Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Newt, Master of the Evil Tongue

In the ethics of the Jewish sages, the "evil tongue," lashon hara in Hebrew, is condemned as a common but particularly heinous sin. The sages said that the evil tongue is more destructive than an arrow, because it can be let loose in Rome and kill in Syria. The great medieval sage, Maimonides, had a special category of person he condemned particularly harshly, the "master of the evil tongue," ba'al lashon hara in Hebrew.

Newt Gingrich is probably the most influential and destructive master of the evil tongue in our time. As Dana Milbank reminded us recently in the Washington Post, Newt way back in 1978 wrote “one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.” He then has worked his whole career to correct that "problem" by devoting much effort to creative name-calling and character assassination. In an infamous memo, he advocated calling the opposition: “anti,” “betray,” “bizarre,” “corrupt,” “destructive,” “disgrace,” “shame,” “lie,” “pathetic,” “radical,” “self-serving,” “selfish,” “shallow,” “shame,” “sick,” “traitors.”

Newt is a guy who stayed up nights thinking of names to call people. A true master of the evil tongue. Sarah Palin recently gave Newt a run for his money as a mistress of the evil tongue, rising to new heights by combining a beautiful face and malicious speech in a way outdoing the movie "Mean Girls." But for a lasting impact, no one has outdone Newt.

Now we have the delicious sight of the master of the evil tongue being slaughtered by millions spent on calling him names, and succeeding in tearing him down. Perhaps it's bad form to rejoice, but it certainly couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Debate over Keynes and Government Spending

One of the key differences today is over whether government stimulus is the way to reverse high unemployment, and the great suffering that goes with it.

Nixon once said "We are all Keynesians now," but since the rise of "supply side" economics Republicans have had a strong anti-Keynesian stream. While consistency has never been politicians' strong suit, the rejection of Keynes has been a reason to dismiss Obama's stimulus as useless, and to combat any efforts at stimulus.

This is a critical issue, because a key divide now is over whether we go for austerity—cutting government spending—or increasing spending through government.

Unfortunately reporters in the mainstream press won't touch this issue, on the question of where the truth lies. But it is raging in op-eds. Here Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson attacks Keynes, and in response Paul Krugman and Dean Baker issue lacerating replies. It will be interesting to see if the mainstream press reports on the debate.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Conservative rejects "alternative universe" of dishonest Conservative media

Former W. Bush speech writer and Conservative semi-apostate (he's honest) David Frum has written about the "alternative universe" of Fox News and conservative talk radio which "immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information." Here is an interesting interview with Howard Kurtz, media reporter on CNN. What is amazing to me is the push back from Kurtz.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Political Reporters don't care about policy

—And almost all reporting on television is political reporting. Hence the public has little information on which to based an informed decision about politicians. I was glad to see some agreement on this from one of my favorites, Paul Krugman. He goes on to excoriate Politico complimentary coverage of Paul Ryan's health care "plan."

He writes: "Even if you like the thrust of Ryan’s ideas, even if you think privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher scheme is fine, what became painfully, embarrassingly clear during the debate over the Ryan plan was that Ryan is, well, incompetent; the plan was a mess, from its invocation of ludicrous Heritage Foundation projections to its crazy assertions about what would happen to discretionary spending. ...Oh, and it was pretty clear that Ryan wasn’t being honest about his own numbers."

Why the incompetence and dishonest? Well it all makes sense if they are not interested in actually improving the country, but only conning the Republic on behalf of their paymasters. As I was saying...

Starving the Watchdogs

The Republican war on facts is of course alive and well. And, as noted in earlier posts - Republicons do this in a variety of ways. The most significant thrust currently is a post-facto strategy of "starving the watchdog." spite of the fact that virtually everyone in America - except the most hidebound conservatives - recognize that Wall Street, and its hedge fund operatives literally sprinkled the investment landscape with toxic assets, conservatives continue to fight hand and tooth to ensure that oversight institutions are defanged. Thus, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission - a critical institution in overseeing the complex ( derivatives and swap markets- is being systematically drained of its budgetary resources.

As the author of this article (Bill Cohan, former investment banker notes):

Kingston’s power [A Georgia Senate Republican] play makes no sense if he and fellow Republicans are of the mind to help the American people by bringing a modicum of transparency to the complex swaps and derivatives markets. The same can be said if they want to prevent the systemic risks we identified -- too late -- in 2008 from becoming new dangers in 2011 and 2012. Or if they have any concern about the effects of the European debt crisis, should it land on our shores and wreak more havoc with our economic prospects.

On the other hand, their behavior makes perfect sense if they don’t want any “rules of the road” in the financial markets and have no interest in creating any traffic lights on the financial superhighway.

A simpler way to sidetrack all of those efete liberals of course is to ensure that no institutional accountability is legislatively built into any processes that involve immense profit making for the private sector -even when extraordinary risks to human health are involved. Best example? The new found love of the "fracking industry" in oil sand deposits. Because this technique was developed at Halliburton, then Vice President Dick Cheney had a special interest in ensuring that this industry would be completely exempt from EPA regulations under the Safe Water Act ( Even though the EPA originally gave the Halliburton exemption its approval, subsequent reanalyses of the original EPA study found that the EPA had removed all information from early drafts that suggested that fracturing fluids (which are toxic) may pose a substantive threat to drinking water. That exemption still exists.

In short, the corporatist interests of the Republicons clearly trump any considerations of "the public interest." And regulatory agencies are just one more obstacle that must be crushed along the way to ensure their corporate success.