Rove Blaming Obama For Failing To Repair All Bush Administration Problems

After the major failures of the Bush administration it has been common place for Bush apologists to try to claim that Obama has committed acts of incompetence comparable to those which were commonplace under Bush. On recent effort has been to try to label the BP oil spill Obama’s Katrina. Karl Rove claims this in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

As Think Progress points out  the most remarkable thing about this op-ed is that after years of defending the Bush administration’s approach to Katrina, Rove is now admitting that this was mishandled. There are major differences between the events. Obama didn’t  ignore warnings even before the even occurred as Bush did with Katrina. The two events do have one key factor in common–both were related to the hiring of political cronies and industry shills as opposed to competent regulators during the Bush years. Think Progress notes:

Rove’s analysis would be sharper if he noted that “Obama’s Katrina” actually highlights some very real Bush and Cheney failures. By filling the Minerals Management Service — the government agency responsible for regulating off shore oil drilling — with industry shills who took drugs and had sex with the officials they were supposed to be policing, the Bush administration dangerously eroded the regulatory regime, and missed warnings that could have helped prevent the BP disaster.

If Obama deserves any blame it is for not having repaired all the damage which the Bush administration has done to this country in sixteen months.

Update: Responses to Peggy Noonan’s attack on Obama’s competence due to the BP oil spill.

Republicans Ask America For Ideas

The Republicans want to be returned to the majority party but they have one problem which was painfully obvious the last time they were in the majority–they have no rational policies to promote. After all, when you think that everything the government does is bad it is hard to think of things to do when you run the government. To attempt to solve this problem the Republicans set up a web site to ask people what they should do.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of off the wall suggestions. It is certainly possible that some of the off the wall suggestions came from Democrats who just wanted to make the Republicans look ridiculous. While in some cases it is clear a submission isn’t serious, in most cases  actual Republican ideas are so ridiculous that it is  impossible to differentiate between their actual ideas and ideas presented to mock them.

Here’s some examples from the America Speaking Out site:

“End Child Labor Laws,” suggests one helpful participant. “We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories.”

“How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way,” recommends another. “That fake so called birth certificate is useless.”

“A ‘teacher’ told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!” a third complains. “And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.”

“Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there.” That was in the “national security” section of the new site.

“I say, repeal all the amendments to the Constitution.” (“American prosperity” section.)

“Don’t let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet ‘I’ on their chests — for ‘illegal’!!!” (Filed under “job creation.”)

“Require all Muslims in the U.S. to wear ankle bracelet transponders so we know where the terrorists are at all times.”

“We should administer capital punishment to anyone who has an abortion. In order to cut costs that the death penalty normally entails, we will have lax gun laws that will allow people to obtain guns with greater ease. Then we would allow the “free-market” to dictate whose philosophy wins out – the liberals irrational philosophy or our logical and God following philosophy. Liberals who have abortions would be taken care of by a militia of the willing who will get rid of all liberals who take the life others irrationally and will allow us to remove all of our opponents to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“all leaders should proclaim faith in Jesus Christ. anyone who does not, like muslims and atheists should be removed from office.”

“I’ve noticed lately that America’s birds are getting a little on the small side. The North African Ostrich is the world’s largest and therefore best bird. Why is it that the greatest country on earth doesn’t have the world’s biggest birds? Liberals want our birds to be small because they hate the Constitution. Jews did 9/11.”

“have Jesus turn water into gasoline”

“We need to take the government out of ALL public services. NO GOVERNMENT IN HEALTHCARE. Make it all private sector. Let Blockbuster run the ambulance services. Let Comcast schedule an appointment to put out a fire and tend to the injured. Let AT&T handle the police service (where available). THIS IS AMERICA!”

“Faith-based medicine and healing should be given the same respect as Western allopathic medicine.”

“Bomb any country that messes with us.”

“Simple idea: take the nukes we currently have pointed elsewhere, and aim them at Mecca. Then, announce to the muslim world that if Bin Laden is turned in (or proven beyond a doubt to be dead) within the next two years, we will not fire, will withdraw from all operations in muslim nations, and will pay the person who gives the penultimate tip 100 million dollars. If he is not turned in by then, and another attack is carried out…well, you know.”

“We have to repeal the 14th Amendmant. NONE of the “Bill of Rights” is in the original Constitution, and most of them were passed illegally, so we can show that 14 is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. That is the amendmant that makes “Anchor babies” and grows the illegal problem here in the USA.”

“The only law enforcement powers in the Constitution are given to the Militia – Art 1, Sec. 8, Para. 15 – The Militia is to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. The flood of illegal aliens is an invasion. Para. 16 requires the Government to arm the Militia. In case you don’t know — the Militia is, by law, Check your State Constitution, every able bodied man between 18 and 50. Certainly not the National Guard. Now, we should consider it to be men and women between 18 and 60. The Constitution requires the government to arm its Citizens so they can defend themselves. We need to tell congress to quit arguing over the 2nd Amendment and do your job.”

“Limit the size of any bill to a single subject that must fit in standard type on two sides of a sheet of legal paper.”

“They should send the Statue of “Liberty” back to France. We dont want your hungry tired poor, sorry! They should stay in France with you and your statue.”

“I should have the right to name my children using numbers. If I want to name my child l33t, I should be able to name him that, darsh gone it. Who is the guberment to say that I can’t name my children using numbers?”

“All naughty children should be baked into a pie.”

“Men should be prohibited from getting themselves off, because that is spilling seed, which is life. And women should be prohibited from menstruating because their eggs are life.”

After all that, this suggestion really sounds good:

“Stop wasting federal money on websites designed to make Americans feel like Republicans are actually listening to them.”

Gallup Poll Shows Greater Acceptance of Gay/Lesbian Relations

In 2004 one of the reasons that George Bush narrowly won reelection was by increasing turn out on the right by using ballot initiatives outlawing gay marriage. It worked for the Republicans in 2004 but they subsequently lost badly in 2006 and 2008. While the fundamentals of this year’s off-year election favor the party out of power, any victories by the Republican Party might just be a dead cat bounce as long term trends continue to work against the views of the authoritarian right.

Another example that Americans are gradually rejecting the views of the American Taliban comes in a new Gallup poll showing greater acceptance of gay relationships:

2001-2010 Trend: Perceived Moral Acceptability of Gay/Lesbian  Relations

Americans’ support for the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations crossed the symbolic 50% threshold in 2010. At the same time, the percentage calling these relations “morally wrong” dropped to 43%, the lowest in Gallup’s decade-long trend.

Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted each May, documents a gradual increase in public acceptance of gay relations since about 2006. However, the change is seen almost exclusively among men, and particularly men younger than 50.

Additionally, Gallup finds greater movement toward acceptance among independents and Democrats than among Republicans, and a big jump in acceptance among moderates. Liberals were already widely accepting of gay relations in 2006, and have remained that way, while conservatives’ acceptance continues to run low.

Notably, there has been a 16-point jump in acceptance among Catholics, nearly three times the increase seen among Protestants. Acceptance among Americans with no religious identity has expanded as well…

There is a gradual cultural shift under way in Americans’ views toward gay individuals and gay rights. While public attitudes haven’t moved consistently in gays’ and lesbians’ favor every year, the general trend is clearly in that direction. This year, the shift is apparent in a record-high level of the public seeing gay and lesbian relations as morally acceptable. Meanwhile, support for legalizing gay marriage, and for the legality of gay and lesbian relations more generally, is near record highs.

I think that sometime in the future we will reach a tipping point where intolerance of gays becomes as unacceptable as racism. Some on the right will hold on to their homophobia, as some have continued to embrace racism. This will further alienate right wing views from the mainstream, especially among younger voters (who unfortunately will not turn out in high numbers in 2010 if historical trends continue).

Jay Leno Sees Oil Spill As Consequence of Tea Party Views

Many right wingers have liked Jay Leno in the past primarily because he is not David Letterman. Leno might have reduced his standing on the right while Rand Paul has had a couple of days of really bad television coverage. It was bad enough when, after being only the third person in history to cancel an invitation to be on Meet the Press, David Gregory spent the first ten minutes of the show looking back at all of Paul’s gaffes. David Gregory then appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno Again. Leno got a couple attacks in on the Tea Parties:

Meanwhile Jay Leno wanted to know how come the Tea Partiers are showing up now and not back when the Bush administration was stomping all over the nation’s civil rights? Gregory thinks it’s simply because they’re more organized. But Leno persisted: “BP is the perfect example. BP seems to have done this on their own, they don’t pay attention, they essentially make their own rules, they pay off everybody…that’s what the Tea Party wants. That’s unregulated and look what happened.”

Happy Towel Day

Happy Towel Day, a holiday to celebrate the works of Douglas Adams. As The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy explains:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Lost Was About The Characters–Who Knew Little More Than The Fans

The Lost series finale tied up the stories on the island and explained the flash sideways, with fans disagreeing about how satisfactory this was. This review contains major spoilers along with a number of assumptions on my part in cases where no actual answers were given. These are subject to change as other fans invariably find more clues in previous episodes or in the commentary from the producers. [A few other ideas since the original post have been added in brackets.]

The series ended in reverse of how it began. In the first episode Jack opened an eye as he regained conscious after Oceanic 815 crashed. The finale ended with Jack closing his eye as he died. The series was always intended to be about Jack’s eventual death, but early on there was consideration of having this happen after only a few episodes.

The series had a number of intertwined stories but it was primarily about the characters from Oceanic 815 and a handful of others who interacted with them. The story of Jacob and his brother drove the plot, but this was secondary to what happened to the main characters.  Others such as Dharma and the Others  had an impact but in the end they were just people who happened to be there who did not turn out to be as important as it previously appeared.  [Or were some of them other candidates brought by Jacob who were corrupted by his brother?] In the end even the Charles Widmore storyline was reduced to his role being to deliver Desmond back to the island and soon afterward become an incidental casualty.

The series left the fans confused and it turned out in the end that those living on the island did not really know that much either. In the second from last episode Jacob explained to Kate that having her name crossed out was just a line of chalk which did not really alter whether she could have his job if she wanted it. It remains unclear how many of the rules behind the mythology were similarly like lines of chalk lacking real meaning.

When we learned the back story of Jacob and the Man in Black it did not appear that either really learned all that much about how the island worked before MIB killed their adopted mother. Rules such as that the two brothers could not kill each other, or that MIB could not kill Jacob’s candidates, were never given any explanation as to why they were binding. The rules did have loopholes as they were allowed to get others to do their killing. MIB’s motives centered around wanting to leave the island but there was never a good reason provided as to why Jacob could interact with those in the outside world but MIB could not leave.

Jacob had Desmond returned to the island because his immunity to electromagnetism would allow him to turn out the light on the island.  [He might have been prepared for this from the time spent in the hatch pushing the button.] The Man in Black, inhabiting Locke’s body in the finale, thought this would benefit him. Jack assumed the opposite since it was Jacob who had Desmond returned. For an epic battle to conclude the series, neither of the protagonists really knew the specifics of  what they were fighting over. In the end Jack was right in trusting that Jacob knew what he was doing as turning out the light resulted in MIB losing his immortality, allowing him to be killed. Jack then died himself after returning to restore the light.

Desmond was also wrong about what would occur, thinking that his actions would take everyone to an alternate reality in which exploding the bomb worked and the plane never crashed. Similarly Juliet was wrong in the season opener when she said “it worked.” Juliet, like a number of us watching the show, were fooled by seeing the flash sideways world that this was an alternate reality where they all had a second chance. [The words “it worked” also have been carried over from the flash sideways when Juliet was showing Sawyer how to get the candy out of the vending machine . She might have been using the same words in both realities or she might have only been speaking of the vending machine.]

Exploding the bomb blew the characters back into the present but it did not work to change the past. The plan never worked and the only earthbound reality was the narrative which took place on the island. [The island may have kept them alive, along with returning them to the present, because the island still needed them.]

Finding that the flash sideways were just a mental creation after everyone died has been somewhat frustrating. After spending the season thinking as Desmond and Juliet did we found out that any time spent trying to understand this was wasted.  Early in the series there was speculation that everyone on the island was in a type of purgatory and we were reassured that this was not the case. We would have felt cheated if this was the only explanation for everything throughout the entire series. It is acceptable but still somewhat a disappointment to find that being in a type of purgatory was the explanation for the flash sideways sequences.

The flash sideways sequences primarily showed a scenario with the passengers returning safely to Los Angeles with the island under the ocean. I had questioned throughout the season whether there was a contradiction between being told on the island that it would be disastrous for the entire world if the light went out but it didn’t seem to matter in the flash sideways.

There were also changes in the characters beyond not being in the crash. Initially I believed that they were a consequence of the island not being present and Jacob not interfering in their lives. Now we know that the changes never occurred, but may have helped characters resolve their internal conflict. The most significant was that Jack resolved some of the father-son issues he had by having a son.

While in earlier episodes it seemed difficult for characters to regain their memories of the island, it became common place in the finale, especially when characters encountered their true loves. In most cases it made sense that they were based upon relationships on the island, but I would still think that Sayid would have preferred to spend eternity with Nadia as opposed to Shannon. Regardless of my questions about this couple, the finale made clear what was apparent throughout the series that this was largely a number of love stories in an exotic location.

As Christian Sheppard explained to Jack, those in the flash sideways were in a place which was outside of time in which everyone that mattered to them could be together regardless of when they died. Many of the characters died at different points during the series. Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Miles, Frank and Richard escaped in the plane and presumably died at various points in the future. Rose and Bernard probably lived out their life enjoying an island paradise. Hurley became immortal to protect the island as Jacob had and presumably lived into the far distant future before he died. Of course not everyone could join them. Even though Ben became a good number two to Hurley in protecting the island, the evil he did in his past prevented him from being one of the group in eternity. [Or perhaps he remained behind to wait for others who were the most significant people in his life.] Michael and others also remained on the island as whispers unable to pass over due to acts they committed during their lives.

The finale left many questions unanswered, and not being real erased the questions about the flash sideways world too easily. While not completely satisfying, this is probably the best which could have been done to tie up all the mysteries from the past six years. The mythology of the show has lots of holes which must be accepted by faith but it did turn out to be internally consistent and to a considerable degree even make some sense. More importantly, the show must ultimately be seen as the stories of the characters who got caught up in this mythology more than a story with a fully explained set of situations.

Update: I added a few additional ideas in brackets to the original post.

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SciFi Weekend: Finales For Lost, 24, Fringe, V, and FlashForward

It is a big week for television finales, especially with Lost concluding tonight and 24 concluding tomorrow night. The possibility of future movies might prevent a definitive ending to Jack’s story on 24 but we have been promised that everything will end tonight on Lost (with the exception of a few goodies being held back to help sell the DVD’s).

While Lost had a strong episode last week, it seems pointless to talk about it in depth when the conclusion is just a couple hours away. I suspect that the biggest mystery to be answered will be about the meaning of the two alternative time lines shown all season and how they play into the overall story of the main characters. We have learned a lot about the history of the island and the battle between Jacob and the Man in Black. Many points remain murky, and I bet most of them will be left that way.

The best season finale for a genre show so far has been with Fringe, which has improved tremendously from the first season. (Major spoilers ahead). Until the final moments it seemed that, at least for now, this story about the alternate world was concluded and it was not clear where they were heading for the third season.

The final moments answered that as we found that the alternative Olivia with the hotter hair style had replaced the Olivia of our universe. Seeing characters being replaced by others has been a common science fiction plot device, including Sydney Bristol’s room mate Fancie on Alias and even on Fringe with Olivia’s partner Charlie. It changes the show even more to have the main character being replaced by their evil twin–as if the Kirk of the mirror universe managed to pass as Kirk and remain. Now either Walter and Peter must figure this out on our side and return to free Olivia, and/or the Olivia from our universe must escape from solitary confinement and find a way to return–without William Bell’s help.

V ended the season with almost everyone taking a side. The conclusion with Anna experiencing human emotion and turning the sky red might force the rest of the planet to do the same. At very least it might get the Visitors to install better security on their ship.

The show has lost much of the appeal of the original series (at least early on) which used a Nazi allegory to have the Visitors gradually take over. Instead the producers of the remake decided to go with analogies to terrorism instead, but there was little meaningful to do with this. Rather than renewing V, I would have preferred that ABC had renewed FlashForward.

FlashForward has one episode to go and it is interesting to see many, but not all, of the characters falling into the positions they saw themselves in at the start of the season. Unfortunately while we should see what happens on that day the show will not have the time to address the questions it raised about those who caused the flash forward to occur.

The True War Over Economic Dogma

Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, takes liberties with the meaning of the culture war to write in The Washington Post that free enterprise versus government control is the next culture war. While there are problems with the economic views expressed in the article which other bloggers such as Matt Zeitlin have discussed,I’m more interested in the erroneous framing used by Brooks. Brooks begins:

This is not the culture war of the 1990s. It is not a fight over guns, gays or abortion. Those old battles have been eclipsed by a new struggle between two competing visions of the country’s future. In one, America will continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise — limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable. We must choose.

It is not at all clear which side will prevail. The forces of big government are entrenched and enjoy the full arsenal of the administration’s money and influence. Our leaders in Washington, aided by the unprecedented economic crisis of recent years and the panic it induced, have seized the moment to introduce breathtaking expansions of state power in huge swaths of the economy, from the health-care takeover to the financial regulatory bill that the Senate approved Thursday. If these forces continue to prevail, America will cease to be a free enterprise nation.

Brooks cites polls which show that Americans by wide margins support free enterprise. That is certainly correct but what Brooks misses is that a large majority of Americans support the actual American free market system which has been successful, while smaller numbers support the faux capitalism that those on the far right advocate.

While Brooks tries to portray those who disagree with his positions as supporting government control, the reality is that most people in this country, left and right, support some version of a free market system. Only a small minority on the left support socialism while there are some on the right who support a system which would better be described as fascism than capitalism if not for all the other negative connotations of the word.

The far right promotes a free market philosophy which denies virtually any role for government. They are essentially demonstrating the same fallacious thinking as Rand Paul in his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

In general there is little controversy in this country as to the benefits of a free market economy. Where the far right is mistaken is in believing that Adam Smith’s invisible hand will correct all problems, ignoring the fact that even Adam Smith saw a role for government.

Markets are the creations of men, and are at danger of men abusing the system. The profit motivations in the free market system often does result in what Brooks refers to as human flourishing. However at times the market system fails to work and provides incentives which are not beneficial to the nation.

One example has been with the health insurance industry which found that it was more profitable to find ways to deny health care to the sick than to provide for such care. This resulted in a need for government to step in and reform the system. This reform was not motivated by people who are opposed to the free market system. It is a market-oriented system which will result in even more people being covered by the private insurance industry than there currently are. The right distorts the facts in calling this a government take over of health care. In reality, even the American Medical Association which typically opposes government intervention supported health care reform, seeing this as increasing freedom of choice for both patients and physicians.

The war is not between supporters and opponents of a free market system but is based upon disagreements over the nature of the system. Liberals want to see a free market system in which everyone has the opportunity to participate and profit from their work.

The results of Republican economic policies have been to transfer wealth from the middle class to the upper class and bring us to the brink of depression. Many on the right try to disassociate themselves from Republican policies, ignoring the harm done by over-zealous deregulation. They protest that George Bush didn’t follow their policies but the reality is that their policies would be so disastrous that most Republicans in office will never follow them to the letter. Even Ronald Reagan raised taxes as opposed to blindly following the dogma that lowering taxes is the way for governments to increase revenue.

The American Enterprise Institute does not really advocate a serious economic policy. They claim credit for the benefits of a free market system which has little to do with their beliefs and distort economics to find ways to justify paying less taxes and escape necessary regulation.

Television Schedule Update

If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press without Rand Paul.

Texas School Board Drops American History Down The Memory Hole

The Texas social studies curriculum requirements which I discussed a few days ago have passed on a party line vote. Needless to say, it was the more Taliban-like party which supported remodeling our educational system more along the Soviet model to promote ideological purity.The Texas Board of Education has voted to drop the actual facts about our history down an Orwellian memory hole.

The new standards ignore the views of the founding fathers and are written based upon the mistaken belief of the Republicans that the United States was founded as a Christian country. They ignore the actual beliefs of the Founding Fathers–denying their intent to form a secular government which includes separation of church and state. Presumably to avoid being embarrassed by the writings of Thomas Jefferson, which make it clear that the First Amendment was intended to create a wall of separation between church and state, the new standards remove Jefferson from a list of enlightened thinkers in world history.

There are multiple other historical fictions which will be taught, for example:

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated — something most historians deny — draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses, say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty, and include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.

This is the second incident this week showing a problem with federalism. coming after Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul expressed opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Personally I think that the reactionaries on the Texas school board who desire to use children in their political games should be charged with child abuse.

The new standards are to be instituted in the fall of 2011. One fear is that the size of the Texas market might lead publishers to change text books sold nationally to meet these standards. Several states are considering legislation to prohibit the use of text books which are rewritten on such ideological grounds. I wonder if this might even accelerate a move towards ebooks in the classrooms, making it easier to have books with different versions of history available. If hard copies are made they might even have red and blue covers.

In addition to efforts by other state legislatures to prohibit the purchase of text books written with such ideological bias I would love to see universities refuse to accept diplomas from Texas high schools and require applicants from Texas to pass a high school equivalency exam which includes actual American history.

The Texas Freedom Network has been posting information on the curriculum along with attempting to fight the changes.

Update: I now read that, in response to national criticism, Thomas Jefferson has been rehabilitated. Positively Orwellian.