Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday cat blogging

Abbey trying to stay warm on the radiator.

The worst generation

My wife is trying to help her niece pay for tuition at the University of Minnesota, which prompted me to look at just how much tuition is these days. This chart shows that for undergraduates the cost of tuition only is $10,320. When I started at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1976 the annual tuition was $663. The difference is about a 1,700 percent increase. Is it any wonder that the generation growing up today will be the first in US history to have an inferior education to those who came before? We baby boomers, who grew up with the most material wealth of any society in history, have bequeathed to our children, through 40 years of Republican politics, a civilizational death-spiral, where things that were routine in our youth, such as the ability to go to college or a doctor are more and more in jeopardy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health care fail

The health care bill in the Senate is a recipe for disaster not only in the sense that it makes us slaves to the insurance industry, but it will ensure skyrocketing premiums and Democratic electoral losses. Voters will never again trust Dems to "reform" health care.

In the whole equation Joe Lieberman has assured himself a win and the Democrats a loss. If the bill passes it will turn out to be political poison; if it fails the Dems look inept. Democrats may then suffer heavy losses in the 2010 elections, in which event Lieberman will become a Republican. That is Lieberman's repayment to Obama for helping him beat Ned Lamont in his Senate run. And Obama just takes it.

Firedoglake: Progressives return fire; demand to kill the bill

Dave Johnson: This health reform bill is political suicide

Bernard Weiner: The self-destruction of Barack Obama:
President Obama has lost his 2012 bid for re-election.
He has made key decisions in three areas that, unless he alters his approach (not likely), could well guarantee a Republican victory: an embarrassingly rolled-out, badly-compromised health-care reform bill; his continuing slavish subservience to those on Wall Street that took the country into the economic toilet; and his sad imitation of CheneyBush's imperial campaign in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tony Blair continues to lie

You wouldn't know it from consuming our traditional media, but England is conducting an inquiry into the false assertions that led them into the war on Iraq. An article in the New Zealand Herald News makes clear that former PM Tony Blair is still lying about the war:
Yesterday Blair told the BBC that he would have gone to war even if he had known Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. He would have deployed "different arguments" to remove Saddam, Blair said - undermining his long-held case that Saddam needed to be toppled because of the threat of WMDs.

"I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat. I can't really think we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge."

What kind of naked liar would say he would use "different arguments" for the same outcome ?? Especially with something so important as making preventive war? His statement makes clear he is still lying - if he would argue for the same outcome, but make different arguments, what is the REAL reason he agreed with our idiot, lying president to make the worst strategic military disaster in 2,000 years? My guess is Blair went along with Bush purely to ingratiate himself, which is why he will NEVER admit the true reasons for his horrible judgment.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

California should tell Obama and Duncan where to shove their pennies

Arne Duncan and President Obama are now trying to force Charter schools and mandated testing down the throats of schools in US states. California, the most ungovernable state in the nation, is trying to reconcile whether it really wants money from Obama's "Race to the top" program, with its onerous and counterproductive mandates, in exchange for what amounts to less than one percent of the money the state will spend on schools. The history of Charters are stuffed with one failure after another - corruption, mismanagement, and inferior educational attainment. The only reason anyone would want more Charters would be to intentionally destroy public education or to defund teachers' unions.

As I've written before, every few years some new administration in Washington or in the states comes up with new mandates and incentives for "reforming" public education, even though the carrots or incentives offered really add up to nothing, and the rules proposed basically only provide punishment for those already hurting. It is deeply disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama administration would continue this hurtful pattern.

I hope the Californians raise up their collective spine and tell Obama and Duncan to mind their own business, quit working with disgraced Republicans like Newt Gringrich to destroy public education, and shove their pittance "Race" money up their collective asses.

UPDATE: Excellent piece in Counterpunch by David Macaray titled Education's Dismal Cycle: When in doubt, just blame the teachers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Destroying the movement you rode in on

Back in the early Democratic presidential primary days of 2008 John Edwards and Barack Obama were fighting it out for the liberal, anti-Hillary vote. Arguably one of the things that helped Obama push Edwards aside was the right wing narrative that Edwards was some kind of effeminate "Breck girl." Ann Coulter called him a "faggot" at a CPAC dinner, and a story planted in Politico alleged Edwards was getting $400 haircuts.

As Glenn Greenwald makes clear in his book "Great American Hypocrites," feminizing of political opponents has been the Republican electoral method ever since about 1980. Successive Democratic presidential candidates have been destroyed in this way, including Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and even Barack Obama. In Clinton's case it didn't work too well because, ironically, of his philandering ways.

In his book Greenwald describes how the haircut story played out after the Politico story, leading to a pilfered video of Edwards preparing for an on-camera interview primping his hair. The video, seen more than a million times on Youtube, was overdubbed with the song "I feel pretty."

The $400 haircut story made its way through the right wing Drudge-o-sphere and rather quickly jumped to the traditional media. But what was the genesis of the story? Politico didn't say, and Greenwald only implies the story came from right wing operatives.

But last month we learned from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's new book that his campaign was responsible for the planting of the $400 haircut story. Ben Smith at Politico confirmed they were his source.

I'm not sure how Greenwald reacted to the news, since he hasn't written about it yet. But my guess is he wouldn't be surprised, given how much the Obama administration has become like the Bush administration over the past 10 months. Still it is sad to read of the self-defeating tactics used by Democrats to attain power. Obama may have beaten Edwards partially because of his "feminizing" smear, but he set back the progressive cause and hurt not just the his party but the entire progressive movement by affirming, through their use, right wing smear tactics.

You'd think with pundits like Maureen Dowd trying to do the same to Obama by calling him "Obambi" he would have been sensitive to using such tactics. Where is the change when the putative leader of a movement employs tactics and narratives successfully used against politicians of his own party - including himself! - for decades against someone from his own party?

This isn't the first time Obama has acted like a Republican. His Education Secretary is running around the country with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton (?!) promoting the failed experiment of Charter schools and the unfair and ineffective policy of teacher merit pay. His health care reform refused to confront health care insurers and drug companies. His Afghanistan policy caved to the War industry. He has continued to defend war criminals and illegal spying on US citizens. Now we find out he used right wing smear tactics to help get himself elected. Pundits can say what they want about Obama, but one thing he hasn't brought is real change.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tim Pawlenty's Minnesota Wrecking Crew

I'm just finishing up reading Thomas Frank's excellent book The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. It's an interesting book because it accurately places responsibility for the Republicans' destruction of our country within the conservative ideology itself.

Conservatives hate government like DNR agents hate Asian Carp or Eurasian Watermilfoil. Since they hate government from the outside, when they get inside they eviscerate it through policization of bureaucracy, economic starvation, corruption as a policy, inattention and outright destruction. They make government fail as an inevitable outcome - goal, even - of their ideology.

As but one example George W. Bush destroyed FEMA as a professional organization by replacing professionals with unqualified political hacks, then privatized and outsourced some of its most important functions. He watched idly by as Katrina swamped the Gulf Coast. The aftermath was a horrendous comedy of errors. Later, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said that the mis-handling of Katrina proved that government was inept, and could not be trusted to reform health care. So - they destroy a piece of government, then use that piece's ineptitude to discredit all government.

Up until Barry Goldwater campaigned on radical right wing conservatism in 1964, ideology was not a dominating factor in American politics. Indeed, the postwar period up until about 1970 is seen by historians as a time of unprecedented consensus. The period ended when radical conservatives, who had demonized government as inept and illegitimate, made inroads to take over the Republican party. Since then conservatives and Republicans have moved in tandem to the right, dressing up plutocratic policies as somehow populist. The result has been the destruction of public trust and assets in historic proportions.

Here in Minnesota Tim Pawlenty is actually a good state analog to the Republican Party's destructive ways. First and foremost he is nothing if not a conservative ideologist. With a smiling face and affable personality he has delivered harsh blows, many to the state's least powerful and most vulnerable, with a velvet fist, using curious words like "unallotment." For eight years Pawlenty has mis-managed the state's budget, producing huge deficits nearly every year. Since he refused to raise taxes (as opposed to the billions raised through "fees"), and had enough Republican control of the legislature, each budget balancing meant reducing state spending, usually on the constituency least likely to be able to complain.

An Interstate bridge over the Mississippi fell on Pawlenty's watch - in part the result of his policies of starving the state of needed funds for transportation, which resulted in delayed repairs and replacements, costing the state at least $60 million in economic impact, not including the cost of the new bridge. In one case he tried to get construction contractors to finance their own first year of work, a tactic which ended up costing the state millions and delaying the reconstruction of a large traffic interchange for a year or more. Each day, it seems we hear of new degradations. The City of Minneapolis is so financially strapped it is reducing the number of police officers. The state's largest public hospital is so hard hit by the governor's budgeting that it will no longer treat people from outside the county.

At the University of Minnesota, tuition has nearly doubled in the seven years of the Pawlenty administration.

Pawlenty is no piker on the corruption front, either. As but one example, he chose an environmental "manager" from the state's biggest polluter, 3M, as the head of the state pollution control agency (MPCA). She later had to quietly slink away amid a growing scandal over slow-walked research by the MPCA looking into 3M groundwater pollution. Predictably, she then went on to a cushy job at the nation's worst environmental criminal, Koch Refining. And just last week a $50 million scandal erupted over the state's "out of control" Charter schools.

This is what would await the nation - a practiced government wrecker in charge - if by some twist of fate Pawlenty should become president. The biggest obstacle to a Pawlenty win in a general election might be his record of destruction here in Minnesota. In that case the contest could hinge on whether or not the traditional media understands what has happened here in the past eight years. Like his national counterparts, the governance of Tim Pawlenty was designed for failure. When government fails Republicans know they have succeeded.

UPDATE: Certainly there are other degradations: 18,000 kicked off the health insurance program Minnesota Care by his budget cut; another 35,000 lost medical services because of Pawlenty killing General Assistance Medical Care in his unallotment. Remember that when BridgeFAIL touts his health care cred on the campaign trail.

UPDATE II: Add air quality fail to governor Gutshot's record.

Remember, also, that Pawlenty was first elected Governor through illegal campaign contributions that resulted in a $600,000 fine.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trouble in Obama-land?

Paul Craig Roberts harshes on the Obama administration's caving on health care reform and the Afghan war. Without explicitly saying it, Roberts reinforces my position that issues like health reform present a zero-sum game: someone must lose. Unfortunately Obama and the Democrats refuse to make either the health insurers or the war industry lose. That leaves only their own supporters to bear the loss. Kos points out why this is a big problem. IMHO the major problem is refusing to take on conservatives on their ideology.

UPDATE: Andrew Bacevich chimes in:
"What Afghanistan tells us is that rather than changing Washington, Obama has become its captive. The president has succumbed to the twin illusions that have taken the political class by storm in recent months. The first illusion, reflecting a self-serving interpretation of the origins of 9/11, is that events in Afghanistan are crucial to the safety and well-being of the American people. The second illusion, the product of a self-serving interpretation of the Iraq War, is that the U.S. possesses the wisdom and wherewithal to guide Afghanistan out of darkness and into the light."

Verizon's open source gamble pays off

As a big fan of open-source software I was an early adopter of T-Mobile's Android phone the G1. Android is the open-source mobile phone software that is based on Linux and written by the development teams at Google. I've had it for about 10 months and I can tell you as someone who once had a mobile phone powered by Microsoft that it is a tremendous improvement.

A month or two ago other telecoms finally caught on, and Sprint and Verizon are now offering Android phones (as an aside - I used to use Sprint, until Android came out. Sprint at the time pointedly said it would NOT support Android - so I left).

The Verizon phone Droid, which is apparently much improved over my G1 (including Android 2.0, which apparently my phone won't run, and better hardware) has now sold almost 1 million units.

And Verizon is killing ATT in the network coverage wars. You'll remember that ATT sued Verizon over television ads comparing the two company's 3G coverage maps. Verizon initially said of the ATT suit that " the truth hurts." Now they've been proven right as ATT has dropped its suit and Verizon is swamping the airwaves touting its network advantage over ATT.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finish the job

How many times have I heard and read that the U.S. is going to "Finish the job," or "Win the war" in Afghanistan? But what does that mean? Does it mean eradicating Afghanistan of the Taliban? Why would anyone think that is possible? The Taliban are a subset of the 40 million Pashtun who live in the area. Do we plan to kill them all, or just "pacify" them forever? Nation building is one thing, but undertaking to change the character of an entire, dirt-poor and uneducated populace is hubris and conceit on steroids. In the end, there will not be, cannot be, "victory" in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: As of October 2008 officials were saying that the Taliban had severed all ties with al Qaeda.

Bombs by Christmas

What a lovely gift of lead we'll be giving to the Afghans! War makes peace!