Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wither the GOP?

(no, that's not a typo)
I just heard Judd Gregg on NPR, attack Obama's budget priorities. I strikes me that he is not at all a man who could fit into an Obama administration. Thus, we have two possibilities. Either Gregg is a) an opportunist capable changing his ideological belief's to fit his situation, or b) he was, as he claimed, too stupid to realize that Obama is liberal.
Speaking of GOP flim-flam, I managed to catch the first 90 seconds of Bobby Jindal's terrible response to the un-State of the Union speech. I could stand the first 90 seconds of the "I'm talking to a bunch of 1st Graders" tone before I flipped it off. Badly delivered, the speech was also stupid, among other thing complaining about the money we waste monitoring volcanoes.
I've seen my share of horrible responses to State of the Union: Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle, Kathleen Sebelius (I've only seen one exception, that given by Jim Webb). The difference here is that this was Bobby Jindal's stepping onto the national stage and he tripped, badly. Jindal is already campaigning for the Republican nomination for 2012, by saying he will reject a (very small) portion of the stimulus money.
The Republican party is up in arms about the increase in the deficit, and, paradoxically, equally up in arms on the increase in taxes on those earning over $250,000. The "increase in taxes" is achieved by allowing Bush's tax cuts to run out, tax cuts that the Republicans would have fought tooth and nail if their was anything to their principles of fiscal responsibility besides opportunism. Where were these people when president Bush was spending massive amounts on the Iraq war? Yet when a Democrat wants to spend money to bail out the economy, they're suddenly up in arms.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

RIP Socks

The Clinton's cat, Socks, has gone to the great scratching-post in the sky.
Oddly, Socks was in the care of Clinton Secretary Bettie Currie, not in the care of the Clintons themselves. Wonkette:
And why was Currie watching over Socks? Because when Bill Clinton left the White House for New York, he brought along newer pet Buddy the Dog, who was soon run over and crushed to death by a car. Socks was supposedly going to live in Hillary’s fancy new house in Washington, but Hillary was never quite “ready” to allow her own pet — a helpless animal — to move to Georgetown. So poor old Socks was stuck with Mrs. Currie, or poor old Mrs. Currie was stuck with Socks.

Now I have to take a look at Mo Rocca's All the Presidents Pets. says P.J. O'Rourke: "Mo Rocca describes how U.S. political policy has been guided by presidential pets for more than two hundred years. Oh, and I suppose you have a better explanation?"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

California Screamin

The California state is to be in a pickle.
Since the fall, when lawmakers began trying to attack the gaps in the $143 billion budget that their earlier plan had not addressed, the state has fallen into deeper financial straits, with more bad news coming daily from Sacramento. The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

Twenty-thousand layoff notices will go out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. “In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months,” Mr. David said.

Paul Krugman writes "Years of neglect, followed by economic disaster - and with all reasonable responses blocked by a fanatical, irrational minority. This could be America next."
There are obvious similarities between the way that California Republicans have destroyed any attempt to raise the California budget, and the way that congress Republicans have fought to blunt response to the financial crisis. There's more to it though. I've long contended that ballot initiatives have hamstrung that state, mandating high spending (three strikes anyone?) and imposing bad policy in general. The fact that the Republican minority has been able to block any compromise is that an initiative required a super-majority for tax increases. The situation in congress, despite the filibuster, is not the same.

Hitchens Beaten

Huffington Post:
The assault on Christopher Hitchens' body continues - he's been waterboarded, body-waxed and suffered through countless hangovers.

In the latest incident, Hitchens sustained gashed knuckles and bruises in a vicious street brawl with shoe-shopping thugs during a Valentine's Day night out on the streets of Beirut.

Hitchens, the chain-smoking, hard-drinking, intellectually ambitious Vanity Fair columnist, was beat up during the altercation, according to several blogs.

Hitchens was apparently visiting Beirut at the invitation of the Hariri-Saudi group, affiliated with the assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, when he defaced a poster for the Syrian Social Nationalist party and was assaulted by some members of the SSNP who happened to be walking by, according to the Angry Arab News Service.

Hitchens is an odd fellow. I recommend his book "God is Not Great" and his collection of atheist works "the Portable Atheist", but his columns are nearly incoherent (drinking perhaps?)
Considering his recent outspokenness as an atheist, it's most people would have expected him to get in a brawl with a group of religious fanatics. Instead, he got beaten by a wily group a nationalists who were, reportedly shopping for shoes.
The SSNP, by the way, is a Syrian Nationalist party that believes Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, the Sinia, Cyprus, Iraq and Kuwait should all be incorporated into Syria. The Lebanon branch is unsurprisingly pro-Syrian. Probably Hitchens distaste for the SSNP comes from a distaste for the gangsters running Syria as well. Abu muqawama points out that what Hitchens did was the equivalent of disrespecting the local gang in rougher parts of LA. Not smart.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Israeli Election

The BBC:
With almost all the votes counted, the governing centrist Kadima has 28 seats and the right-wing Likud opposition 27, election officials said.

Kadima's Tzipi Livni told supporters she was ready to lead the country. But Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu said the "nationalist camp" had won.

Both need coalition partners. Ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu came third.

Although Israel may not have a government for weeks, the results of the election are already in. Though it appeared before the election that the Likud party (headed by Benjamin Netanyahu) was set to win, the Gaza many commentators noted the Gaza offensive may have given a bump to their centrist rivals, Kadima (headed by Tzipi Livni).

The BBC article quotes Netanyahu as stating that the "nationalist camp" has won. I think he is right, and that he will be forming the next government. Likud sowed up a relationship with Shas (a orthodox party). The big story is that Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu Party beat labor into third place in terms of votes. Lieberman advocates loyalty oaths for Arab Israeli and execution of MKs that meet with Hamas. His supporters have been known to shout "death to Arabs" awaiting their hero.
To quote Marty Peretz of all people:
In the last elections, it was the Pensioners' Party that surprised everybody by its strength, which pivoted it into the Cabinet. This year, alas, it is likely to be the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) Party, a neo-fascist list headed by a Russian immigrant and certified gangster, Avigdor Lieberman, who is the Israeli equivalent of Jorg Haider of Austria (now dead) and Jean-Marie LePen who, with Bridgitte Bardot, is a leader of National Front in France, who once overwhelmed the country's Socialist Party.

Both Kadima and Likud are eager to include Lieberman in a coalition, instead of avoiding him like the plague as they should be (this would not, though, be the first time Lieberman has been in coalition). Likud seems a natural choice for Lieberman. Extremism is also rising in the Likud itself. None of this looks good for a potential peace.