Posted tagged ‘GOP Follies’

Annals of Stupidity Update–More on the GOP Hates Science beat

July 24, 2011

I didn’t get around to  flagging this on the day, but I’ve just arrived in Shanghai, and the China connection in the folly below reminded me I’d meant to write on this one.

I’m here to take part in a workshop for East Asian journalists on covering climate change, and for science journalism instructors to think about how to teach this odd craft.  This is exactly the kind of exchange IMHO, that might be kind of useful in a world in which a range of issues facing the public demand both knowledge and analytical skill manifest across society, if anything like democratic informed consent is ever to be achieved.

Sadly, this is not a priority for your modern GOP.  In fact, it is something that our empiricism-averse friends on the right actively seem to oppose.

That’s the conclusion I draw from this New York Times article, published just a little over a week ago:

A proposal by Rep. Frank Wolf, a fierce critic of Beijing, would slash by 55 percent the $6.6 million budget of the White House’s science policy office. The measure was endorsed by a congressional committee this week, but faces more legislative hurdles, and its prospects are unclear.

IIRC, this blog (others) have been on aspects of the GOP fear of technical cooperation in any form with China.  Wolf in particular has sought to block US-China exchange of information about their space programs, which the GOP has already banned, despite

….one benefit of basic forms of cooperation, such as sharing data and basic design criteria, could be to learn a little more about China’s opaque space program. Since 1999, the U.S. effectively banned use of its space technology by China. That also has a commercial downside for American producers in an increasingly globalized marketplace.

“Renewing civil and commercial space cooperation with China … is not a blank check and need not provide China with sensitive technologies,” wrote James Clay Moltz of the Naval Postgraduate School in testimony at a congressional hearing on China’s civilian and military space programs in May.

Economic and national security costs don’t seem to bother Wolf, who has already succeeded in attaching a ban on NASA-China Space Agency cooperation to a bill that made its way through committee in the House this month, (which is to say, fortunately, it’s still a long way from becoming law).

But that act against US interests is not sufficient to slake Wolf’s thirst for stupid.

Because of what he alleges to be Science Advisor John Holdren’s violation of the earlier rules on US-China contact on space, he now wants to crash the entire enterprise of providing high-level science advice to the President.  Holdren’s “crime”:

Meeting twice with China’s science minister in Washington during May.

Uhhh.  The top US science advisor meets with the relevant minister from, you know, the world’s most populous nation, one which is developing enormously rapidly, and oh, by the way, holds a gazillion or so in US government debt…and that great sin of conversation Wolf says, means that  “The Office of Science and Technology Policy is in violation of the law,”

Wolf’s remedy? Cut either 55% or all of the OSTP’s budget


Anyone who thinks that the Republican Party is actually a political institution capable of governing and suitable to be entrusted with a share of power is not paying attention.  They’re a cult.

That is all.

Image: Quentin Massys, An Allegory of Folly, early 16th century.

I do believe I’ve used this one before.  But I just can’t quit it, because there are some motley characters out there who so fit the image.


Sitting Republican Senators Who Voted to “Raise” Taxes for Next Year

July 21, 2010

I started this post yesterday, put it aside to listen to some very loud, very find jazz last night, and got up this morning to find that Paul Krugman got there first (as usual).

But just to amplify the point:

As you listen to Republican officeholders and their co-conspirators  complain that allowing the middle-to-rich-redistributive Bush tax cuts to lapse on schedule amounts to an Obama/Democratic tax increase, please remember those current members of the Grand Old Party’s delegation in the United States Senate who voted in favor of this “increase.”

They are:

Lamar Alexander, TN

Robert Bennett, UT

Kit Bond, MO

Sam Brownback, KS

Jim Bunning, KY

Saxby Chambliss, GA

Thad Cochran, MS

Susan Collins, ME

John Coryn, TX

Mike Crapo, ID

John Ensign, NV

Mike Enzi, WY

Lindsay Graham, NC

Chuck Grassley, IA

Judd Gregg, NH

Orrin Hatch, UT

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, TX

Jim Inhofe, OK

Jon Kyl, AZ

Richard Lugar, IN

Mitch McConnell, KY

Lisa Murkowski, AK

Pat Roberts, KS

Jeff Sessions, AL

Richard Shelby, AL

Olympia Snowe, ME

Arlen Spector then R, now D-PA

George Voinovich, OH

Twenty eight of the 50 “aye” votes on H.R. 2, the Bush tax death warrant on the Federal budget, remain in the US Senate.  27 of them are still Republicans, including all six of the current Republican leadership team. You will hear repeatedly over the next few days and weeks from them about the horrors of “increasing taxes” in a recession — and how once again it is the Democratic party seeking to worsen the tax burden Americans must bear.

But never forget:  each one of them voted for a bill that said very clearly that the Bush era tax reductions were temporary, by law set to expire this year.  Not one Democrat then, and only one new Democrat, Arlen Spector, voted for that tax “increase.”  The Republicans did.  Every last one of them sitting in the Senate that year.  It’s their fault, and their responsibility.

Of course, as Ezra Klein points out, the real issue is that the GOP then was doing what the GOP does a lot these days.  Lying about what they are doing, lying about fiscal matters, lying about the implications and the consequences of their actions.  There was never any intention to allow these taxes to lapse.  The expiration date made it into the bill to reduce the apparent cost of this enormous transfer of wealth from the American middle and working classes to the rich. If the tax rate changes had been made permanent, the pricetag would –might — have been too much even for the habitual economical recklessness that defines the contemporary Republican party.

There was an assumption hidden within all that, of course, which was that the GOP was on its way to building a lasting majority, however precarious it may have been in that 50-50 divided Senate.  But it didn’t work out that way, in large part because the Republican elite has shown itself to be hugely successful as an opposition force, but a disaster as a governing body. So now faced with the blunt fact that the exact bill they voted for is in fact the law of the land, they do the only thing they know how to do:  pretend it didn’t turn out as badly as it did, and blame the Democrats for trying to address the reality of the situation.

Makes for great Fox soundbites and Serious People™ appearances on NPR.  But to get there you have to lie, distort your own complicity, and, along the way, double down on a policy whose failure is obvious now even to some of its former architects.

All this is a long winded way of saying that the deceptive GOP debating tactics on the fate of the Bush tax cuts is just one more reminder of why these people cannot be trusted with actual power, certainly no more of it than they already abuse.

Image:  Marinus Claesz van Reymerswaele, “Two Tax Collectors,” c. 1540

Can I Just Say…

October 14, 2009

That of all GOP figures, I hope that Michael Steele enjoys a long and storied — and I do mean storied — career as RNC capo.


Because in these often dark days, I need as much as I can get of writing like this.

“Steele is apparently unschooled on the history of train/cow confrontations.”

Heads turn as I snort in public.

Image:  JR EC TYPE151 KURO151.

Ambinder’s Follies, Redux

October 7, 2008

Ambinder had a true howler today, one not picked up, so far as I can find on a quick search, as it should have been.

In what he billed as “The Daily Racism Debate,” Ambinder chided Barney Frank for having the temerity to suggest that the GOP and its allies might have had a racist edge when they blamed lending under the Community Reinvestment Act for the collapse in the housing market, and hence for the global financial crisis that we now endure.

Here’s what Frank said:

“They get to take things out on poor people,” Frank said at a mortgage foreclosure symposium in Boston. “Let’s be honest: The fact that some of the poor people are black doesn’t hurt them either, from their standpoint. This is an effort, I believe, to appeal to a kind of anger in people.”

Here’s Ambinder’s considered take on this apparently offensive statement, fisked lightly:

Had it not been for the Community Reinvestment Act and the cheap mortgages provided by Fannie and Freddie, a lot of poor, black people wouldn’t have homes.

Quick sleight of hand notice here:  Freddie and Fannie got Bush administration to meet affordable housing goals by buying up subprime mortgages; far from being a consequence of CRA rules, the two F’s exposure to the riskiest class of loans was increased as a part of mendacious and incompetent administration’s attempt to avoid the messy business of housing the poor.

But a lot of poor white people wouldn’t have homes either. So it’s classist, more than racist, if it’, indeed, is motivated by prejudice at all.

This is, of course exactly what Frank said:  see above.  He noted that the fact that some poor people are black is a feature, not a bug, for a campaign now increasingly obviously playing the “not-like-us” card to a crowd primed to react to the blast of the race dog whistle.

At the same time, it might speak to the recklessness of Democratic policies, well intentioned or not.

Well it would, if the policies were in fact reckless; i.e. — a significant contributor to the financial crisis.  Except, of course, they were not, at least when grown-ups minded the store.  See below for more on this.

Many of people can’t afford their mortgages, and the entire country is paying a price.  Hence the anger, which crosscuts with latent racial/culture biases.

Yes, fine:  but why do all these people have mortgages that they cannot afford?  Well Irvine Renter can give you chapter and verse on the incentive structure that led some people through folly and or deceit to borrow way beyond their means.

But if you look for the underlying cause of the mortgage and financial meltdowns, don’t you think the decision to remove most regulation of the banking sector might have something to do with it?  How about the creation of an even more lightly regulated pseudo-banking industry?  And what about the decision  — written into law by McCain advisor and potential Treasury Secretary Phil Gramm —  to leave more or less wholly uncontrolled the trillions of dollars in the kind of derivative financial instruments Warren Buffet has more than once warned were “time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system.”

(This particular quote comes from the 2002 Berkshire Hathaway Chairman’s letter to shareholders.  2002!  That would be GOP controlled White House and, after Nov. both houses of Congress 2002, in case you were wondering.  This disaster was not a surprise to those paying attention).

Ambinder’s fellow Atlantic blogger, Ta-Nehisi Coates, has written several posts on the leap on the right to what he calls, rightly, the “Blame the Negroes” escape hatch, well before Ambinder published his post.  The key one is here.   If Ambinder had troubled to read his colleague with care, he would have seen a discussion of one of the best available one-stop debunkings of the whole CRA-poor-folk-are-the-problem slander.

Here’s the key quote from Robert Gordon’s breakdown of the role of CRA in the crisis:

Most important, the lenders subject to CRA have engaged in less, not more, of the most dangerous lending. Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve, offers the killer statistic: Independent mortgage companies, which are not covered by CRA, made high-priced loans at more than twice the rate of the banks and thrifts. With this in mind, Yellen specifically rejects the “tendency to conflate the current problems in the sub-prime market with CRA-motivated lending.? CRA, Yellen says, “has increased the volume of responsible lending to low- and moderate-income households.” [italics added]

So let’s recap.  Ambinder says, in essence, that Frank was playing the race card when he accused the other side of playing the race card in the argument over who should take the blame for the financial mess.

But Frank was right about both aspects of the question in dispute:  first, the CRA is not materially at fault — to state otherwise is a lie, disproved on the numbers over the decades-long history of the act; as you can see detailed in the piece on the other end of the link above CRA governed institutions are less, not more, likely to have engaged in bad lending practices…

…and hence, second, GOPers and the McCain campaign itself, are in fact playing to the worst of our national psychoses, as, with their now famous wink, they blame the irresponsible poor, many of whom, as Frank noticed, just happen to be black, for taking and defaulting  on loans that — they alledge —  would not have been made hwere it not for the dasterdly CRA.

That is:  Ambinder’s chiding of Frank for telling the truth echoes, perhaps amplifies, the very wound that Frank is trying to excise from our body politic.

To echo the source on this kind of post, Brad DeLong, why oh why can’t we have a better press corps.

Image: Walker Evans, Bethlehem houses and steel mill. Pennsylvania, Nov. 1935.  This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs Division under the digital ID fsa.8c52905.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.