Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010

New hope for 2011

by Ben Hoffman

Sure, our country is on its last legs, but what really matters is that Denver has a great new quarterback. He was mic’d up during last week’s game against the Texans. Enjoy. 🙂

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December 31, 2010

2010: The Year We Lost Hope

by Ben Hoffman

Since this is the last day of the year, I need to do a year in review blog, as painful as it is. There’s not much good to report. While some decent legislation has been passed, the big issues have not been addressed.

Sure, we had the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Now gays can serve openly along side gang members and other nefarious characters who the government has embraced in an effort to meet recruitment goals. Lucky them.

There was the funding for 9/11 first responders health care. The Democrats tried to pay for it by closing a tax loophole that allowed American companies operating overseas to avoid paying taxes, but Republicans would have none of that. As usual, the Democrats caved and took that provision out. Now the 4.2 billion dollars will just be tacked onto the debt.

Republicans have blocked passage of the new START treaty, even though nearly all non-partisans support it and even many partisans. Former President George H. W. Bush and all six former Republican Secretaries of State support it, yet the dimwit Republicans in the Senate have blocked its passage citing imaginary problems with it. Our security is a political issue with Republicans.

The Health care bill fixed a few problems with our insurance system, such as insurance companies canceling policies due to such things like a policy holder getting sick or injured, but it doesn’t go far enough to fix the out of control health care costs. Early in the reform debate, there was widespread support for the public option, but the Democrats took that off the table before negotiations even began.

Republicans start negotiations from the far right while Democrats start from the center. The result is inevitable. The compromise is always to the right of center.

But the biggest cause for loss of hope comes from the recent tax bill that extended tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthiest 3%. Our country is 14 trillion dollars in debt, with much of that money owed to Communist China and Saudi Arabia, as well as other authoritarian countries that are guilty of heinous crimes against their people.

Democrats claimed Republicans were holding the unemployed hostage, since unemployment benefits were tied to the tax cuts. So in order to get unemployment benefits, the so-called “compromise” consisted of extending tax cuts for the wealthy. There were other tax cuts in the bill that were originally including in the stimulus bill to appease Republicans. Somehow, those are now deemed “wins” for Democrats. Strange how that works.

So our deficits and the debt will continue to explode and bankrupt our country. The United States is the biggest debtor nation in the world. With the Republicans taking control of the House in a few weeks, there is now no chance now for tax increases to help curb the deficits. Cutting spending will increase unemployment and result in fewer services that are needed. Republicans can’t site any major programs that they’ll try to cut since it would be political suicide to cut popular programs.

And so, as we move into the new year, right-wingers will continue to march in lock-step under the Republican authoritarians. They’ll wait to respond to any and all events to find out how they should feel and what they should be outraged over. The so-called “independent voters,” otherwise known as the “low-information voters,” will continue to have their opinions change with the prevailing winds. Nothing will be accomplished in government to address the big problems facing America today.

We’re experiencing the decline and fall of America and there’s no indication that anything will be done to stop it. Or even slow the fall. Let’s just blame it on Jimmy Carter.

December 30, 2010

American exceptionalism and the two Americas

by Ben Hoffman

There are two Americas and two versions of American exceptionalism.

The right-wing version is that that a strong military makes America “exceptional.” That we don’t take any crap from anyone is what makes America great. That’s why they liked President Bush. It doesn’t matter that the two wars cost America its standing in world affairs and some three trillion dollars. We blew up a lot of people and they won’t mess with us again, or so they believe. Or if they do, we’ll blow up a bunch more and it will make us feel good doing it.

Why do right-wingers feel so strongly about the military making America “exceptional?” It’s something they can achieve in their lives. They can join the military and follow orders. It’s not so easy to go to college and actually create something great, so they place more importance on military might.

Right-wingers are all about emotion.

The left-wing version of American exceptionalism is much different and diverse. It’s about making a better planet, improving living conditions for the poor, helping people achieve the American dream, innovation, preserving nature, being the first in technology, our national parks…

We saw examples of American exceptionalism with the space program back in the 60s, in the 30s with our PWA and other New Deal programs.

Now, all that our country stands for is making money. And that doesn’t make us exceptional.

December 30, 2010

Even Adam Smith advocated for protectionist policies – the “invisible hand” in industry

by Ben Hoffman

Here is the quote from The Wealth of Nations that illustrates Adam Smith’s view on domestic vs. foreign industries:

By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.

So when businessmen look out for their own interests while preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, everyone in that country benefits. Right-wingers seem to ignore the “preferring domestic industries” part because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

December 30, 2010

Judith Miller joins Newsmax – Promises to continue to protect those who go after whistle-blowers

by Ben Hoffman

You remember Judith Miller… She spent three months in jail for protecting the identities of members of the Bush administration who outed CIA agent Valeria Plame. Valerie Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, was the whistle-blower who refuted the Bush administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein was aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons. The Bush administration retaliated by outing Plame’s identity.

The N.Y. Times published Judith Miller’s articles, which amounted to right-wing propaganda designed to promote support for the case to go to war with Saddam Hussein. In one article she wrote, “Mr. Hussein’s dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq’s push to improve and expand Baghdad’s chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war.”

Miller left the N.Y. Times in 2005. In all likelihood, she was asked to resign. The Times is a well respected newspaper and to have someone like Miller on the staff degraded their reputation of being non-partisan. Of course, right-wingers claim the Times is an ultra-liberal newspaper because they don’t spin the news to the right, and they often publish articles about wrong-doings by Republicans and businessmen. Right-wingers don’t want that information to be known. They just want right-wing propaganda, which is why Fox “news” is so popular with them.

So now, Miller has found her rightful place at Newsmax where she will be free to disseminate right-wing propaganda. No doubt, she’ll be a right-wing star. After all, she once won a Pulitzer Prize, but it was a team of ten reporters that won the Prize. She just happened to be on the winning team. On her own, she has demonstrated serious lack of integrity. Which makes her a perfect fit for Newsmax and Fox “news.”

December 29, 2010

Scientific proof that right-wingers are overly emotional cowards

by Ben Hoffman

Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions.

On the other hand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life.

[…]

Prof Geraint Rees, who led the research, said: “We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that we could predict political attitude.

“It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude.”

Source

December 25, 2010

Obama’s vacation reading list includes “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime”

by Ben Hoffman

This is a good choice for Obama, since he has held Reagan in high regard. Hopefully, this book will change his mind. Here is a review of ‘President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime’:

No matter. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime is an extremely useful — sometimes even powerful — chronicle. And the source of its power is Cannon’s full documentation of presidential truancy. Aide after aide testifies in these pages that the President ”did not react to 95 percent of the material that was brought to him,” that ”he made no demands, and gave almost no instructions,” and that his excuses for not at least glancing at the various background papers supplied him in preparation for meetings and decisions were invariably lame. ”Well, Jim,” he told chief of staff James Baker, explaining why he hadn’t opened the briefing book for the Colonial Williamsburg economic summit, ”The Sound of Music was on last night.” (Reagan watched two films on each of his 183 weekends at Camp David.)

Ignorance is one inevitable result of goofing off, and Cannon scrupulously sifts the evidence of Reagan’s ignorance. He says that this President chose a commerce secretary largely because the fellow’s ”hobby was roping cattle at rodeos”; that he announced to members of Congress that bombers and submarines ”did not carry nuclear missiles”; and that he agreed that ”creationism should be taught as an alternative theory to Darwinism in the public schools.”

Why would somebody elected to the highest office in a democracy conclude that mastering the issues — digging into the substance of disputes — is unimportant? Cannon thinks Reagan was confident that the presidency was a show job, that the primary if not sole task of the President is to focus exclusively ”on public performance while leaving the homework to others.”

In Reagan’s case the consequences of skipping homework were, of course, appalling. Staff cynicism was rampant. ”The sad, shared secret of the Reagan White House,” Cannon writes, ”was that no one in the presidential entourage had confidence in the judgment or capacities of the president….Pragmatists and conservatives alike treated Reagan as if he were a child monarch in need of constant protection.”

But there were worse consequences. Cannon traces connections between presidential vacuity and the loss of hundreds of Marines in Lebanon. He probes the mindless commitment to slogans (”Get government off your backs”) that rendered Reagan vulnerable to budget director David Stockman’s manipulations, led him repeatedly and casually to reject proposals that might have warded off the deficit disaster, and set administrative agencies on a course toward the savings and loan debacle.

On Nancy’s astrologer, Reagan’s naps, and several other familiar matters, Lou Cannon contributes little that’s fresh. And because he’s a reporter, not a cultural critic, he offers no help with the problem at the root of his story, namely: How can a democracy transformed into a culture of entertainment preserve the distinction between governing and playacting? But in showing us what happens in an absentee presidency, and how and why, he has produced an immensely instructive portrait of counterfeit leadership.

Source

Here’s my book recommendation for Obama: John Maynard Keynes – The General Theory of Employment, Interest,
and Money.

Keynesian economics works. It helped bring down unemployment during the Great Depression and it made our country better. People gained valuable skills through the WPA, many national parks were created, unemployment went from 25% to 15%, many museums, libraries, and other buildings were constructed.

The stimulus bill passed last year created millions of jobs. Although unemployment remains high, it would be even higher without the stimulus. Had the stimulus been bigger, it would have been more effective.

Reaganomics has never worked. It didn’t work during the 80s, during which time we saw the highest unemployment since the Great Depression and then a tepid recovery. We also saw the result of deregulation with the S&L crisis and government bailout, and the tripling of the national debt.

Reaganomics was tried again during the Bush, Jr. administration. During that time, we saw no job growth and the doubling of the national debt. And of course, the Great Recession.

It’s too late for Obama to redeem himself, though. Extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is his signature failure in an administration where the policy of appeasement rules the day. Obama is delusional. The Republicans have tried to block every effort to create jobs and Mitch McConnel has even stated that his number one objective is to make Obama a one term president. Yet Obama continues to appease the Republicans just as Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler.

Hopefully, we’ll have a third party candidate who will fight for progressive values in the 2012 election.

December 24, 2010

Tea Party Cancels Christmas Pageant; Could Not Find Three Wise Men

by Ben Hoffman

Plans to Stage Book of Revelation Instead

WASILLA (The Borowitz Report) – The Tea Party’s plans for a first annual Tea Party Christmas Pageant have been cancelled at the last minute, an organizer of the pageant confirmed today.

“We couldn’t find three wise men,” Tea Party holiday coordinator Carol Foyler told reporters. “It’s too bad, because we had plenty of sheep.”

Ms. Foyler said that the Tea Party was hoping to replace its Christmas pageant, however, with an ambitious staging of the Book of Revelation.

“We already have Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Christine O’Donnell lined up,” she said. “One more Horseman and we’re good to go.”

Source

December 22, 2010

CBS airs Drudge Retort ‘Desision Points’ cover!

by Ben Hoffman

Back in November, the Drudge Retort did a book review of George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points.

In it, Bush tells how he went from a failed businessman who had never held a public office, directly to Governor of Texas, and then to president of what was the most advanced country in the world.

“I really didn’t think the people of the United Steaks were that stupid,” Bush writes, “but I guess I was miscalculated.”

Here is the original cover of the early release of the book, which we reviewed…

Apparently, that was the only honest passage in the entire book and the publishers pulled that cover in favor of the one on the book today. They also took the title from a memo written by Bush where he wrote, “Your going to call my book ‘Desision Points’. Now go write my autobiography for me and make me look good. I gotta go clear some brush.”

But CBS also used the original cover in their Sunday morning segment. They’ve since taken down the video, but not before someone make a copy of it. Here it is, courtesy of the dailycaller.com, right at about 16.5 seconds…

NewsDay did a story on the mistake…

Fake Bush ‘Desision Points’ cover makes CBS’s ‘Sunday Morning’

Newsday editor and colleague, Alan Fallick was watching CBS’ “Sunday Morning” this past Sunday, and watched Erin Moriarty’s excellent piece on book covers – how they’re designed, how they make us buy said book, etc.

MORE: Newsday.com’s list of the top 10 books of 2010

But as the books flashed by, one in particular caught his eye:

“Desision Points: How I Managed to Go Eight Years without Making One Good Decision.”

It’s a joke, presumably, or a mistake, and as best I can tell, the photoshopped cover of George W. Bush’s memoir first appeared on the website “Drudge Retort” back in November.

The context was especially amusing: It pops up just as Erin says, “A good cover tells you what kind of book it is without giving too much away…”

Source

So did theblaze.com website…

Yes, you’re reading that right. CBS aired a Bush book cover that says, Desision Points: How I Managed to Go Eight Years without Making One Good Decision. CBS has since backpedaled, saying it was an unintentional mistake:

Good catch: it’s a mistake no one could see because you’d have to freeze the frame to notice it. Another cautionary tale about the risks of the internet age — clearly, we have to be more careful when downloading material.

Source

Fox “news” also did a story on it.

Okay, I’m waiting for the lawsuits to come rolling in. 🙂

December 21, 2010

Tom Colburn: American SOB — Blocking 9/11 health care bill

by Ben Hoffman

Amid mounting pressure from Democrats and a growing handful of Republicans to pass a bill that would provide health care benefits to first responders who were at the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn announced on Monday his intentions to block passage of the legislation.

He tells Politico that he “wouldn’t allow the bill to move quickly” due to “problems with parts of the bill and the process Democrats are employing” to pass it.

Coburn defended his position in a Tuesday morning interview on Fox News, arguing that “this is a bill that’s been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”

Coburn also argued that the bill, entitled the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, “hasn’t even been through a committee.” Coburn added: “We haven’t had the testimony to know.” (ThinkProgress notes that on June 29, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – on which Coburn sits – held a hearing on the bill. But Coburn’s office says that doesn’t amount to having gone “through a committee.”)

Meanwhile, a growing chorus of Republican commentators has begun to pressure GOP senators to revise their positions, arguing that the health of first responders is a sensitive national issue – and that opposing it could be politically unwise.

“Why wouldn’t we take care of their health care?” wondered the conservative-leaning talk show host Joe Scarborough during his MSNBC show “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “It’s just like taking care of veterans’ health care… It can’t be a good move for Republicans to oppose a bill for the firefighters and the cops on 9/11.”

Scarborough also questioned the argument – posited by some of those opposing the bill – that health care for 9/11 first responders should be covered by New York residents. “How did this become a New York issue?” Scarborough wondered. “That is like Pearl Harbor becoming a Hawaii issue in 1951. It’s ridiculous.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has already made public his opinion that “every Republican” should support the bill – but in a Fox News appearance on Monday night, he plead his case further. “There are people who need medical care right now, and frankly, the clock is running out on them,” he said. “Their lives are fading away, even as we sit here talking about it.”

Read more…

Obama needs to hold a press conference and call the Republicans out on this. But he won’t because he’s a pansy-ass.

December 20, 2010

New Gallup poll shows 40% of Americans are dumb as dirt

by Ben Hoffman

Four in 10 Americans Believe in Strict Creationism

PRINCETON, NJ — Four in 10 Americans believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago.

Source

So why do we even bother trying?

December 19, 2010

New hope for radio! Congress passes the Local Community Radio Act

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON, DC — Today a bill to expand community radio nationwide — the Local Community Radio Act — passed the U.S. Senate, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ). This follows Friday afternoon’s passage of the bill in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE). The bill now awaits the President’s signature.

These Congressional champions for community radio joined with the thousands of grassroots advocates and dozens of public interest groups who have fought for ten years to secure this victory for local media. In response to overwhelming grassroots pressure, Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a mandate to license thousands, of new community stations nationwide. This bill marks the first major legislative success for the growing movement for a more democratic media system in the U.S.

[…]

The Local Community Radio Act will expand the low power FM (LPFM) service created by the FCC in 2000 – a service the FCC created to address the shrinking diversity of voices on the radio dial. Over 800 LPFM stations, all locally owned and non-commercial, are already on the air. The stations are run by non-profit organizations, local governments, churches, schools, and emergency responders.

The bill repeals earlier legislation which had been backed by big broadcasters, including the National Association of Broadcasters. This legislation, the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000, limited LPFM radio to primarily rural areas. The broadcast lobby groups claimed that the new 100 watt stations could somehow create interference with their own stations, a claim disproven by a Congressionally-mandated study in 2003.

Read more…

December 18, 2010

Obama offers more tax cuts for the rich in exchange for signing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

by Ben Hoffman

“One thing I’ve learned while being in Washington is you have to compromise in order to get anything done,” Obama said Saturday night. “So I am offering more tax cuts for the wealthy since my friends on the other side of the aisle have not been able to block the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s only fair. There are some things the Republicans don’t like about it and some things the Democrats don’t like about it. But that’s the way things get done in Washington.”

A startled Mitch McConnell commented, “Well, okay…”

John Boehner added, “I remember when I was a little boy growing up in a small house…,” and broke down sobbing.

December 18, 2010

Theodore Roosevelt on the estate tax

by Ben Hoffman

Like many thoughtful Americans of his era, he believed the disproportionate accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few would make a mockery of our meritocracy and, ultimately, of our democracy. In 1910, he summed up those feelings. “We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used,” Roosevelt said. “It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community…. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and … a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Source

December 17, 2010

Hey Obama! Guess what? You now own the deficit!

by Ben Hoffman

The House approved the $801 billion package of tax cuts last night and Obama is expected to sign it as soon as he puts on his back brace. (That’s the only way he can sit up since he lacks a spine.)

The tax bill will do little to stimulate the economy and will cost in two years what the stimulus bill cost for five years. It’s pure trickle-down-economics. Obama could have attached some conditions that would bring jobs back to the U.S. like tariffs and penalties for outsourcing jobs overseas, but that would have required a backbone. And what the hell is he doing negotiating with the Republicans anyway? It’s Congress’s job to author legislation!

The Democrats should have pushed through the middle class tax cuts with unemployment benefit extension as a take it or leave it proposal. Had the Republicans blocked it, they’d be responsible for our taxes going up. The huge deficits are now squarely on the presidents shoulders, and our country is so screwed.