Thursday, September 08, 2011

Rick Perry vs. Galileo

I can't make much headway puzzling out what Texan presidential wanna-be Rick Perry might have meant when talking about science and Galileo during the GOP 'debate' last night. Steve Benen has the skinny:

Q: Gov. Perry, Gov. Huntsman was not specific about names, but the two of you do have a difference of opinion about climate change. Just recently in New Hampshire, you said that weekly and even daily scientists are coming forward to question the idea that human activity is behind climate change. Which scientists have you found most credible on this subject?

PERRY: Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

Um ... "outvoted"? Is that shorthand for "was convicted by the Inquisition for heresy, ordered not to talk about his scientific discoveries and was forced to live under house arrest for the rest of his life"?

Oh, and Galileo was right - the Earth orbits the Sun.

What fact does Perry have zero doubts about? Executions:

"Brian Williams noted that Perry signed off on the executions of 234 people*, more than any other governor in modern times. This, remarkably, immediately generated applause from the audience. The question was, “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”

"Perry responded, “No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process.” Asked what he made of the audience’s bloodlust positive reaction to the question and answer, the governor said, “I think Americans understand justice.”

"The governor balks when presented with evidence on evolution, abstinence education, and climate change, but embraces without question the notion that everyone he’s killed in Texas was 100% guilty. The scientific process, he apparently believes, is unreliable, while the state criminal justice system is infallible.

Intellectually, morally, and politically, this isn’t just wrong; it’s scary. The fact that Republicans in the audience found this worthy of hearty applause points to a party that’s bankrupt in more ways than one."

Romney: Mark My Words, But Don't Quote Me On What I Said

GOP hopeful Mitt Romney keeps getting into trouble because of one thing - he's using words.

Words, which are made into sentences, which then defy sense. Writers at Reason Magazine captured some of Romney's problem comparing his "policy statements" and what he said at last night's GOP "debate".

A policy plan which -- "
Mitt Romney’s campaign released in Nevada earlier this week, works hard not to oversell its own virtues. It criticizes the Obama administration for making post-stimulus jobs and growth predictions that couldn’t possibly be kept.

Romney’s plan, on the other hand, declares early on its intention not to make the same mistake. On page 33, the plan cautions that it “does not promise the immediate creation of some imaginary number of jobs, because government cannot create jobs—at least not productive ones that contribute to our long-term prosperity.” How humble.

At last night’s GOP debate in the Reagan library, however, Romney was considerably more willing to make predictions: “The plan I put forward just two days ago in Nevada,” he said, “will grow our economy at 4 percent per year for four years and add—add—11.5 million jobs.” So government can't create jobs, but Romney's policy plan can?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Does The GOP Crave A Destroyed America?

A recent essay by recently retired Republican staffer Mike Lofgren, after 30 years serving House and Senate Budget Committees, is stirring up a lot of talk on the internet. It's a deeply damning indictment of what he calls a Republican cult - it's just too bad he only found his voice so late in his career. It makes me wonder if he feared what might follow once he shared his views, perhaps his retirement offers some safety.

His views are similar to many I've shared here, shared by many who have been watching dumbfounded as the screeching, distorted, steady drumbeat of talk from the GOP that their one top goal since 2008 (and even far earlier) has been to insure that any elected Democrat be unable to govern.

That drumbeat has not only been echoed by mainstream media outlets, and likely finds it's way into your email inbox from friends and relatives who simply find the fact that Barack Obama is president is an odious horror - the message appears to be that any and all efforts to improve our nation are reprehensible, especially coming from President Obama. Elected Democrats too get called out in Lofgren's essay for failing to challenge the madness of failure as success.

I urge you to read the entire essay, but here are a few excerpts worth noting:

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill. A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis. Then, they would use that fiscal crisis to get what they wanted, by literally holding the US and global economies as hostages.

The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism. Republicans were willing to lay off 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, 70,000 private construction workers and let FAA safety inspectors work without pay, in fact, forcing them to pay for their own work-related travel - how prudent is that? - in order to strong arm some union-busting provisions into the FAA reauthorization.

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care.


"It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant."


"Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself."


"This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980)."


"Another smokescreen is the "small business" meme, since standing up for Mom's and Pop's corner store is politically more attractive than to be seen shilling for a megacorporation. Raising taxes on the wealthy will kill small business' ability to hire; that is the GOP dirge every time Bernie Sanders or some Democrat offers an amendment to increase taxes on incomes above $1 million. But the number of small businesses that have a net annual income over a million dollars is de minimis, if not by definition impossible (as they would no longer be small businesses). And as data from the Center for Economic and Policy Research have shown, small businesses account for only 7.2 percent of total US employment, a significantly smaller share of total employment than in most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

"The economic justification for Pentagon spending is even more fallacious when one considers that the $700 billion annual DOD budget creates comparatively few jobs. The days of Rosie the Riveter are long gone; most weapons projects now require very little touch labor. Instead, a disproportionate share is siphoned off into high-cost research and development (from which the civilian economy benefits little); exorbitant management expenditures, overhead and out-and-out padding; and, of course, the money that flows back into the coffers of political campaigns. A million dollars appropriated for highway construction would create two to three times as many jobs as a million dollars appropriated for Pentagon weapons procurement, so the jobs argument is ultimately specious."

Tonight, a group of would-be Republican candidates will present themselves as the Best Choice for the next president - but if you bother to read this essay by Lofgren, you'll find their every perspective will be defined in the essay. President Obama is not some end-all, be-all magical politician. He is battling decades of decayed and failed policies - but it's also important to remember than since the day he was elected, his opponents have accepted that a deep American loss of excellence is preferred over any success he might achieve.

I hope, at the very least, this essay prompts readers to consider what political plans shape our future - and what will distort it.