You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2009.

Jon Boehner, realizing that the democrats have pretty much called his bluff, today produced the outlines for the GOP’s alternative to President Obama’s budget. Admittedly, I must give the republicans credit for actually trying to propose a constructive alternative in order to save themselves from Rahm Emanuel branding “NO” onto their collective ass. However, this being just an outline at the moment, Boehner was able to do little else than bluster on about tax cuts, spending cuts, and the democrats’ disgusting spending without being able to go into the specifics of his own party’s plan, which will be revealed some time next week.

Unfortunately for him, Glenn Thrush over at Politico was kind enough to toss some chum into the water by revealing that Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan do not like being rushed. I can sympathize with Boehner’s need to stymie the democrats’ “party of no” narrative, but if you’re going to call their bluff you damn well better be prepared. As it stands the preview seems more effective in allowing the administration to counteract republican criticisms of Obama’s proposals at times being too vague, esp given that the only concrete number in the entire thing is a nebulous tax cut for people making $100,000. To say nothing of the continuing narrative of internecine strife within the party, this does little to advance the image of the GOP presenting a united front behind a viable alternative to Obama’s budget. The dems are going to make sure this bites them in the ass for every news cycle until the actual numbers come out, and after this those numbers had better be good.

The Chinese government, apparantly still operating from a standpoint that what their people don’t know can’t hurt the CCP, has blocked YouTube following the posting of a video purporting to show the beating of unarmed tibetan protestors. In so doing, the government has successfully created yet another fracas where it didn’t have to: doubts about the video’s veracity are already widespread among a populace famously willing to indulge in nationalist furor over even relatively minor incidents, descending on anything perceived as so much as breathing on China’s olympic moment. However, this is also a population that also has a large segment that has grown up with the middle class, and whereas a simple explanation of the video’s doubtful accuracy on Xinhua would’ve caused 99% of the population to enthusiastically fall in line, the ban has people pissed off that they can’t watch cats make idiots out of themselves. In addition, the chinese blogosphere has exploded in recent years, and while the content of these sites might be made unavailable as the government goes about weeding out undesireables, the fact of their banning is now itself considered news and can spread rapidly. Sites like YouTube and WordPress (plug!) are widely utilized for entertainment and communication, and unceremoniously blocking them is now likely to raise the hackles out of people who regularly (and generally unsubversively) enjoy using their services.

In short, the CCP needs to learn how to talk to its citizens like adults, as opposed to treating them like children and taking their toys away. Otherwise there’s inevitably going to be a temper tantrum, by which I of course mean another Tiananmen Square.

For those shut-ins who may have failed to  notice (although I’d hope the daylight savings popup on your computer would have provided a clue), the days are getting longer, the temperature is still wildly vacillating but trending upward, and spring is most certainly in the air. And, as Amy Sullivan at Swampland points out, the sex ed wars are emerging from hibernation. At odds is whether or not to renew about $170 million in funding for “abstinance-only” sex ed programs. And as the article she wrote (and links to) points out, abstinance-only isn’t cutting it for the very simple reason that ignorance is not bliss. The assumption underpinning support for these kinds of programs is that if they’re not told about it kids will never ever figure it out on their own, an assumption that is not only ignorant but malicious in its sheer stupidity. To the parents of America, I issue an ultimatum: your children ARE going to find out about sex one way or another, and as it stands you have three options for how they will recieve this knoweldge: You, their teachers, or the internet. And trust me, you do not want your child to find 4chan and get it in their head that tentacle rape is somehow normal. Any good parent would want their child armed with the kind of knowledge they need to make good decisions when it comes to sex. If morality or cultural issues or even simply squeamishness pose problems, then this is where the parenting part of being a parent should kick in. But telling kids that abstinance is their one and only option until marriage is like throwing them into the ocean without a flotation device. And if te current rate of teen pregnancy in this country is any indication, they’re not treading water.

Apparently having seen the light of both reason and the torches of the mobs that had come for them, Andy Cuomo is reporting that 9 of the 10 biggest bonus-getters have divested themselves of their own toxic assets. Interestingly, while Mr. Cuomo was practically chomping at the bit to publish the names of those awarded bonuses when the story first broke, taking pity on the poor underfunded lynch mobs, he seems a tad more reticent to publish the identities of the newly contrite. I guess he fears that we might actually humanize some of these people and thereby quiet our righteous fists of populist fury. And we can’t have that when there’s still so much public anger to harvest, now can we?

Politicans, at one point or another, will suffer from this rather distressing ailment in which they’ll accidentally say something they’ll wish they hadn’t. From president bush’s many, many, many “kids say the darndest things” moments to nancy pelosi’s only slightly less numerous invitations to political fisticuffs, it’s a time honored source of entertainment and a quick buck for the media. President Obama is no exception, and his return to earth from the lofty highs of the polls he’s been enjoying has been hastened by a comment on what many will now call an ill-advised visit with Jay Leno. As much as I hate the feeling that I cut Obama too much slack, I’m going to have to join Joe Klein on this one in say that, yeah the comment wasn’t exactly kosher, but it wasn’t incredibly outrageous and he’s already apologized. Let us move on to something at least a tad more substantive.

On the other side of the ideological (and skill) spectrum, it’s bad enough that people are still listening to Joe the Plumber talk, but it’s infuriating given that they’d subject themselves to him when he basically openly declares himself to be an actual, literal attention whore.

Bonusgate poses an interesting question to the republicans: do they ride the wave of populist revolution sweeping the nation, or object to government interfering in the business of business? As Slate’s Christopher Beam writes, the bonus tax vote was an excellent illustration of this: John Boehner, realizing that to oppose the tax as a bloc would equate to self-immolation, he told other republicans to “vote their conscience” giving 85 of them clearance to join with most of the democrats in passing a 90% tax on bonuses for any company recieving $5 billion or more in bailout funds. The problem for them is that while no one would punish them for supporting this tax, the public might have calmed down moved on to another outrage in 2010, thus leaving the GOP to explain to its base why it so forcefully opposed Obama’s budget for not including enough tax cuts, then turned right around and threw their own lassiez-faire philosophy out the window. For now they’ve made a good choice in not seizing upon it as an issue, although again this would be suicidal in the current environment. I just don’t know what they plan to tell their more conservative base voters when the inevitable democratic attack ads begin pointing out the obvious contradictions.

On a related note, I find the precedent set by the bonus tax somewhat unnerving. I do think it’s justified in the current situation, but I worry about the prospects of congress gathering enough votes to rob a politically convenient target when budgets are tight. I think we’re ok for now, but it’s certainly something to keep on file.

The hits just keep on coming: today HuffPo reports that, as bad as the bonuses are, 13 bailed out companies owe even more in back-taxes.

Obvious moral outrage aside, I find the following of particular interest:

Banks and other firms receiving federal money were required to sign contracts stating they had no unpaid taxes, Lewis said. But he said the Treasury Department did not ask them to turn over their tax records.

Combined with the still-unfolding (and even more slowly untangling) tale of Chris Dodd’s role in this nightmare, and I’m beginning to get a sense that, as outrageous as this kind of corporate stupidity is, it may be playing second fiddle to a federal response that enabled these things. Congress, Treasury, and the White House each appear to have little to no idea what the others are doing, and the peicemeal response has allowed this kind of mischeif to slip through the cracks. It doesn’t help that even congressional democrats are turning on the administration’s economic team. The feds need to get their act together and compose a comprehensive, unified approach to monitoring the bailout money and the companies that receive it, because if these stories keep coming for much longer there’s going to be ten kinds of hell to pay.

Meanwhile, Obama wins points simply for being the only one willing take responsibility for anything.

And it seems george bush is no exception, as for the first time he’s exhibited better judgement than cheney in choosing to remain silent on Obama’s performance so far.

“I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena,” Bush said. “He deserves my silence.”

 

Bush said he wants Obama to succeed and said it’s important that he has that support. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has said he hoped Obama would fail.

 

“I love my country a lot more than I love politics,” Bush said. “I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”

This is one of those moments that reminds that, though he might have been less than competent, and though he might have surrounded himself with a veritable galaxy of assholes, bush is fundamentally a good guy. The sad thing is that if the road to hell is paved with good intentions he laid down an 8-lane highway. Thankfully, unlike certain other former administration members, he at least knows when to keep his mouth shut.

Literally.

Run fast, run far, because we’re all literally two seconds away from declaring shenanigans.

At this point they might want to consider Senator Grassley’s advice.

In what is probably the clearest signal bibi netanyahu could possibly have hoped to send on his intentions for the peace process, he’s selected Avigdor “disenfranchise the arabs” Lieberman as foreign minister. Not only does this send the message that the Israeli government is done and quits with the peace process, but as Lieberman is widely viewed as racist even in the US, it kills dead what little diplomatic credibility Israel had left. This strikes me as a tad irrational, even for bibi. I know lieberman was going to have to play a significant role in the new government, such are the spoils that go to the kingmaker. But foreign minister? The arabs think he’s a racist, thus generating more grist for Ahmadinijad and Hamas. This is the Israeli equivalent of dubya saying “bring it on”.

And so the merry-go-round from hell keeps on a-turnin’ -_-