Obama Administration Takes Aim at Defense Spending Overruns

Oct 15 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, White House

The bloated U.S. defense budget has been a topic of discussion and debate for some time. The Bush era invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan stretched the U.S. military to its limits and even with the Iraq war now officially ended U.S. commitments overseas remain high.

The U.S. military has been transitioning from it’s Cold War-era  order of battle to one better suited to fighting  “asymmetrical” wars. Not only does old equipment have to be replaced, but new weapons systems have to be developed and deployed. All this is expensive. Some very expensive systems don’t make the grade and we only find out after the fact.

Humvee with IED damage

American Humvees  (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle aka Hummers) had to be upgraded to protect them from an unanticipated threat, IEDs (improvised explosive devices – in short, roadside bombs), and a whole new class of vehicle was developed and deployed that sported better armor – MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected).

MRAP during testing

Republicans claimed that as president Obama would naively gut the U.S. military. That has not happened, just as Obama has not taken anyone’s guns away or raised taxes on everyone. This was typical – and remains typical – Republican hyperbole. In fact, as USA Today reports,

The budget calls for $205.5 billion in war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year and a half, including $75.5 billion more this year and $130 billion for fiscal 2010. Those costs are included in the overall budget for the first time. The budget includes a 4% increase to $533.7 billion for the Defense Department.

Not a gutting – far from it – an increase. We can ask ourselves whether the spending is justified. It’s a legitimate question after all, whatever Republican rhetoric says about it. Few, I think, would argue that the military must have the equipment it needs to fulfill its mission, and right now that mission is the suppression of Taliban activity in Afghanistan and the support of a friendly, democratic regime in Iraq. But there is more to the story of developing and deploying new weapons systems than meets the eye.

President Eisenhower warned America of the dangers posed by the military industrial complex, a threat that has proved very real. There is money to be made, not only by contractors and subcontractors but by lobbyists and politicians. Most of these activities do not take place in the public eye; few people realize how much money is wasted in partisan battles over contracts but also through incompetence, waste, and dishonesty.

Defense Talk, the Global Defense & Military Portal, reports that,

Over the last few days, word got out that defense industry giant Lockheed Martin has lost government approval for its cost and schedule tracking systems on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and F-16 programs. The Pentagon has said problems with Lockheed’s system are part of the reason there have been 80 percent cost overruns in the estimated $382 billion Joint Strike Fighter program.

What people need to understand is the way in which contracts are awarded. Companies try to underbid each other to win the contract. Once awarded, the company will begin to develop the system or component. Sometimes, the company puts a great deal of time and effort (not to mention money) into the project only to have the government tell them that they have changed it. Sometimes what has already been done is made in part or in whole irrelevant. Sometimes, the engineers have to go back to the drawing board and start again. And of course, the changes lead to increased expenses. It is wrong to always assign blame to the contractor.

But in this case, as Defense Talk says,

A spigot of defense spending opened up after 9/11, yet for years, there has been dismal oversight of contractors handling hundreds of billions of dollars in contracts for weapons and other goods and services. In the last few years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has embarked upon numerous initiatives to control the often spiraling growth in the cost of weapons programs. Increased pressure on defense contractors is part of the effort to turn “fat into muscle.”

“The action against Lockheed for its deficient tracking system has to be viewed in context of this overall effort.”

The tracking system is known in the industry as the Earned Value Management System, or EVMS. EVMS is supposed to help companies manage large, complicated projects and measure performance against a baseline. Lockheed’s EVMS was deemed deficient in 19 of 32 areas in a November 2007 report by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), which was made public by POGO in 2008. The report concluded that Lockheed does “not provide the requisite definition and discipline to properly plan and control complex, multibillion dollar weapon systems acquisition programs.”

And “Lockheed isn’t the only contractor with problems.”

Companies that fail to adhere to expectations will suffer in future contract negotiations:

Although Lockheed has made progress since 2007, the Pentagon apparently decided Lockheed wasn’t acting fast enough. It’s still not totally clear what’s going to happen to Lockheed—at a minimum it will have to disclose its EVMS is not approved when it bids for government contracts.

“The decertification this week was “really a slap in the face to Lockheed.”

What’s at stake for taxpayers? “The Pentagon noted Lockheed’s deficient EVMS system this June when it issued a report on the staggering cost overruns in the Joint Strike Fighter program, which the report estimates will cost $382 billion—an 80 percent increase in the program’s initial projected cost.”

What’s at stake for the people doing the fighting is potentially much-needed weapons systems upgrades being denied them through defense spending wastage like this. The Bush administration did not believe in oversight and it applied it nowhere – to the environment, to Wall Street, or to defense spending.

The military deserves better, and so do the American people. Fortunately, the Republican plundering expedition came to an end in 2008 and we have a Democratic administration in place that is doing something about it.

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Apocalyptic Sarah Palin the Wrathful Prophetess of God

Oct 14 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Apocalyptic Sarah, Wrathful prophetess of God

Sarah Palin figures since God didn’t get it done for American in 2008, she’ll have to do it herself. She has the same apocalyptic vision possessed by the Jewish Zealots in 70 C.E.  That didn’t turn out so well, of course, but maybe she thinks she knows something God doesn’t. She may not plan to go down in a blaze of fiery glory like they did but one gets the idea she wouldn’t mind much either. Think of the publicity and the joys of martyrdom as God remakes the world in her image.

Oh the odes that have yet to be written!

It’s hard to say what she’s thinking of course; we can only observe that her God-interpreting track record isn’t any better than her term-of-governor-finishing track record. She’s 0-1 on both counts.

It’s amusing that the party that drove the car into the ditch thinks they should be given the keys for another round. As a public service you have got to practice tough love and keep the keys. America has to show the Republicans some tough love; for their good as well as ours.

But here is the Mama Grizzly’s take on what needs to be done:

“These two elections, 2010 and 2012, go hand-in-hand. The theme of 2010 has got to be rebuke their errors, reject, repeal; and then the theme of 2012, it’s renew, revive and restore.”

How following the same policies that got the car into the ditch in the first place are going to get the car OUT of the ditch is a mystery known only to Sarah and her Grizzly Cubs.

With true comedic ability, Sarah thinks the Republicans, who demolished the Constitution during the eight-year Bush administration, are the ones to restore it. It’s amzing how the sins of Bush have become in Republican propaganda the sins of Obama. He’s to blame in their minds for everything Bush did; heck, even 9/11 happened on his watch, and Afghanistan, which Bush invaded, is “Obama’s War.”

So what does Mama Grizzly say?

Republicans should pledge to “renew our optimistic, pioneering spirit, revive our free market system and restore constitutional limits and our standing in the world, as that abiding beacon of freedom,” and added that the message should be “not transformation but restoration with a ‘Great Awakening’ that we already feel emerging across America.”

Yikes, because nothing says freedom like torture, rendition and Gitmo. Is that the kind of Great Awakening you want, Sarah? Can we at least ask that there be books in this great awakening? And that you read more of them than you can fit on the palm of your hand?

Let’s look at where the “free market system got us.” Yeah, you’re living it. The recession of ’08, worst economic crisis since the Great Crash of ’29, and the world is still reeling. Sarah doesn’t read much so maybe she missed it.

And it’s not certain what freedoms she’s hawking. The Republicans don’t believe in many of them beyond gun ownership. They want to ban darn near everything else. They want to roll back the Constitution to…well, we’re not sure. They say the amendments are bad and need to go but gosh darn it, the Founding Fathers put amendments into the Constitution…

It’s a tough one. I’m sure Sarah will figure it out.

It’s a bit much to expect a Republican candidate to show any awareness of history that he didn’t invent himself but Sarah, I have to tell you, girl, the Great Awakening happened AFTER the American revolution. It wasn’t a religious revolution, but a secular revolution.

HINT: Let Hrafnkell break it down for ya: That’s why the Constitution is secular. That’s why the First Amendment exists. That’s why there is no mention of God, Jesus, the Ten Commandments or the Bible in the Constitution. Get it?

But of course, facts have never stood in the way of Republican rhetoric so there is no reason we should expect it to now. The Mama Grizzly wants to spew and she can’t be bothered to fact check first; and how many facts can you fit on the palm of your hand anyway?

No, what Sarah is selling America doesn’t want. The lower 48 don’t want it and neither, anymore, do Alaskans. She left them high and dry after all, and she’ll leave the rest of us high and dry too. The Mama Grizzly wants fur, kids, as much as you can be made to pay for. Like Bush, whom she wants to emulate, Sarah wants to plunder America and Americans to enrich herself. And that’s just what she’s gonna do if you let her.

16 responses so far

FOX News Poll Results Show Trouble in Fantasyland

According to FOX News, a recent poll they conducted demonstrates that “The 2012 presidential race begins in earnest on Nov. 3 — the day after the upcoming midterm elections — and President Obama looks to be in trouble at the starting gate.”

You see, FOX News conducted a poll and the results say that 54% of voters would not vote for President Obama. They say this is up from 45% is January and 31% in April of ’09. Only 39% would vote to re-elect Obama, down from 43% in January – “a dramatic drop from the 52% who felt that way in April” they say.

It’s a gripping headline, but there isn’t much there for conservatives to crow about. If you look at the numbers, Obama isn’t in all that much trouble.

The poll shows that “only” 75% of Democrats would vote for Obama today, down from 87% at the start of his term, hardly a dramatic fall from grace. Seventy-five percent would be enough to pass legislation in California and that is saying something. The number of Democrats who would “definitely” vote for Obama has dropped from 69% to 41%.

There is supposed to be trouble because the FOX News poll shows that 40% of Obama’s ’08 voters would “definitely” vote for him again while the figure stood at 64% in April.

Independent support, the key to any election and essential to Obama’s victory (along with Republicans who voted Democrat), is down to 32% “from a high of 43% in April 2009.” Fifty-seven percent of independents would “vote for someone else.”

The FOX News poll also points to dissatisfaction with the VP, people saying they’d prefer Hilary Clinton to Joe Biden.

All that sounds ominous but even FOX News admits that “even with all the negatives, in hypothetical head-to-head match ups, Obama tops each of the Republican candidates tested.”

Ouch. It had to hurt to admit that.

  • Obama vs Mike Huckabee: 43-40 percent
  • Obama vs. Chris Christie 42-30 percent
  • Obama vs. Jeb Bush 45-37 percent
  • Obama vs. Sarah Palin 48-35 percent
  • Obama vs. Mitt Romney 41-40 percent

FOX News claims the gap is narrowing, however, saying that “The president tops an unnamed candidate from the Tea Party movement by 11 points (43-32 percent), which is a much narrower spread than earlier this year when Obama’s advantage was 25 points (48-23 percent).”

Things look even rosier for Obama if an independent candidate is introduced: “Obama gets 40 percent to Palin’s 28 percent, with independent candidate New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg capturing 18 percent.” And even if Hilary were the third candidate Obama would still triumph with 30%, Palin with 29% and Clinton with 27%. Not saying much for the alleged star power of Palin, is it?

Despite the headline, the poll results paint a far less rosy picture for Republicans than for Democrats. Other polls demonstrate that there is nothing absurdly out of line with Obama’s approval figures for the point he is at in his presidency. Other poll numbers show that all but the Republican base shun Sarah Palin whose popularity has sunk to that of BP. Neither Mike Huckabee nor Jeb Bush has any star power and the rest of the country does not seem likely to elect a third Bush after our recent experience with the last one.

And Romney, who did best vs. Obama in this poll? If you will remember back to 2008, Romney was considered a “front-runner” for the Republican ticket. He raised more money than any other Republican primary candidate. On February 13, 2007, he formally announced his candidacy and on February 7, 2008 even before McCain stormed to victory on Super Tuesday, he dropped out. In other words, Romney looked then too like the best the GOP could throw at the Democrats and his candidacy amounted to nothing.

Romney calls the Obama presidency an “abject failure” which is a fitting description of his own presidential campaign.

In the end, FOX News’ use of the misleading headline: “Fox News Poll: Only 39 Perecent (sic) Would Vote to Re-Elect Obama in 2012” demonstrates that FOX News is in more trouble than Obama and that they need a new spell-checker.

This was a “national telephone poll” conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp from a whopping 900 registered voters on September 28 and 29. They say the poll has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Full poll results.

31 responses so far

The War on Liberty

Taking Aim at Lady Liberty

As the 2010 Midterm Elections loom, it is appropriate to examine what the Republicans have done to destroy our country. It is easy to dismiss such questions with answers of “they’re all the same” but they’re not, and the facts demonstrate this for any and all who have an interest in evidence over the diktat of ideology.

For eight years, the Bush administration plundered the American people, violated the Constitution, and tarnished our image abroad with egregious breaches of international law. America came close to becoming a rogue state, a brand of American exceptionalism so extreme that it seemed America was above the laws that bound the rest of the civilized world together. Grievous harm was done, some of it likely irreparable.

While the Obama administration has reversed some of these policies, it has embraced others; as totalitarianism creeps closer, democracy is pushed back. Those who hold power do not relinquish it once gained, and the Executive has become dangerously powerful, throwing the delicate system of checks and balances all out of kilter. As Paul Starr wrote in The American Prospect in 2006, “The real danger today is the loaded weapon that Bush and his defenders are willing to put in the hands of all future presidents.” Tyranny is the logical end-place should the powers of the Executive not be checked.

This is not the first time the Constitution has come under attack. Starr goes on to observe that,

Repeatedly through our history, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution have been threatened in war by an overreacting government and then reaffirmed in peace by calmer leadership. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the suppression of free speech during and after World War I, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and the wiretapping of Vietnam-era dissenters — all of these came to be seen, once fears subsided, as violations of our freedoms and embarrassments to our heritage.

Bush is largely responsible for creating an “imperial presidency”; by claiming “”Unitary Executive” power, he announced to the world – and was unchallenged by a cowed Congress – that the law was what he said it was. He may have never said that the Constitution was just a “goddamn piece of paper” but his every action confirmed that this was his attitude toward the document that creates and binds this nation together.

But the Constitution, if America is to survive in any form recognizable to the Founders, must be more than a mere set of guidelines or suggestions. It is a living, flexible document, but it cannot be twisted like a pretzel. Like anything else, it will shatter if enough stress is applied.

The attack on America from within was persistent and ruthless: John Conyers (D-MI) is on record (2005) as stating that the Bush administrations violations of law were “not only serious, but widespread.” And in 2005, Bush was far from done with America. The Bush administration violated six amendments and the writ of habeas corpus and only Congress may legally suspend habeas corpus. By 2006 the Boston Globe was able to report that Bush had “claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.”

Essentially, Bush played Pompey, using a national emergency to vest within himself dictatorial powers. The Roman Republic did not survive Pompey for Pompey made Caesar possible and Caesar killed the Republic. Each blow against the Constitution weakens the structure. But the Constitution does not make the president king, though it grants him enough power that today, that even if he restrains his impulses, he is the most powerful person on earth. Congress too has a Constitutional role, as does the Supreme Court. If either of these abrogates their powers, if they do not function as intended, liberty comes under attack.

The Republicans have come dangerously close to asserting the divine right of kings. Bush claimed to be appointed not by the American people but by God. Other Republican politicians and pundits claim that only Christians are fit (or should be legally allowed) to hold public office, and Article VI section 3 is repeatedly violated in word if not in deed when these Republicans pretend that there is a religious test for public office. America has become the New Rome and the president chosen by God. If this is true, then the Republican Party is indeed God’s Own Party and only they have a legitimate claim to power, resulting today in the idea that the Democrats – and Obama – are usurpers and the Republican leadership is a government in exile.

This is as preposterous as it is dangerous, and Americans must wake up and recognize this – and resist. The Republicans continue to utilize the weapon of fear embraced by the Bush administration. Do as we say, or America will be destroyed, is their message. Turn your back on God and he will turn his back on you. In truth, if we do what they say, America will be destroyed – utterly – because the Republican path is the road to ruin, a headlong rush toward the Rubicon and a mortal blow to the Constitution.

The Republican leadership of 2010 offers America nothing Bush did not already offer in 2001. President Obama has repeatedly warned that their message is the same message that got us into trouble in the first place and he is not wrong. The championing of States Rights invokes the specter of the Confederacy, and racism the dark shadow of slavery, and the appeal to “Second Amendment remedies” is nothing short of a promise of treason. Do it our way, or we will overthrow the government; if we can’t have America, there will be no America. That is their message. That is their promise.

They say they want to take America back, but folks, the America they claim to represent never existed, not in the minds of the Founding Fathers and not in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Neither the President nor Congress, nor the Supreme Court has defended the Constitution. This leaves liberty just one defender: the American people.

Liberty stands for human rights and freedoms. It was appreciation of America’s embrace of liberty that brought Lady Liberty to these shores. If we won’t defend her now, we might as well send her back, because we will have proven ourselves unworthy of her.

10 responses so far

Republicans and Reality: Divorced and Loving it!

Mitche McConnell: I'm So Clueless I Could Cry...

The Party of Speculative Fiction, formerly known as the Republican Party, is outdoing Hollywood in their distortion of reality. The difference is that Hollywood is making an honest attempt to entertain. Everyone knows it’s fake. The Republicans, however, are making a dishonest attempt to mislead, and they want people to believe it’s real.

But it’s not. Every day the reality gap grows wider and wider.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, says that he will introduce legislation to ensure that nobody ends up paying higher income taxes in 2011.

McConnell: “We can’t let the people who’ve been hit hardest by this recession and who we need to create the jobs that will get us out of it foot the bill for the Democrats’ two-year adventure in expanded government.”

What planet is Senator McConnell living on where the rich have been hardest hit by America’s economic woes?

And why wasn’t he laughed out of the Senate?

There are a number of problems with his statement.

  1. The rich were not hardest hit by the recession;
  2. the “trickle-down” theory of economics is demonstrably false ; and
  3. to which “two-year” adventure in expanded government is McConnell referring?

More and more, Republicans insist on creating a fantasy world that has nothing in common with the reality in which we all operate. They invent something, and then invent “facts” to support  the fantasy tale. It’s all as true as a prince rescuing the princess in her tower from a dragon.

Dragons don’t exist.

Neither does Republican reality.

McConnell is not the only aspiring author of speculative fiction in Congress.

Eric Cantor: I'm certain my math is right...

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Minority Whip, who has already demonstrated his belief that trimming $1 million over five years will fix the deficit, refused to be outdone issued his own statement saying that he would focus on keeping the Bush era tax cuts for everyone.

Cantor: “I will do everything in my power to stop President Obama and Speaker Pelosi from raising taxes on working families, small business people, and investors.”

  1. President Obama is not raising taxes on working families; he is extending tax cuts for working families;
  2. It is the Republicans who are blocking efforts to help small business people; and as President Obama has repeatedly pointed out, most small business owners do not make in excess of $250,000 a year.

President Obama outlined small-business legislation which would:

  1. create a $30 billion lending fund to help provide cheap capital to community banks;
  2. provide $12 billion in tax relief to small businesses between 2010 and 2020; and
  3. provide $1.5 billion in grants to state lending programs.

Incredibly, Republicans are using the following argument to reject the Obama plan:

Since the Democratic plan doesn’t to ENOUGH to help small business owners (they say), they refuse to vote for it, thus refusing to help the small business owners at all. Apparently, in Republican reality, it’s more helpful to not help.

Of course, given their opposition to government spending, it is difficult to imagine they could conjure a way to help small-business owners at all. Magic doesn’t exist; neither does government spending without increasing the deficit while also cutting taxes.

That’s what got Bush in trouble in the first place: Spending + Tax cuts = Increased deficit

But then Republicans seem to have erased Bush from their collective memory. Or maybe, as the history of the past 40 years has shown, the Republicans believe only they have the right to increase the deficit.

The Republican fantasy scenario has reached unbelievable proportions. It is a wonder they can keep straight faces as they tell their bald-faced lies.

McConnell again: Americans “have had it” he insists. “They are tired of Democratic leaders in Washington pursuing the same government driven programs that have done nothing but add to the debt and the burden of government.”

Of course, as President Obama has pointed out, keeping the tax cuts in place for the wealthy will add 700 billion to the deficit and Boehner’s own economic plan several trillion. It is difficult to make an argument that these Republicans are interested in lowering the deficit. Reagan didn’t. Bush didn’t. Boehner doesn’t plan to.

Clinton, however, did – the only president in the past 40 years to do so. And he was a Democrat. And they hounded him out of office. Just as they plan to hound Obama out of office if they get control of Congress.

So THEY can “pursue the same government driven programs that have done nothing but add to the debt and the burden of government” and live happily ever after in the la la land of their fantasies.

13 responses so far

Three Economic Myths Republicans Would Like You to Believe

Sep 11 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, White House

Listen very carefully while I try to keep a straight face

Everyone is by now familiar with the image of John Boehner, Republican House Minority Leader, lecturing President Obama on economics.

Everyone is familiar with the 8-year administration of George W. Bush, another Republican, and no one at all is unfamiliar with the economic crisis of 2008, since it laid waste to the world economy.

And everybody remembers that Barack Obama, while campaigning for the presidency, ran not only against John McCain but against the failed Republican economic policies of the past eight years; the same policies that had gotten us into that mess by 2008 and the same policies John McCain was peddling as a way to get us out of them.

President Obama is right today in arguing that a return to those policies will finish us off.

A recent poll shows that most Americans (correctly) blame Bush for our economic woes. But what exactly are we talking about when we speak of Republican and Democratic economic policies? Is one really preferable to the other?

Republicans will give you the unequivocal answer: Democratic economic policy leads to ruination.

Perhaps we should look at some facts before we believe them. After all, we have some elections coming up and we should be as well informed as we can make ourselves.

And remember all the Republican rhetoric as you read this. It’s important.

Over the past 50 years – as long as I’ve been alive – we have done better economically under Democratic administrations.

  • From 1948-2007, per capital GDP (Gross Domestic Product – a measure of a country’s overall economic output) grew 2.78% under Democrats and 1.64% under the Republicans.
  • Family income growth from 1948 to 2005 was 2.6% under Democrats versus 0.4% under Republicans for the bottom 20 percent;
  • This growth was 2.1% vs. 1.9% for the top 5%.

Yes, Virginia, even the rich do better under Democratic administrations.

As Alan Blinder, discussing Unequal Democracy, by Larry M. Bartels, wrote in the New York Times in 2008, “The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical.” And as Blinder points out, “That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.”

The Democrats have given us solid economic growth, more money than the GOP’s desperate cries for tax cuts can provide; tax cuts that wouldn’t be an issue if the Republicans hadn’t destroyed our economy in the first place.

“Over the entire 60-year period (1948-2007), income inequality trended substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats, thus accounting for the widening income gaps over all.” As Blinder puts it, “the bad news for America’s poor is that Republicans have won five of the seven elections going back to 1980.”

We do not have to look far for the reasons for America’s current economic condition.

Tommy McCall, writing in the New York Times, illustrates the relative merits of Republican and Democratic economic policies. If you invested $10,000 in stock market and index securities during the 40 years that Democrats ran the country from 1929-2008, you’d have more than $300,000. The same money, if invested during Republican administrations, would yield you only 51,000 – a staggering one-sixth. If Hoover’s Administration is included, the Republican total shrinks to $11,733.

Boehner’s “Economic Plan” would increase the deficit by 3.781 trillion dollars over 10 years. This is the plan of the party of fiscal responsibility. (For an analysis of the impact of the New Boehner Economic Plan go to http://ndn.org/blog/2010/08/ndn-analysis-fiscal-impact-new-boehner-economic-plan)

We can talk about globalization too, since it’s another favorite Republican rant. It turns out, though the Republicans will never tell you this, that global inequality ceased growing from 1980 to 2000 and in many respects began to shrink and that income inequalities are largest within the nations least touched by globalization. As Professor Timothy Ferris writes in his new book The Science of Liberty (2010), “Ideologues blame globalization for the world’s ills” but economists like Paul Collier know that “We need stronger and fairer globalization, not less of it.”

This may seem shocking but you have to consider that both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan ran up huge deficits and increased the size of government, and that it was a reviled Democratic president. Clinton, who last balanced the budget and reduced the deficit. Clinton even reduced the size of government.

Reagan increased the nation’s debt from 23% to 69% of the GDP (Harry Truman shrank it 8.6% and Clinton 1.8%).

You might remember too while we go into the final weeks of the pre-mid-term election cycle, that when President Obama was elected Republicans cautioned America with regards to all the Clintonites in his administration and how following into Clinton’s footsteps would harm the country.

I don’t know, but it sounds like we could do a lot worse than to emulate Clinton.

You have to think too about the fear-mongering the Republicans like to engage in. Look at it this way:  As Professor Ferris puts it, if the so-called “urban elites” did what the Republicans say we must do and cut taxes and slash federal government spending, the people worst impacted would be the rugged individualists in the red counties – Sarah Palin’s “real” Americans.

Boehner is apparently unaware of the irony in his words that “”Never before has the need for a fresh start in Washington been more pressing.”

We got that fresh start in 2008, Mr. Boehner. And we’re all better off for it. While things may not be great right now, they could be a lot worse. And if America listens to you, they will be.

23 responses so far

Conservative Blindness to the Line Between Fantasy and Fact Exposed…Again

Sep 06 2010 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party

Stephen Colbert and Glenn Beck

We all remember when the conservatives discovered Stephen Colbert was joking. It took them awhile to figure it out. They thought he was one of them.

Some of them still do.

Why did it take so long when he was so outrageously over the top? Because they themselves are so outrageously over the top. He fit right in. His message blended with theirs.

Colbert so had the right-wing fooled that in 2006 he was invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner – as a conservative.  That was the wake-up call for some, but apparently not all.

As recently as April 2009 the Huffington Post was writing that “according to a study from The Ohio State University, which proves, with math and stuff, that lots of conservatives seem to not understand the intrinsic, underlying joke of The Colbert Report.”

Conservatives seem endlessly capable of having the wool pulled over their eyes. Our first clue was their ready acceptance of George W. Bush. Some of them still believe what he said. Some of them still believe Cheney and Rove, or maybe they’ve too much invested in the lies now to admit they were wrong.

And look how eagerly they lap up the vapid rhetoric of people like Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Jan Brewer and Michelle Bachmann.

In some way, if they weren’t so dangerous, watching these clowns would be as entertaining as watching a prime-time sitcom. More so.

Either way, they’ve been fooled again, this time by a site called christwire.org.

The New York Times profiled the site and its creators on September 3 of this year. As the NYT put it, “Since 2008, ChristWire.org has emerged as the leading Internet site for ultraconservative Christian news, commentary and weather reportage.”

But it’s all a joke: 27 million page views in August, and none of it is true.

As with the Colbert Report, the news and the views expressed are so outrageous that conservatives cannot tell it apart from their own distorted worldview.

The originators of the site are Bryan Butvidas and Kirwin Watson. Mr. Butvidas expressed their goal as follows: “Let’s write stuff to expose how stupid people are.”

They seem to have succeeded beyond their expectations. They even fooled Marie Jon, a writer for RenewAmerica.com, a conservative organization that claims as it’s purpose, the expansion of “the influence of America’s grassroots — both among individual citizens and among principled groups — in the cause of preserving our nation upon its founding ideals, specifically those in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, as well as those derived from biblical principles” while somehow pretending to be “nonpartisan and nondenominational.”

Maybe conservatives do have a sense of humor!

But let’s leave fantasy behind and return to the world of the real: Ms. Jon used to allow her stories to be reposted to ChristWire.

I guess you can believe anything if you try hard enough. Or perhaps, the point is, that people don’t try hard enough. That, at any rate, was the operating premise of ChristWire’s founders.

“There’s just rampant idiocy in the media sometimes,” Mr. Watson said. “People watch their favorite news channels, don’t question it and will regurgitate it the next day at the office. That is no good at all.”

“Our main culprit,” he adds, “is Fox News.”

Imagine that. FOX News, the show so over the top that nobody but conservatives believes it’s actually news.

It’s interesting that conservatives cannot see how gullible people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter have made them with their non-stop propaganda parade. The more outrageous the crap that spews from those mouths the more eagerly it is lapped up. The less relationship it has to reality, the more it is believed.

Does anybody on the right know how much Colbert and sites like christwire.org have in common with Limbaugh, Beck and the others. False piety and false news and false patriotism seems a pretty potent mix when you mix it in with a little bombast. And it’s hard to say who is more bombastic, the joking Colbert or the right-wing clown-show.

I wonder, sometimes, will these conservative pundits will wake up one day and realize what caricatures they have become? If they do, you can be it will be long after the fact has been recognized by the rest of the planet.

12 responses so far

Americans Blame Bush and the GOP Not Obama for the Economy

Sep 05 2010 Published by under Featured News

A new CNN/Opinion Dynamics poll released today should provide some hope to Democrats and cause a bit of concern for the GOP ahead of the mid term elections. The poll revealed that a majority of Americans (53%) blame George W. Bush and the GOP not Barack Obama and the Democrats for the nation’s current economic problems.

The CNN/ Opinion Dynamics poll asked a very simple question. Who do you hold responsible for the nation’s current economic problems George W. Bush and the GOP, or Barack Obama and the Democrats? Fifty three percent of respondents blamed Bush and the Republicans, while only 33% blamed Obama and the Democrats, 10% blamed both parties, 3% said neither, and 1% were not sure.

Men blame the Republicans over the Democrats, 51%-34%. Women blame the Republicans by and even larger margin, 55%-32%. White people blame Republicans by the smallest margin, 45%-40%. People under 50 years old overwhelmingly blame the Republicans, 56%-29%. Those over 50 years old blame Bush and the GOP by a margin of 49%-38. The only age group that blames Obama and the Democrats are senior citizens, and they only do so by the slightest of margins, 45%-39%.

Not surprisingly Democrats are the most likely to blame Bush and the GOP for the economy, 80%-14, while Republicans are most likely to blame Obama, 64%-21%. Evidence of just how small the GOP tent has gotten can be seen by the fact that Independents blame Bush and the GOP, more than Obama and the Democrats by 21 points, 51%-30%. Moderates also aren’t buying what the GOP is selling as they blame Bush and the GOP even more than Independents, 61%-23%. It is interesting to note that while conservatives blame Obama more, Independents and moderates blame Bush and the GOP by the same or higher margins.

Blame of Bush and the Republicans also cuts across income and education. Those who earn less than $50,000 blame Bush and the GOP by a 56%-31%, and those who earn more than $50,000 pretty much agree that this is Bush and the GOP’s mess by a margin of 52%-36%. In terms of education, those who did not attend college blame Bush and the Republicans, 47%-38%, while those who attended college heavily blame George W. Bush’s and his party, 57%-29%.

Not only would it be wise for Democrats to run on the economy this fall, it might be their only path to saving their majority. The Republican attempt to package the economy as Obama’s fault is not resonating with the American people. This is why the GOP is trying to win the midterm elections by discussing things like healthcare reform. America remembers all too well how the previous Republican administration ran the economy into the ground. In short, try as they might the GOP can’t wash the stink of George W. Bush off of their bodies.

There is a reason why Obama keeps reminding America what George W. Bush did to the economy. Most Americans feel exactly the same way. People aren’t as stupid as the Republicans wish they were. They also understand that Obama is trying to dig the nation out of hole that was created under Republican leadership. If Democrats spend the fall hammering away at the economy, while the GOP tries to revive the culture wars of the 1990s, election night might not be so bad for the Dems, but the caveat remains that moderates and Independents don’t vote in big numbers in the midterms, so the Democrats will have to find a way to energize their base.

You can expect Republicans to keep avoiding the pesky question of what they would do about the economy, and George W. Bush’s will remain the name that shall not be spoken on the campaign trail, but beyond 2010, this poll demonstrates just how far Republicans still have to go in order to be competitive with Obama in 2012. The Republican Party is still a small and shrinking operation, whose message is designed to appeal to the Tea Party, not centrist America. The overarching message of this poll is that while America is not happy with Obama they have no faith in GOP’s ability to fix the economy, as they are still haunted by the ghost of George W. Bush and Republican failures past.

6 responses so far

The Brainless Monster Running the Republican Mob

Obama as Terrorist

“A mob’s a monster; heads enough, but no brains.” – Benjamin Franklin

Folks, It is dangerous to be a public figure and to appear to be too reasonable. The two extremes will always find fault with you. That is, there will always be those who hate so much that nothing short of denunciations flowing from your lips will satisfy them. As that hate flows in both directions, you can see why standing in the middle of it might not be a comfortable place to be.

I am talking about President Obama. But a quick lesson from the 19th century American frontier will illustrate my point.

Western people were generally very hostile to the Indians. They stood to suffer most when hostilities broke out and they stood to gain the most if some excuse were found to push back or exterminate the tribes and open up the land to settlement. Folks in the East, however, far removed from the scene, tended to feel sorrier for the Indians.

A soldier on the frontier was caught in the middle.

George Armstrong Custer described the problem in his My Life on the Plains (1874):

How many military men have reaped laurels from their Indian campaigns? Does he strive to win the approving smile of his countrymen? That is indeed, in this particular instance, a difficult task. For let him act as he may in conducting or assisting in a campaign against the Indians, if he survives the campaign he can feel assured of this fact, that one-half of his fellow-citizens at home will revile him for his zeal and pronounce his success, if he achieves any, a massacre of poor, defenseless, harmless Indians; while the other half if his efforts to chastise the common enemy are not crowned with satisfactory results, will cry “Down with him. Down with the regular army, and give us brave volunteers who can serve the Government in other ways besides eating rations and drawing pay.”

No. The middle is not a fun place to be. You’re everyone’s target, sometimes simply because you’re willing to be reasonable. Fanatics hate reasonable people, whether they are left- or right-wing fanatics. Fanatics like mobs.

Colonel John Chivington, a conservative Christian, led a righteous mob to Sand Creek. There are lots of potential Sand Creeks in America; lots of mosques; lots of righteous mobs.

Chivington said, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians!”

Does this sound familiar? It ought to.

Those who took a reasonable view of Native Americans in the 19th century were often labeled “Indian lovers.” In those days that was as bad a thing as a Muslim-lover today. President Obama, for his reasonable approach to Islam and the question of Islamic terror, is called not only a Muslim-lover but a Muslim.

And as we all know the old saw, that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. Anyone who is not vociferous enough in their denunciations is, as Custer and other officers found out, suspect: The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.

“Damn any man who sympathizes with Muslims!”

President Obama has made the same discovery. A Newsweek poll released Monday shows that most Republicans believe that he “Favors the interests of Muslims” and worse, “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”

If you look at the results of the poll. You find that, for example, that to the question, “As president, do you think Barack Obama has been tough enough in dealing with terrorists, or not tough enough?” that 43% say “yes, tough enough” and that 50% say, “No, not tough enough.”

It sounds like a poll frontier army officers like General Custer would have understood.

The partisan lines are clear in the poll results. Look at the following poll question: “Favors the interests of Muslims.”  59% of Republicans say “yes” but only 9% of Democrats and 28% of Independents. To the question, “Has generally been even-handed” the percentages are 34/82/62.

It’s pretty clear that GOP propaganda is working well on its own base, but while the looniness of Republicans is unsettling we can be relieved that it seems to be contained within their own ranks.

President Obama has shown in his first two years that he is taking a very centrist approach to the problems of this country, trying to bridge the gap between right and left, just as he promised, and trying reach out and work with his opponents across the aisle.

His opponents have shunned his conciliatory approach and then accused him of refusing to work with them because he refused to govern the country the way they told him to.

At the same time, President Obama has taken heat from progressives who feel he has in some way “betrayed the revolution” by not pushing for enough change fast enough. Like the army officer on the frontier, he is caught between the two extremes and his actions are pleasing to neither. A reasoned approach is anathema to ideologues.

Isn’t it enough that George W. Bush governed the nation by the seat of his pants, shooting from the hip like a cowboy? If you read accounts of western gunfights, you find that aim was not all that Hollywood makes it out to be. People missed more often than they hit. And often, the wrong people were hit. Wild Bill shot and killed one of his own deputies.

Carry that over to the results of Bush’s policies and you will see the connection.

Wouldn’t you, if you had somebody on your side, take aim before firing, to make sure they hit the target – the right target – than to just pull out a pistol and start banging away at anything and everything? It was in one of those wild shooting sprees that the United States invaded Iraq.

What President Obama needs, and what he deserves, are informed voters who think about and try to understand the issues and the ramifications of policy decisions, not those who want them made from the hip, as a knee-jerk reaction or in the heat of the moment. We don’t need any more invasions or any more Sand Creeks.

Voters need to understand that turning the United States into the very thing Islamic extremists say we are is not going to solve the problem of Islamic terrorism. The ripples of Bush’s policy missteps are still being felt. It will take time for the waters to settle; time for America to show the world that it is a credible partner and no longer behaving like a rogue state.

John Quincy Adams

It takes courage to do the right thing when it’s the unpopular thing to do. A coward finds it easy to go along with the mob and it is the exceptional man who, like President Obama, will say, “Now, hold on just a minute…”

We should take that cue. We should step back from that mob too.

Let’s remember the words of John Quincy Adams:

“America…goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy…The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. the frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”- John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1821

I don’t think that President George W. Bush read John Quincy Adams; he wouldn’t have understood what he was saying if he had. Neither would Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. But I think President Obama gets it. Let’s give the first president we’ve had in eight years who thinks rather than reacts, our support.

Reason shines; mobs tarnish. Let’s do nothing to tarnish the luster of our great nation.

7 responses so far

The Republican War With Obama Becomes A War on America

Aug 31 2010 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party

Presidents Obama and Clinton

Paul Krugmann in his column of August 29, 2010 in the New York Times, addresses “Witch-Hunt Season,” a replay of “the last time a Democrat sat in the White House” and “faced a nonstop witch hunt by his political opponents.”

After eight years of one of the most – if not the most – corrupt administrations in US history, not to mention arguably the most incompetent – we are back to the witch-hunts. And it is not just President Obama himself who is the target of these attacks, but anyone he appoints or thinks to appoint – even those who already work for him or who support him.

The Republicans respond Immediately; the swift-boating gets under way, the smears, the innuendos and outright accusations of wrong-doing, including – disingenuously – racism.

Because as Glenn Beck established back in 2009, President Obama is a man with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Things were bad enough for President Clinton; as Krugman reminds us, at one point the Republican-controlled Congress took “140 hours of sworn testimony over accusations that the White House had misused its Christmas card list.”

President Bush said the Constitution was just a “goddamned piece of paper” and used it to wipe his backside, but President Clinton got accused of misusing his Christmas card list. The Republican-controlled Congress never even breathed a whisper about investigating Bush; The Democrat-controlled Congress has refused to even examine the myriad abuses of the Bush administration.

An illegal war against an innocent nation, torture, rendition, attacks on civil rights and habeas corpus, but none of that matters – it’s the Christmas card list. Even oral sex in the Oval Office, while an insult to the dignity of the office, was not a violation of the Constitution, and did nothing to threaten our national security.

But President Obama is in a special place: he is black; our first African-American president. At first they attacked his Christianity for being of a racist variety, based on his pastor. When that became passé, they began to accuse him of not really being a Christian at all, but a Muslim.

Again, Krugman points to this, citing Rush Limbaugh: “Imam Hussein Obama,” is “probably the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.”

Imam Hussein Obama…If you don’t want to use his middle name against him, you can always use his first name.

Glenn Beck rose to the challenge, attacking, “Barack” back in February of this year:

“He chose to use his name Barack for a reason — to identify, not with America — you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Is — really?”

Two years before, on Glenn Beck’s program, Ann Coulter asked the following: “Is Obama a Manchurian candidate to normal Americans who love their country? … Or is he being the Manchurian candidate to the traitor wing of the Democratic Party?”

As Media Matters points out, Coulter “has previously referred to Obama as “B. Hussein Obama” in the past and called him “President Hussein.” She has also compared Obama to Adolf Hitler, calling Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, a “dimestore Mein Kampf.

He has been called worse. He has been portrayed as having a watermelon patch around the White House.  Rush Limbaugh played “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show many times in 2007 and 2008 and it has since been used by other Republicans.

But we are assured there is no racism involved (Obama is the racist, after all). In fact, conservatives have turned things around and accused the left of being racist. On August 13 of this year, Rush Limbaugh, who just a month before (July 6, 2010) said Barack Obama is president only because he is black  – “[Obama] wouldn’t have been voted president if he weren’t black” - stated that “The Democrats are trying to keep black people out of politically powerful positions, it ain’t us.”

This is a poser. Is Rush trying to tell us that it was the Republicans who voted Barack Obama into office, and that Democrats voted against him? Was it attacks from the left and not the right that forced African-American Shirley Sherrod out of her job?

All this might be news to the black voters who voted Democrat in 2008 – fully 96% of them according to exit polls, or to the majority of black voters who are in fact Democrats – not Republicans. Of course, the conservatives forget they already accused THOSE black voters of being racist – voting for Barack Obama only because he was black, like them.

The barrage of attacks has been relentless. Pretending to be a government in exile, the Republicans have done more while hiding at FOX to paralyze the United States government than the Free French did while hiding in London to paralyze the Vichy government of France. Krugman touches on this point as well, saying that “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate.”

They’ve gotten to the point where they believe God himself wants them to have control of the US government. Bush believed it, Bachmann and Palin believe it, Angle believes it, and from his rhetoric in Washington this weekend, Beck believes it, even somehow seeing himself as the agent and catalyst God has chosen to implement this change.

How this explains the results of the 2008 election is anyone’s guess.

One of the many examples of these attacks against the government is the smear campaign turned against green jobs czar, Van Jones, who was hounded out of office for being a “radical/communist/black nationalist” who planned to take over the country. Another, more innocuous figure was Shirley Sherrod. As Media Matters tells it,

On August 4, Dr. Kevin Pezzi — a writer for Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com who Media Matters for America has noted for his absurdly self-aggrandizing claims, racist writings, and sexual inventions including “penile enlargement techniques,” released a two-part screed against former USDA appointee Shirley Sherrod, smearing her as a racist.

As it does so often the White House panicked and Shirley Sherrod was ordered to resign. Only afterward, when the left erupted in protest, did the White House stop to look at the facts.

It is hard to blame the Obama Administration for being oversensitive to this criticism, given the example provided by the fate of the Clinton Administration put under similar pressure.

But then in July 2010 no less a journalist than Sam Donaldson, of ABC News, urged President Obama to stand up to and take on Fox News. Donaldson said, “President Obama, don’t be afraid of them. Take them on, and let the people judge.”

It is clear that the Republicans are not going to cut the Obama administration any more slack than they cut the Clinton. They are going to accuse him no matter what he does, no matter which stance he takes, even if it contradicts previous spin.

Whether President Obama actively engages in a war of words with FOX or other Republican organizations, it is clear that he must thicken his skin and resolve to not buckle under pressure, and to look at the facts before taking any action. It is difficult to regain the momentum once you have surrendered it, and as anyone left of a very Centrist President Obama knows, he is at his best when he stands up to the bully-boy tactics.

So dig your heels in, Mr. President, because they are not going to stop pushing no matter what you do. Might as well prepare for the fight because, as Van Jones said, “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide” and unless you intend to spend your last two years in office on the run, that’s what you’re going to have to do.

27 responses so far

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