Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Right-Wing Proves You Can't Win

In a coordinated display of stupid, our right-wing friends are again demonstrating that you just can't win with natural disasters:

George Will writes: "synthetic hysteria" is the best descriptor of the media hype preceding and accompanying hurricane Irene's progress toward and then up the east coast.

A disparate yet closely-aligned set of bigots says: gay marriage caused hurricane Irene.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sigh. Cantor spokesman @BDayspring blocks dissenting twitter followers.

I don't follow all that many people on twitter, just because I like to be able to keep up with what's going on, and tweetspam flying by just makes my eyes cross. As such, I'm pretty aware of who I haven't heard from in a while.  Sometimes people go on vacation or otherwise take a break from the 'nets, but those are the rare cases.  People blocking you from following them, however, sometimes takes a little while to notice.

Here's the background:

Back in mid-August, one of the people I started following was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's spokesman, Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring).  As the alert reader will imagine, I have many differences of opinion with the gentleman from Virginia, and his spokesman, by definition, is no different.  So, like any twitter follower who follows people with whom he or she disagrees, I occasionally reply to tweets that I feel are lacking in intellectual honesty, and especially if those tweets are designed to defend or hypocritically obfuscate destructive economic or social policies.

During the ensuing three weeks or so, I replied directly to nine of @BDayspring's tweets.  I referenced Cantor himself in several others as well.  On September 2nd, I blogged about his amazingly irresponsible and reckless disaster relief funding offset idea, writing among other things:

"Here's a pro-tip [for Cantor]: you should probably go ahead and add disaster relief funding to the list of uncuttable programs [like veterans benefits and homeland security]. At least that way the people who are currently digging out of previous disasters will know that you won't completely screw them over to score ideological brownie points with the extreme side of your party."

I, like many others, joined in choruses of derision, accusing Cantor of holding disaster victims fiscally hostage when he reiterated a position he also held back in May to the effect that additional disaster relief funding for agencies such as FEMA should be directly offset with cuts elsewhere in the Federal budget.

Here are two representative replies I made to @BDayspring during this outcry:

September 2nd:
@BDayspring And your boss's plan to help disaster victims in his own district: Operation Fiscal Hostage. #shameful
August 25th:
@BDayspring Can anyone tell me the last time a House Majority Leader held his own constituents hostage over disaster relief funding? Anyone?

ThinkProgress posted a clip of a hallway press conference at the American Action Forum on September 13th in which Cantor seemed to be confused about the best way to walk back his earlier position and try to avoid looking and sounding like a hypocrite:

And to shed some light on the hypocrisy of this whole thing, there is his diametrically opposing stance from back in 2004, when it was apparently OK to fund first and ask questions later.  In August of 2011, Dayspring released an email to the press which did very little reassure any actual disaster victims.  Seems to me that a disaster is a disaster and lives are lost & destroyed regardless of the government's balance sheet.

So, what was it that prompted Brad Dayspring to block me?  It wasn't when I called his boss's new U-turn policy shameful; it wasn't when I (along with many others) accused his boss of holding his own constituents hostage to a cruelly misguided ideology.  No, this was my last tweet to him on September 18th, which conveniently includes a quote of his original:

"@BDayspring: Remember when LL Cool J was a rapper?” // Remember when Cantor didn't hold disaster victims fiscally hostage?

Apparently that was the final straw, because I haven't seen another tweet from Mr. Dayspring since that time, and am now unable to follow him. Surely it wasn't my hijacking of a tweet about LL Cool J that got Brad's knickers in a twist.  Perhaps it actually caught his attention, and then he bothered to look at my other postings, concluding that I wouldn't notice if he blocked me.

Putting one's fingers in one's ears to avoid dissension is probably the most childish response to said dissension.  Nine tweets in 3 weeks from a guy with ~75 followers is apparently intolerable... to the spokesman for the United States House of Representatives Majority Leader.

The really funny part of all this is that I'm still able to follow Eric Cantor himself.  Perhaps even funnier is the fact that, unlike YouTube, Twitter is ever so helpful, allowing me to see everything that goes on, retweet at will, and even address Brad directly, and he can't do anything about it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dear Rick Perry: You Can't Be A Nuanced Hardliner

So it was interesting to see how Perry took the frequent attacks last night, in particular with regard to Social Security. It has been fascinating to watch his evolution on this issue. For examples:

In his book Fed Up!, published 11 months ago, Perry describes Social Security as "the best example" of the government trashing its Constitutional duties and thus "violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles." We see here a Perry who is standing on more of a 10th Amendment footing, referencing the "boundaries to government" that the founders were so keen to erect. As elsewhere in the book, Perry uses his ideological filters in an attempt to make the case that Social Security is unconstitutional.

In December 2010, he seemed extremely worried about what he called "$106 trillion" in the combined "unfunded liability [sic]" of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. "That's the reality of where we find ourselves today." So it isn't just a question of leaving it to the states on principle, it is also simply a question of an enormously underfunded program.

In the GOP presidential debate on September 7th, 2011, Perry said of Social Security that it is a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie" by which we are giving the fiscal finger to young people in this country, because they know they'll be paying into a system that they'll never be able to draw on. So it isn't just a budget burden; it isn't just unconstitutional; it is also borderline illegal in addition to being just plain dishonest.

But last night, Mitt Romney challenged him with a direct question, which led to an interesting back-and-forth:

Romney: "Do you still believe Social Security should be ended as a Federal Program as you did six months ago when your book came out, and return [Social Security] to the states, or do you want to retreat from that?"
Perry: "I think we ought to have a conversation--"
Romney: "I think we're having that right now, governor. We're running for President."

This was on the heels of another dodge by Perry, in which his earlier aggressive language had softened to a more generalized, subdued disdain for the decisions of past progressive-minded administrations.

FFS, Perry, either be hardline or don't. If you start moderating your positions, and trying to pretend to understand the importance and usefulness of nuanced positions, you'll start to sound more and more like Obama in your approach, if not in your politics.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hey Eric, Why So Hypocritical?

I'm pleased to see various Republicans taking a stand against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's hypocritical stance on emergency funding for victims of the recent east-coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene.

For example, New Jersey governor Chris Christie was speaking at a town hall the other day, sharing the stage with HS Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA head Craig Fugate.

In a clear dig at the way debt-ceiling talks went recently, Christie said, "You're going to turn it into a fiasco like that debt-limit thing where you’re fighting with each other for eight or nine weeks and you expect the citizens of my state to wait?"

He certainly raises good points, especially the part about waiting:

“They’re not gonna wait, and I’m going to fight to make sure that they don’t. I don’t want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of.”

(As an aside, I'd be curious to see if anyone has ever checked into whether a fast, intense funding response is actually cheaper than one which drags out for weeks of hostage negotiation-style bickering. But I digress...)

Eric Cantor isn't on to anything new here. In 2004, Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling introduced an amendment which would have forced Congress to find discretionary spending to cut in order to fund a $10.9 billion disaster relief emergency bill following a series of hurricanes and violent storms, including one which hit Cantor's own district.

Hensarling defended his Cantor-like approach in 2004 on the floor of the House, sounding eerily familiar in the context of recent events:

“Many, many members have come to the floor to decry deficit spending. It will be interesting to see how many of them truly want to do something about it and support this amendment... Mr. Chairman, the true question before us is, who will tighten their belt to pay for this $10.9 billion of hurricane damage? Families, or government? I vote for the government."

Although Hensarling's amendment would have ensured that none of the discretionary cuts could affect veterans, the military, or Homeland Security, well over 100 of his fellow Republicans (including Cantor) voted against it, along with pretty much every Democrat. This puts one of Hensarling's comments in some perspective, as he said, "opponents of this amendment will argue that it will gut vital government programs. I simply reject that notion.”

As a demonstration of a complete reversal of Cantor's 2004 stance, look at this heavily nuanced (read: heavily non-committal & uncertainty-provoking) excerpt from an explanatory email from his spokesman, Brad Dayspring, which tries to link the larger debt issue with emergency spending, EXACTLY the approach Cantor rejected in '04:

"People and families affected by these disasters will certainly get what they need from their federal government. The goal should always be to find ways to pay for what is needed or to find offsets whenever possible, that is the responsible thing to do. Is the suggestion that Congress should completely ignore the $14 trillion debt and make no effort to try to pay for things? That seems quite extreme. People also expect their government to spend their dollars wisely, and to make efforts to prioritize and save when possible. They aren’t and shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive concepts."

Oh, but they ARE, Brad. They are. When your boss holds disaster relief funds hostage, even based on the principles of fiscal responsibility (har har), he crosses a line with disaster victims, and shows the cruel side of being out of touch with folks back home.

As it is, Cantor has suggested cutting first responders as a possible way to fund FEMA emergencies, which is just stupid beyond belief. He also claims that the funding for this relief was already approved and paid for with cuts elsewhere, but fails to explain that those cuts affected tornado and other disaster relief programs by reassigning those funds to Irene and earthquake relief efforts.

Nice going, Eric. Next time I'm in therapy because my back is all messed up, I'll quit that therapy altogether in order to get a needed root canal done. I hope you get voted out for this issue alone.

Oh, and here's a pro-tip: you should probably go ahead and add disaster relief funding to the list of uncuttable programs. At least that way the people who are currently digging out of previous disasters will know that you won't completely screw them over to score ideological brownie points with the extreme side of your party.

By the way, pointing this out to Eric Cantor's spokesman might get you blocked on Twitter.