Friday, July 29, 2011

Balancing Act

House Speaker John Boehner bowed to tea party congressmen on Friday when he agreed to add a constitutional balanced budget amendment to his plan to solve the debt ceiling crisis.

The move came 20 hours after Boehner was forced to abandon a vote on his proposal when he realized he could not get it through the Republican-controlled chamber.

Now the two-stage vote will include the constitutional amendment, announced House Rules Committee chairman, Rep. David Dreier.

...But even if the vote passes in the House it has virtually no chance of getting through the Senate and President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto it.
A national balanced budget amendment, you recall, will force Americans to choose. Want to go to war with Iran? Pull out from Iraq and Afghanistan first! More CIA? Less FBI! If you want subsidies for the oil companies better stop spending so much on repairing highways.

Of course, what will actually happen is the clock will run out, Obama will invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling, and all we'll remember is that Republicans can't even agree with each other enough to pass a law. And they're running for election again next year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm For Not Raising the Debt Ceiling

Because if it doesn't happen, the economy will noticeably sputter and almost nobody will blame it on the President. Sure some will believe whatever Fox is saying THIS week, but the rest will remember. 2012 draws ever closer! Besides, he economy will tank anyway for all kinds of reasons, but this is a big dramatic event to pin it on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Also A Jeer To Fox News Online

Roku has a Fox News channel, which I would watch only it's not the one you want it to be. It's this instead. Fox News has deals with cable providers but they have this little internet channel which runs for about eight hours a day. It's kind of a Fox News Bush League, where they try out their rookies to see if they can keep on message without the potential for damaging the brand, because nobody watches.

The one thing it doesn't offer is those signature O'Reillys and Hannitys and Friends. You know, the crazy stuff that everyone wants from Fox. So the Roku feed is really, really boring. It's like bland junk food. You can't blame me for preferring the BBC, which is boring but at least good for you.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Show

Another benefit of Hulu Plus subscription is that it's allowed me access to the only thing that I missed about giving up cable - The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They were the only things I watched on a regular basis.

I have to say, I'm still reacclimating to Jon Stewart. The mugging! Good lord, I don't want to second guess ratings success, but is that really necessary? Still, the writing is as sharp as ever, and it's nice to see that they still value laughs at the expense of hypocrisy over laughs at the expense of conservatives. Like any good comedians, they know that you have to establish a consistent character before you generate punchlines. The Daily Show is a character that ridicules politicians who lie. This remains an excellent choice, no matter how painful it is.

Then there's the perpetual tightrope walk that is the Colbert Report. Colbert has to simultaneously impersonate an ultraconservative Fox News host AND keep the audience on his side by letting them know that is is not one. But if he winks too much, it spoils the joke. I think the only reason he pulls this off is because right wing talking points are so absurd that, like certain dry dog foods, they make their own gravy. Colbert could just read transcripts straight and get an easy half hour of comedy.

But he doesn't do easy. So there's always the punchline that goes a half step farther, to push it over the edge. Plus Colbert really shines during the interviews, where he feels free to go full-bore conservative. These things are at least part improv (no TV interview is completely improv - the only reason anything unexpected happens in those things is because they don't get enough rehearsal time) and Colbert has a lock on his character. It's sheer magic to see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kudos To Our Media Friends Across The Pond

Last week, I got myself a Roku player, the cable box for people who are too cheap to pay for cable. Among the many charms of the device is that it gives me access to the BBC World News, a 24-hour news network. I can't watch Fox News, but I can watch the News Of the World hearings live! Which I wouldn't find on Fox News anyway.

Right now Rebekah Brooks (former NOTW chief)  is insisting that they only found out last December that there even might have been a a phone hacking policy at the paper, and only two weeks ago about the Dowler case, where freelance investigators hacked into a murdered girl's cell messages, and erased them to make room for new messages. As you'd expect, this assertion is being met with skepticism by the labor MPs and cautious sympathy by the conservative ones. It would be fawning sympathy if the polling was more on Murdoch's side.

The BBC is the only government-run news source I will ever trust. They have an insane policy of covering their own bosses as if they were any other corporate entity. Even if doing their job well means they could lose their job, they barrel ahead with fair and accurate reportage. In fact, in 2004 a BBC radio reporter was made to resign over reporting that later turned out to be true. It kind of reminds me of Bridge On The River Kwai, where Alec Guinness is a British POW who is charged by his Japanese captors with building a bridge to help their war effort. Guinness insists on his men doing the best job they can, to prove the moral superiority of the British.

This coverage of the hearings is a perfect example of BBC reportage - it's embarrassing to the highest levels of British governance, many of whom are very chummy with News Corp and probably owe their elections to it. If a for-profit were covering the story, you wouldn't trust them because they have a dog in the hunt - they want to demolish News Corp and get their market share. The BBC is paid for already, and doesn't need big numbers. On the other hand, they have a stake in honest fair reporting, because otherwise why not just turn the whole operation over to the commercial providers? The competition from SkyNews and Channel 4 and what have you does help keep them honest, as well as providing a place for potentially fired reporters to go, so they can afford to report honestly.

So the takeaway: BBC news - noble, honest, and a testament to the moral superiority of the British.  Good on ya, mate!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Some Guy Used To Own A Newspaper

Well, it turns out Fox News IS covering the News Of The World unpleasantness, after a fashion.

I just got a few questions:

  1. If hacking is a serious problem, should we really just move on?
  2. Is it illegal at all?
  3. Who is this "Merdock" fellow? Does he own any other newspapers?
  4. What are they, kiddin' me?

Some Guy Kept America Very, Very Safe For the Past Decade

With exception of a little thing.

Details, details...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If Elected, I Refuse To Serve

McConnell demonstrates the qualities that have made him a leader:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has proposed creating an escape hatch for Congressional Republicans, who have put themselves in a box by threatening not to raise the national debt limit if Democrats don't agree to trillions of dollars in cuts to popular social programs.

The plan would require Congress to pass a bill allowing Obama to raise the debt limit on his own, contingent on a series of steps: Obama would have to notify Congress of his intent tor raise the debt limit -- a high-sign to Congress that would be subject to an official censure known as a "resolution of disapproval," and which Obama could veto. If he vetoed the resolution, and if Congress sustained the veto, then Obama would also have to outline a series of hypothetical spending cuts he'd make, equal to the amount of new debt authority he'd give himself. Only then would the Treasury be allowed to issue new debt.

McConnell proposes rolling out this process in three tranches, to force Obama to request more borrowing authority, and to force debt limit votes in Congress, repeatedly through election season.

Here's how McConnell explained it at his weekly Capitol press conference:
"The way it would work is the legislation would authorize him to get to the amount he says he needs based upon the advice of his Secretary of the Treasury in three tranches: The first tranche, $700 billion, the second tranche $900 billion, the third tranche $900 billion.

Once the request is made it would be appropriate in either or both houses for a resolution of disapproval to be taken up on an expedited procedure. If that expedited procedure in both the House and the Senate -- if the resolution of disapproval achieved a majority -- it would go down to him where he could either sign it or veto it. My assumption is he would veto it. And that veto would be sustained by one-third-plus-one in either of the houses."
Please Mr Socialist, take care of our economy for us! And while you're at it, please rewrite Obamacare! And give more money to the automakers! WE NEED TO BLAME YOU FOR IT!

Monday, July 11, 2011

News Of the World From Outside the Bubble

Those who get all their information from Fox News may not be aware that Britain's venerable tabloid, News Of The World, abruptly ended publication this week. And if you read that final edition of News Of the World, you won't find any particular reason for the sudden demise, which comes in spite of a relatively high circulation numbers.

This is the reason.

Cheer up though! Any staff that has been fired over the incidents have been encouraged to reapply at Rupert Murdoch's other tabloid The Sun, which currently publishes every day except Sunday. NOTW only published on Sunday. Hey, here's an idea - why not expand the Sun to 7 days? It'll be almost as if NOTHING WAS DONE AT ALL!

Oh anyway, you can't blame Fox News for not picking up this story - really no one is involved who is even familiar to Americans.

Friday, July 01, 2011


It's so easy to reduce the size of government: just dig your heels in until it shuts down completely!

A couple of months from now, Minnesota Republicans will be reaping the benefits of goodwill from a grateful state. Who wanted state services anyway? Muslims and socialists, that's who!