparently, when it comes to the GOP being in the minority. The GOP BROKE THE RECORD in the 110th Congress for filibusters with 142 cloture motions. To put this into perspective, the comparable figures for the three Congresses during the Bush years when the Democratic Party was in the minority are: 58, 49, 52. So much for those obstructionist Democrats.

My patience is worn threadbare with the utterly incoherent arguments used by the GOP against the Obama stimulus bill. Josh Marshall’s with me:

“It may not be advisable for anyone to actually listen to the arguments House Republicans are actually making on the House floor. We’re just listening again to Rep. Flake (R) who appears to have outdone himself in militant statements of economic nonsense. Earlier today we heard Flake claiming that tax cuts have no stimulus effect if they go to low-income earners who pay payroll taxes and not income taxes.

Now he’s explaining how capital spending on AMTRAK is also not stimulus because AMTRAK doesn’t run a profit. Again, total non-sequitur. I think rail is something we should be spending a lot more on. But you can certainly disagree with that on policy terms. But you can’t claim that that capital spending on rail stock and rail upgrades doesn’t provide jobs. Of course it provides jobs. And whether Amtrak is profitable or not is completely beside the point.

Where did they get this guy?”

So is Steve Benen:

“Listening to House Republicans talk about the economy is not only tedious, it’s a striking reminder that these guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

I mean that, literally. They’re clueless. There are coherent arguments against the stimulus plan, even from a conservative perspective, but actual GOP policy makers apparently aren’t familiar with them. Their arguments about the CBO are wrong. Their arguments about tax credits are wrong. Their arguments about aid to states are wrong. Their arguments about the stimulative benefits of tax cuts are wrong. Their arguments about corporate tax rates are wrong. Their arguments about housing are wrong. Even their arguments about allocation are wrong.

There’s probably some entertainment value in considering the ‘stupid vs. dishonest’ dynamic — maybe Republicans know their arguments are wrong, and are repeating them anyway — but the end result is always the same. It’s hard to get through a single speech without searching frantically for the Maalox.

It reached the point today that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), a member of the leadership, said Democrats are acting like … wait for it … former Republican president Herbert Hoover. I suppose, by Ensign’s formulation, that makes Mitch McConnell FDR?”

Benen provides some great links as well. There’s the Republicans making a mockery of the CBO report. There’s Josh Marshall responding to the tax-cuts bullshit. [Also take a look at Republican Mark Zandi’s paper that takes the REPUBLICANS THEMSELVES to task on this very point.] There’s the additional bullshit on cutting corporate taxes.

But to be honest, I think you need to go beyond this relative nitpicking and get to the core argument. The Republicans are resistant to the idea that deficit spending is the appropriate response to a severe and sustained economic downturn when Fed interests rates are already virtually at zero. They believe that tax cuts are not only more effective, but are really the only appropriate response. This is their core objection, and nothing is going to overcome that unless the vast majority of the bill is tax cuts (and even then they have unspoked political reasons not to sign off on it – the economy’s going to continue to get worse no matter what, and they want the Democrats to have ownership of that). If they can portray little bits and pieces of the bill as giving condoms to kindergarteners or growing grass, that’s all the better for them of course, but the core issue is that they are against ANY spending whatsoever. Additionally, when it comes to tax cuts, they are married to the Reaganomics trickle-down view, which stipulates that cuts should only come from income tax and corprorate taxes, and never payroll taxes or as subsidies to the poor. And it’s nearly a waste of time to bother to put together well though-out economic arguments against them. The overwhelming majority of economists oppose their views, and they frankly don’t care. They are as deluded in this area as they are with climate change. And healthcare, for that matter.

Matt Yglesias, btw, has a lot of good things to say about the Republicans’ (and Blue Dog Democrats’ as well) arguments that are worth checking out. Here’s an example, but there are a number of good posts.

The rightwingnutosphere has gone to DefCon 1 over the news that the Obamas have used – gasp! – a private chef service:

” I believed all that stuff about how Michelle was an overburdened modern working mother, rushing from school dropoff to her high-paying, demanding work at the hospital, to dress fittings, to whatever it was she needed to do to support her husband’s political aspirations, back home to take care of her daughters. Call me naive, but that model usually includes making dinner. And squeezing in a weekly grocery shopping trip. Especially for those fresh, whole foods that don’t keep so long. Now I have to wonder who did the laundry, and the vaccuuming. Sure, granny helped—but I doubt she was the maid. Who was?”

Wonkette explains what’s up:

“See, ‘private chef service,’ so if you are famous like Barack and Michelle Obama, and you are maybe going out one night to a soiree of sorts, you might call the private chef from the PRIVATE CHEF COMPANY to come and cook a healthy meal for your children. Or you might hire him for a dinner party, of which they probably had many!

…OR MAYBE MICHELLE IS A WHORE?”

Seriously, is a pot of moose chili for the family (plus Greta Van Susteren) not good enough for these elitist snobs?

This news flash, by the way, is from the same “reporter” who came up with this:

“But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics.”

You see, Barack Hussein Obama’s WHITE mother married one of those black men around 1958 or 60. See? COMMUNISTS. Connect the fucking dots.

I really need to stop posting this stuff – I’m getting scared I’m going to get sucked down the right-wingnut rabbit hole and never come back. But this isn’t some crazy stuff off some obscure blog. This is Lisa Schiffren at the National Review. In Rightwingland, she’s a Serious Adult.

Michael Steele

January 30, 2009

So the battle for GOP chairman came down to former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, and African-American, and Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina GOP, who is white (there are not many African-Americans in the South Carolina GOP, to say the least). Steele won on the sixth ballot. Obviously (is it so wrong??) I was hoping that the Republicans would pick the ultra-Conservative Southern white guy, sticking with long tradition, and continue their journey toward becoming a regional political party for Evangelical Southern whites. Dawson certainly had GOP street cred in this respect – he was, until last year (meaning 2008, the year that ended 30 days ago), a member of an all-white country club. He resigned from the club in August, claiming that he suddenly discovered, THAT SAME YEAR, that the club excluded blacks from membership.

Steele is no rising star himself, but Republicans beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to elevating token African-Americans. Here’s how Alex Koppelman describes Steele (and I think he is being charitable):

“On other fronts, though, Steele’s a questionable choice. He hasn’t displayed a ton of political acumen — he’s won elected office only once, and he didn’t head that ticket. He lost the aforementioned Senate race, and, before that, couldn’t even win a GOP primary for state comptroller; he placed third, in fact. His tenure as head of the Maryland party wasn’t brilliant, either, and he repeatedly had trouble recruiting candidates. (In his defense, it’s not easy to be a Republican in the state.) Along the way, he’s made some serious missteps: He got in trouble in 2006 for making some unguarded remarks disparaging then-President Bush to a group of reporters. His name was supposed to be kept off the comments, but when it quickly became obvious who was responsible, Steele tried to lie his way out of the gaffe. Also in 2006, he attracted unwanted attention when, speaking before a Jewish group, he compared stem cell research to medical tests that the Nazis conducted on prisoners during the Holocaust. The GOP better hope this victory is a sign that he’s learned some hard lessons –he already has a tough fight ahead of him in trying to win over the party’s conservative wing, which doesn’t fully trust him because of his membership in the more moderate Republican Leadership Council.”

Here’s what the Washington Post had to say about him when he ran (unsuccessfully) for the Senate in 2006:

“Despite his efforts to construct an image as an independent-minded newcomer, there is nothing in Mr. Steele’s past — no achievement, no record, no evidence and certainly no command of the issues — to support it. Pressed on energy or the environment, health care or North Korea, he tells reporters that he would get ‘all the players in the room.’ That sounds fine but means nothing; he’s running to be a senator, not a meetings coordinator. He proposes a list of big-ticket spending programs but offers no convincing idea about how they might be paid for. He knocks special-interest politics but is flush with campaign cash thanks to a team of GOP lobbyists.

Unsurprisingly in a heavily Democratic state, he doesn’t always follow the standard Republican playbook. But as more light has been shed on Mr. Steele’s slight experience in government, it has become clearer just how ineffectual he has been.

As lieutenant governor, Mr. Steele had at best a marginal impact, even on his handpicked projects. He spent three years studying the death penalty but produced only a memo that has not been made public. In his campaign literature, Mr. Steele took credit for working with legislators to achieve ‘historic improvements’ in the state’s teacher pension system. But the lead lawmaker on the pension bill, state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Howard), bluntly told The Post’s Ann E. Marimow: ‘I never heard from him.'”

But at least the GOP rejected the Southern white racist for an African-American from a state that not part of the Confederacy. This is a huge step forward by GOP standards.

Of course, nobody’s going to fall for it.

Bush administration OLC attorney and torture apologist John Yoo, who authored memos for the Bush WH to authorize torture, defends himself on the pages of the Wall Street Journal‘s as-far-right-as-you-can-get op-ed section. Feel free to read it carefully and circle the lies, half-truths, and passages with faulty reasoning with a red pen. See if you can spot them all.

My favorite passage:

“The CIA must now conduct interrogations according to the rules of the Army Field Manual, which prohibits coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America. Mr. Obama has also ordered that al Qaeda leaders are to be protected from ‘outrages on personal dignity’ and ‘humiliating and degrading treatment’ in accord with the Geneva Conventions. His new order amounts to requiring — on penalty of prosecution — that CIA interrogators be polite.”

And read them (not scary) bedtime stories.

Columbia Law School’s Scott Horton dimantles Yoo’s arguments in Harper’s. He also suspects that Yoo is being disingenuous, because (a) he can’t believe a tenured law professor at Berkeley can be this stupid, and (b) it will help Yoo avoid prosecution (why didn’t Bush pardon all these clowns?).

Make no mistake – this was an entirely political calculation on their part (even though I do believe that most of them are self-deluded into believing that tax cuts are superior in this case to spending, which goes against all economic wisdom). They likely figured that it’s going to be a long time before the economy begins to recover (and they’re likely right about that), so they’re better off opposing any stimulus package so they can argue later that the Democrats spent a trillion dollars and it did nothing for the economy.

Nate Silver, though, thinks that they would’ve been better off if at least a few Republicans supported the bill:

“But does it do the party as a whole any good for having opposed the bill unanimously? With headlines like the one in the Associated Press, it’s hard to imagine so. Their unanimous opposition reads as an emphatic rejection of the President and the President’s attempts at ‘bipartisanship’. And the President is very popular right now.”

Hilzoy thinks that even though it ended up winning over not a single Republican vote, Obama was right in trying to compromise (and I agree):

“As Steve noted earlier, the stimulus bill passed the House without a single Republican vote. I’m glad it passed. I’m also glad that Obama tried as hard as he did to get bipartisan support, and I don’t think that the fact that he didn’t get it shows that the attempt was misguided. There are good reasons to try for bipartisan support regardless of how likely you think you are to succeed.

If you do succeed, then both parties have some ownership of the stimulus bill, neither will be as eager to politicize it, and it will be harder for either to use it to beat up the other. This is good. If you try hard, and publicly, to attract Republican support, but fail, then Republicans look like intransigent ideologues who would rather try to score political points than actually deal with the serious problems the country faces. You, by contrast, look reasonable: you tried to reach out, but your efforts were rejected.

Obviously, this only works if your efforts look serious. If Obama had gone to the Republicans and said: I propose a bill entirely made up of things Democrats really want and you really hate, but please, do join us in supporting it!, that wouldn’t work at all. But he didn’t do that. He went the extra mile. When Republicans protested about particular things, he dropped some of them (though not all: he was not, for instance, willing to compromise on refundable tax credits, and he was right not to compromise on that one.) There’s a fine line between being willing to compromise and being willing to surrender, and I think Obama generally stayed on the right side of it, while being open enough to compromise that he will get real credit for trying.

The House Republicans, by contrast, looked silly. They were carping about tiny bits of the stimulus (the capitol mall?!). They changed the bits they objected to from one day to the next, and looked for all the world like what I take them to be: people who were determined to oppose the stimulus bill from the outset.”

So we’ll see what happens now in the Senate.

Very. There’s an interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review by Michael Massing on the subject that’s worth reading. A sample:

“In the end, no institution devoted more energy to assailing Barack Obama than Fox News. Any pretense that the network is anything other than an arm of the most rigid reaches of the Republican Party was dispelled by its relentless campaign against the Democrats. On The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly offered nightly reports on Bill Ayers, including one ‘exclusive’ in which a reporter staked out the Chicago professor’s house for days, then confronted him so aggressively that Ayers had to call the police. Greta Van Susteren, when not gushing over Sarah and Todd Palin, seemed to offer up a series of Republican talking points. ‘Next: Who Is Rashid Khalidi?’ went a typical teaser. Appearing regularly on the network were a series of professional Democrat detractors, including architect-of-the-most-unpopular-presidency-in-American-history Karl Rove, onetime-Bill-Clinton-adviser-disgraced-after-having-been-found-consorting-with-a-prostitute Dick Morris, and the always-welcome-on-Fox-no-matter-how-foul-her-views Ann Coulter. ‘I feel,’ she said on one show, ‘like we are talking to the Germans after Hitler comes to power, saying, “Oh, well, I didn’t know. I had no idea he was going to be like this.””

QED:

“Let’s just say that, that, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, is brought to the United States to be tried in a federal court in the United States, under a federal judge, and we know what some of those judges do, and on a technicality, such as, let’s just say he wasn’t read his Miranda rights. … He is released into the streets of America. Walks over and steps up into a US embassy and applies for asylum for fear that he can’t go back home cause he spilled the beans on al Qaeda. What happens then if another judge grants him asylum in the United States and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on a path to citizenship.” Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa)

Obama On al-Arabiya

January 27, 2009

And Middle East expert and George Washington University political science professor Marc Lynch is very pleased:

” He repeatedly emphasized his intention of moving past the iron walls of the ‘war on terror’ and ‘clash of civilizations’ which so dominated the Bush era. ‘My job is to communicate to the Muslim world that the United States is not your enemy,’ Obama said, emphasizing as in his inaugural address that he is ‘ready to initiate a new partnership [with the Muslim world] based on mutual respect and mutual interest.’ And where so much of the Bush administration’s ‘public diplomacy’ was about manipulating and lecturing, Obama begins — as he should — with listening: ‘what I told [Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating..so let’s listen.’

He clearly understands that this won’t be easy, that there are real conflicts and obstacles and enemies. He obviously recognizes that the Gaza crisis and eight years of the Bush administration have left a heavy toll on America’s reputation and credibility. He stressed the importance of engaging on Israeli-Arab issues right away, the need for new ideas and approaches, and the interrelationships among the region’s issues that I’ve always seen as the key to his Middle East policy (‘I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan. These things are interrelated.’)

And above all, he understands that words are only the beginning, and that ultimately deeds and policy will determine Arab views of the United States. Public diplomacy is not about marketing a lousy policy — it’s about engaging honestly, publicly, and directly with foreign publics about those policies, explaining and listening and adjusting where appropriate. Obama gets it:

‘But ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration’s actions. And I think that what you will see over the next several years is that I’m not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what’s on a television station in the Arab world — but I think that what you’ll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure that I’m speaking to them, as well.’

I couldn’t have written this script better myself.”