Republicans Pledge More Of The Same

The Republicans have released a draft of their Pledge to America and it is as expected. For once I agree with Erick Erickson who writes, “It is dreck,” even if not for the same reasons.

Their economic policy remains tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy and more of the Republican economic policies which have crippled our economy. They falsely attack health care reform as “the government takeover of healthcare” and advocate replacing it with changes which will give insurance companies even greater power to restrict care and interfere with doctor-patient decisions.

Republicans, knowing their base, also show they plan to continue gay bashing. They complain that there is “an arrogant and out-of-touch of self-appointed elites” which makes decisions for others while reaffirming their belief that it is the government, not the individual, who should control women’s bodies.The Republicans are the real arrogant and out-0f-touch elites.

The pledge writes about cuts on government, hoping voters will forget these are the same promises Republicans gave in their Contract With America before expanding government spending and the increasing the deficit.

They propose to require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority, but they are speaking of the imaginary Constitution in the heads of right wingers, not the Constitution which was written by the Founding Fathers. Republicans  ignore the goal of the Founding Fathers to create a secular government while acting as if the Founders were narrow-minded conservative ideologues of the modern right wing. In reality they were liberals who understood both the need for government and the need for Constitutional limitations upon its powers. If anything, Republicans in power have certainly demonstrated the need for turning to the Constitution to oppose the increases in Executive power and government power over the individual supported by Republicans.

While it is probably too much to hope for, I hope that the response to this document from most Americans is, “We won’t be fooled again.”

Republicans Officially Sticking To Their Backwards Views On Social Issues

The conservative movement is an authoritarian movement which is out of step with the times and with American values. Republicans are trying to play down social issues this year, which politically makes sense during a bad economy(assuming you can ignore the fact that it it was Republican policies which led to the economic mess). Republicans and Tea Party leaders have often called upon voters to ignore social issues and vote for them to fix the economy–neither of which makes any sense.

The socially conservative views of the Tea Party movement have been quite clear as noted previously. The Republican Party is sticking to far right views on social issues in their soon to be unveiled agenda.

An election year agenda being unveiled by House Republicans Thursday will include language affirming the party’s support of “traditional marriage” and its opposition to abortion rights, House GOP sources tell POLITICO.

Many Republicans, including those in the Tea Party movement, oppose abortion even in case of rape or incest.

Update: Draft of the full text of the pledge has been released.

O’Donnell Avoiding News Media As It Won’t Help Her Win

Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for those who find Sarah Palin too intellectual, is following Palin’s lead in avoiding tough questions from the press. She vows to stay away from that pesky news medial. The Hill reports:

Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell said Tuesday night that she would not make any more national media appearances between now and Election Day.

In an interview on Fox News’s “Hannity” show, O’Donnell, who canceled spots on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday” last weekend, said that going on national-media outlets would not help her win the election.

I wasn’t aware that the role of the national media is to help candidates win elections.

A recent Fox poll found that O’Donnell was trailing Democrat Chris Coons by fifteen points in the Delaware Senate race. It looks like there will not be a happy ending for Christine O’Donnell (which might be said win or lose).

Ronald Reagan Wouldn’t Fit Into Today’s GOP

I’ve often noted that Barry Goldwater, often called an early leader of the conservative movement, was a strong opponent of the religious right and social conservatism. In his later years he called himself a liberal, and held many positions which would make him unwelcome in today’s Republican Party. Republicans frequently bring up Ronald Reagan’s name, but they have even moved to the right of Reagan.

Some of Reagan’s economic advisers have already been tilting towards Democratic policies, and Reagan’s tax increases would not be accepted by the tea party conservatives of today. One Republican who lost a primary challenge to Republicans also pointed out another reason why Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp would not be accepted by today’s GOP:

Inglis, a Palmetto State Republican who was defeated earlier this year in a conservative primary challenge, said that “optimistic” conservatives might have been threatened by the conservative Tea Party movement.

“Well, not so much moderates. Surely, maybe they’re unwelcome, but also conservatives of the optimistic sort,” Inglis said during an appearance on CNN in response to a question about whether centrists were being forced out of the GOP.

“I think this would be a tough time for Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp,” Inglis added. “They were optimists that believe in America. Right now, unfortunately, conservatism is being presented with a voice of snarling rather than a face of smiling, and it really doesn’t fit America.”

Inglis also pointed out how the Tea Party movement is fostering fear and division in politics.

Ronald Reagan certainly wouldn’t fit into the Tea Party version of the GOP, but I wonder if this is because the whole conservative movement has moved beyond Reagan, or if this is a reflection of the current leadership. The Republican Party just might be a little more open (even if still too conservative for our tastes) if still led by people like Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp.

Democrats Take Slight Lead In Generic Ballot–But Their Problems Are Far From Over

The Democrats have taken a meaningless one point Gallup’s generic Congressional poll, not long after they came back from a ten point deficit to tie. They lead in other generic polls and trail in others. As I’ve pointed out in the past, these generic polls mean little as we are dealing with a large number of individual votes.

There has been talk today about the Democrats working to nationalize the race by running adds against the Tea Party. The New York Times reported yesterday (later denied) that the Obama White House was planning to run ads tying the Republican Party to the extremists in the Tea Party:

President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

“We need to get out the message that it’s now really dangerous to re-empower the Republican Party,” said one Democratic strategist who has spoken with White House advisers but requested anonymity to discuss private strategy talks.

Democrats are divided. The party’s House and Senate campaign committees are resistant, not wanting to do anything that smacks of nationalizing the midterm elections when high unemployment and the drop in Mr. Obama’s popularity have made the climate so hostile to Democrats. Endangered Congressional candidates want any available money to go to their localized campaigns.

Late Sunday night, White House advisers denied that a national ad campaign was being planned. “There’s been no discussion of such a thing at the White House” or the Democratic National Committee, said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser.

Proponents say a national ad campaign, most likely on cable television, would complement those individual campaigns and give Democrats a chance to redefine the stakes. The Democratic strategist said voters did not now see much threat to them from a Republican takeover of Congress, even though some Tea Party-backed candidates and other Republicans have taken positions that many voters consider extreme, like shutting down the government to get their way, privatizing Social Security and Medicare and ending unemployment insurance.

Running ads against reactionary Republican proposals makes more sense than specifically targeting the Tea Party. The Tea Party candidates who have won primaries are now officially Republican candidates. It will do more good to show how extremist the Republicans are as opposed to concentrating on the Tea Parties. Polls show most Americans disagree with the Tea Party and that their support is now dropping, but many voters (including Howard Dean) are still unclear on what the movement actually is.

I don’t buy the Democratic objections based upon nationalizing the election. The election has already been nationalized. Running away from the Democratic Party only leaves many voters wondering why they should vote for them. This is especially foolish (other than perhaps in some conservative districts) considering the many successes which the Democrats have had in office, and as polls show a majority of people do prefer Democratic policies over Republican ones. Democrats need to campaign on how they have improved the economy, even if the job is not yet complete. They need to run on how they have prevented insurance companies from being able to drop people’s insurance when they get sick, and are taking action to help the over fifty million who lack health insurance. They need to run on their support for reproductive rights and stem cell research. If they really had any guts, they would even take credit for supporting the principle of separation of church and state which the Founding Fathers realized was so important.

While the two parties are virtually tied in the generic ballot, Republicans currently have a strong lead when it comes to being enthusiastic about voting. Is it any surprise that Democrats are not enthusiastic when many Democrats are running away from Democratic policies? Negative campaigns do work, and the Democrats very well might increase enthusiasm for voting by showing how awful it would be if Republicans do win. It might do even more good if they gave some positive reasons for voting for the Democrats. I will turn out to vote for the Democrats since they are the only major  party on the ballot which is not bat-shit crazy–but not all that enthusiastically.

SciFi Weekend: Cliff Hangers, Old and New

Locutus of Borg Jon Luc Picarddde

iO9 has compiled a list of the top science fiction cliff hangers on television. I don’t think there will be much controversy over choosing Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as the best of all time. Discussion of how the  Borg could be defeated, how Jean-Luc Picardwould be saved after being turned into a Borg, and whether Ryker would really fire on Picard dominated the CompuServe forums over the summer in those days before the internet replaced it. The hype from this episode also was responsible for turning what had been a so-so remake into a major science fiction series.

A recent episode of Doctor Who, The Pandorica Opens made the list. While some object to the manner in which the Doctor got out of the Pandorica, what bigger cliff hanger can you have than the end of the universe?

There were other memorable cliff hangers listed. This included Zha’dum (Babylon 5) when Sheridan obeyed Kosh’s voice telling him to jump, Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2 (Battlestar Galactica) which jumped the series ahead a year when unprepared humans living on New Caprica were conquered by Cylons, and The Incident (Lost) in which Julia detonated the bomb in hopes of changing history.

There are some cliff hangers from last season I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion of. The mid-season cliff hanger episode of Caprica contained several cliff-hangers. Last season’s cliff hanger from Fringe made the list. And, while not science fiction, I’m sure curious to find out how Jeff responds to both Britta and Professor Slater declaring his love for him followed by the ending with Jeff kissing Annie on Community. Personally I’d like to see him date Annie while Britta goes crazy with jealousy. Besides, I’d much rather see Alison Brie with Jeff on Community than as Pete Campbell’s wife Trudy on Mad Men.

Dexter also ended with a significant cliff hanger last season. Blogcritics reviews the first few episodes of the upcoming season, including this bit of news:

According to executive producer, Sara Colleton, this will be the year to “take a break from having a one season-long adversary. So as Dexter’s grief goes through different stages, different characters will play their part and yet eventually, these characters interlock to form a a worthy adversary for Dexter.”

In the final scene of the third episode, there is a stunning moment: a twist so totally unexpected, you’ll curse the fact you’ll have to wait a week to see what happens next.

Disney Fantasmic Mickey Mouse

We’ve seen many characters reimagined, including Superman, Batman, and Iron-Man. Next we will get Epic Mickey, coming in a game  for the Nintendo Wii:

Disney has hinted that Epic Mickey is kind of a reboot for the beloved character – one that takes him from cute and cuddly cartoon icon to brave and embattled warrior. The questions now are manifold: Will Disney turn off potential gamers who prefer the Mickey of old? Will the game be dark and intriguing enough to appeal to “core” gaming audiences? And, perhaps most importantly, given flagging interest in the mouse, does Disney have a choice?

That’s nothing all that radical–just go to Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On a related note, there are rumors that Jon Hamm will star in the next reboot of Superman.

Cliff hangers sometimes lead to the death of characters. In case that happens Eternal Image sells urns fit for a true Star Trek fan. It comes in two models– one says “To Boldly Go” and the other that says “The Voyage Continues.”

GOP Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell Is Something Which Rhymes with “Bitch”

Christine O’Donnell appears to be following Sarah Palin’s path in avoiding the media and has canceled her scheduled appearances on Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday. When the GOP propagandists at Fox are too much for a Republican candidate they really must realize they are not ready for prime time (or in this case, Sunday morning).

Unfortunately for O’Donnell, Bill Maher has a collection of  videos from previous appearances on his show, including the one above in which she discussed how she “dabbled in witchcraft.” Maher threatened to continue to show these videos unless she appears on his show. “I’m just saying, Christine, it’s like a hostage crisis,” he said, “every week you don’t show up, I’m going to throw another body out.” Besides exposing her interest in witchcraft, he might delve further into her belief in young-earth creationsim.

Maher also took credit for creating O’Donnell:

Last night, Real Time aired its first show of the current season. Maher began by mocking O’Donnell, calling her “an uemployed, anti-masturbation activist and a close friend of mine.” “I created her,” Maher told the audience, turning to the camera and stating, “You owe me Christine O’Donnell.” Maher said that he has great fondness for O’Donnell, adding, “She does not have a mean bone in her body, or any other bone in her body.”

Why Howard Dean Is Wrong In Seeing Any Value In The Tea Party Movement

Howard Dean has made many liberals wonder whether he ever did really represent the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party with his comments on the Tea Party:

“I actually approve of most of what the tea party is doing… I think it’s great to have individuals reach out to take their own responsibility for their own [future] and lashing out against government that has really forgotten them… but I also believe that there is a fringe of racism in the tea party, which unfortunately for the tea party that is focused on” by the media.

If you look at this superficially, his comments on individuals lashing out against the government might make sense. What Dean misses is that these people support conservative government and only lash out against liberal government (or their misconceptions of what the government is doing based upon misinformation spread by people like Glenn Beck). They weren’t out protesting against the economic policies of George Bush which created this economic mess. They weren’t out there protesting against the abuses of civil liberties, Republicans lying us into an unnecessary and foolish war, or the expansion of power for the Executive Branch. However when faced with a center-left Democrat (who actually would be center-right in Europe) they scream of an imaginary socialist threat

It actually would be a good thing if we had a fiscally conservative movement which was rational in their review of Democratic spending proposals and which didn’t carry all the other baggage of the authoritarian right. Unfortunately the Tea Party fails badly on both counts. Rather than providing a useful opposition which forces the Democrats to justify their spending before offering approval, the Tea Party blindly oppose everything.

There is a wide variety of individuals in the Tea Party movement but none of them have shown any grasp of how the budget really works. There is very little discretionary spending in the budget and in order to reduce the deficit as they demand three things must be done: 1) raise taxes, 2) slash military spending, and 3) slash spending on entitlements. Few, if any, in the Tea Party would go for either the first or second. Some would support cutting entitlements but this would launch a schism in the movement as others would protest any cuts in their Medicare.

The other problem remains that, even though the Tea Parties officially stress economic issues, these people have not suddenly dropped all their other views. The Tea Party is just today’s name for the far right wing of the Republican Party. This is just another reenactment of Rockefeller versus Goldwater in 1964, with both sides now considerably far to the right of both of them. Obviously there are no liberal Republicans such as Rockefeller on either side, and Barry Goldwater rejected the social conservatism seen in the Tea Party when he declared himself to be a liberal in his later years.

Andrew Sullivan explained how there isn’t any common ground between left and right in responding to a post by Jesse Walker:

If only a left/right alliance would cooperate to end the drug war, get a grand compromise on the debt, and rein in defense spending and police state creep. But seriously, does Jesse really believe that the Tea Party would do any of these things?

Yes, they are, for the most part, emphasizing economic and fiscal issues, which is wonderful, even though they have no actual realistic plans to cut spending by the amount they would have to if taxes are not to rise. But that does not mean they have in any way forsaken the social issues substantively. Name a tea-party candidate who is pro-choice. Name one who backs marriage equality. Name one who wants to withdraw from Afghanistan beginning next year. Name one who has opposed torture. Name one who has the slightest qualms about police powers. Name one who would end the military ban on gays serving openly, and take even the slightest political risk on any of these subjects.

I welcome the belated right-wing opposition to out-of-control government spending. But the one thing you have to note about tea-party fervor is that none of it existed when they had real leverage over a Republican president, who spent us into bankruptcy. That tells you something. And if you think a party led by Palin will not embrace every neocon crusade or Christianist social policy, you’re dreaming.

Despite taking symbolism from the American Revolution, keep in mind that in any analogy to the revolution the far right would be the Tories, opposing  the revolution and opposing liberals who share the ideals of the Founding Fathers.

Uninsured Tops Fifty Million

The Census Bureau has released new data. Not surprisingly, as the number of people living in poverty, who are unemployed, or who are under-employed has increased in recent years, the number of people without health insurance  is at a new high at 50.7 million. This is certainly a number to keep in mind when Republicans try to repeal health care reform measures which will greatly reduce this number. Some additional numbers:

  • The number of people with health insurance decreased from 255.1 million in 2008 to 253.6 million in 2009. Since 1987, the first year that comparable health insurance data were collected, this is the first year that the number of people with health insurance has decreased.
  • Between 2008 and 2009, the number of people covered by private health insurance decreased from 201.0 million to 194.5 million, while the number covered by government health insurance climbed from 87.4 million to 93.2 million. The number covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 176.3 million to 169.7 million. The number with Medicaid coverage increased from 42.6 million to 47.8 million.
  • Comparable health insurance data were first collected in 1987. The percentage of people covered by private insurance (63.9 percent) is the lowest since that year, as is the percentage of people covered by employment-based insurance (55.8 percent). In contrast, the percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs (30.6 percent) is the highest since 1987, as is the percentage covered by Medicaid (15.7 percent).
  • In 2009, 10.0 percent (7.5 million) of children under 18 were without health insurance. Neither estimate is significantly different from the corresponding 2008 estimate.
  • The uninsured rate for children in poverty (15.1 percent) was greater than the rate for all children.
  • In 2009, the uninsured rates decreased as household income increased: from 26.6 percent for those in households with annual incomes less than $25,000 to 9.1 percent in households with incomes of $75,000 or more.

Right Wing News Picks The Top Conservative Blogs

While I was growing up long before the days of blogs, talk radio, and Fox I regularly read National Review and Human Events. Initially (for a very brief time) I found them to be of interest because they spoke of advocating freedom, and they reported on things which I didn’t read about in the more mainstream newspapers and magazines I read. It didn’t take long, even as a teenager when I began reading these publications, to realize that they spoke of freedom in an Orwellian sense, and the material they reported on was generally either trivial or  probably fictitious. In other words, not all that much has changed in the conservative media.

Despite this revelation, I continued to read the two publications, among many others, for several years as a means to keep up with what those I disagreed with were thinking. Plus back in those days it was far more common than today for conservatives to sometimes have something of value to say. In more recent years I have dropped many of my subscriptions, including to the two conservative magazines, as a variety of views are now easily available on the internet at no charge. This includes both on line versions of magazines and blogs.

It definitely makes sense to read conservative views first hand, even if for no other reason than to know the “enemy.” I could suggest some conservative bloggers, but for some reason those I find to make the most sense have found their popularity in the conservative movement diminish. Conservatives tend to frown up conservative bloggers who write that conservative economic ideas wound up screwing up the economy, and they especially don’t like those who write about how the conservative movement has been taken over by people who are bat-shit crazy.

As my choices for conservatives who are worth reading will not give a good insight into the current conservative movement, I’ll defer these recommendations to a conservative blog. Right Wing News has compiled a list of the 40 Best Conservative Blogs. There’s even some I haven’t read which I’ll have to check out, although I fear I might become disappointed if I go in expecting some sanity. As a quick test, it would be interesting to see how many of these off the wall beliefs, now far too common in the conservative movement, are expressed in them: Support for creationism, opposition to the scientific consensus on climate change, belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim, belief that Obama is not a natural born American citizen, belief that Saddam was involved in 9/11, belief that there was WMD in Iraq which threatened us at the onset of the war, belief that tax cuts always lead to increased revenue, belief that health care reform was a “government takeover of health care,” belief that Sarah Palin is qualified to hold national office, or belief that anything Glenn Beck says can be taken seriously.