Reason Magazine’s FaceBook page posted this article, discussing the reasons for Texas’ current budget short-fall. Paul Krugman used the state as an example of how cutting taxes did not raise revenues. Reason shoots back that, no, the problem is not that they’re cutting taxes, but that they’re spending too much money:

It would be opportunistic to dismiss Texas as a big government failure now, after using it as a model of fiscal restraint, but don’t these numbers cause the same problem for the Krugmanites? From what little I know of Texas geography (isn’t it next to that countryCantinflas came from?), I gather Austin is less in thrall to “the complete dominance of conservative ideology” than the rest of the state. Texas contains multitudes. Could it be the nightmare of austerity Krugman claims, and also a nightmare of public profligacy the spending figures indicate? Can Razzles be a candy and a gum?

This gets at the heart of a problem Conservatives have explaining their way around the Bush Administration, as well. Namely, that cutting taxes and spending exhorbitantly do not seem to be separate practices, but invariably and demonstrably linked halves of an inseparable whole.

In my gut, I do not believe Rick Perry lied to me or to his constituency. I don’t believe George Bush did, either. I don’t believe that all those Republicans who were elected on a platform of reducing the government and lowering taxes got together in a cabal and discussed how best to screw the American people by cutting taxes… and raising spending. Ronald Reagan, that soothsayer of old, had a similar problem.

I think the problem may be this simple: if you don’t change the oil in your car, sooner or later, you’re going to have to rebuild the engine. Responsibility is an expensive thing. And when you try to cheap out on every little thing – and we know George Bush’s administration did just that – you end up spending more to fix the shit you broke. It also does not help that, in the case of state budgets, when the Federal government does not meet its obligation to help pay for things like Medicare, the state has no choice but to pony up the balance.

None of this is to say that Texas, like New York, couldn’t stand a bit of restructuring in the way it does business. I’ll betcha there’s lots of money getting hidden under desks all over the state, just as it appears happens here in New York. But let’s not dance around and pretend that there is some conveniently non-threatening excuse for a predictable pattern.

Chuck Todd was just on MSNBC discussing the political apparatus available to the Obama Administration and how that apparatus has come down hard on Dianne Feinstein on the health care reform vote. He points out that, since Senator Feinstein announced that they did not have the votes on the reform bill, MoveOn and other groups have launched attack ads on California television to push her back to the table. Nicole Wallace adds that this illustrates how Obama’s model for this issue is really the same as George Bush’s model: that of the permanent campaign.

The truth I think is much less simple than the pundits would like to make it seem. The left is certainly on the same page in it’s desire for health care reform; indeed the majority of our country seems to be ready for something new. But to assume that the Obama Administration has MoveOn to count as a tool of it’s policy making is probably going a bit far.

But there is no question that the Obama Campaign has shifted to the Obama Administration or that many of the priorities of the campaign have shifted to the priorities of the administration. In fact, they made no apologies immediately after the campaign, telling those of us who volunteered for him that they planned on keeping that network active. Certainly, the campaign continues. On this level, one can certainly compare the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration fairly, but it’s also worth contrasting as well.

There is a substantive difference between how the Bush Administration campaigned from the White House and how the Obama Administration is currently operating. Note the admitted caveat, “currently.” Primarily, the Bush Administration was concerned with winning, not necessarily winning anything specific. If there was a problem with political angling in the Bush Administration and in the Republican Party generally throughout the last eight years, it was that they squandered what was an impressive political machine on silly things like Terry Shiavo and the credit reform bill. The list goes on.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration awarded campaign donors with plum jobs in the administration. Here we see the real difference between Obama and Bush: George Bush’s policy and procedure were meant to support his campaign, whereas Barack Obama’s campaign supports his policy and procedure.

The Pied Piper takes his children underground. . .

Yes, George W. Bush has now officially been outed as having claimed to be getting messages from god about Gog and Magog, the biblical forces of the Apocolypse at work in Iraq to none other than Jacques Chirac himself. Wonder why France wanted none of this shit, eh?

And just wait till it finally comes out that he was snorting cocaine at the same time. Don’t believe me? Check out one of your coke-head friends camel-jawing after a line and then go back and watch all those 2003-2004 videos. Oh, yeah. Not a doubt in my mind, then or now.

MSNBC had some great work on the torture issue – because there’s no question now that torture is exactly the right word to use for the whole disgusting ball of wax – by both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I’ve collected two video segments for you and if you’ve not already watched them, I highly recommend them.

The first is Keith Olbermann talking to Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski about Abu Ghraib. You might remember her as the woman who was discharged for the torture mess there when it was leaked by members of the military. Her impassioned speech when she talks about what she and others in the military had to suffer – taking the fall for what is now clearly and factually a policy set by the highest levels of the Bush White House – is magnetic. This poor woman suffered a dishonerable fate for having done her duty with honor. How many more are there like her in and out of the military right now?

Next up is Rachel Maddow doing her typical best at breaking down the story in a way that is concise, clear and easily understandable to most every American. And she does it in her typically creative style while never straying from the seriousness of the issue. There is no doubt left that the horrors we saw at Abu Ghraib are the exact same policies that Dick Cheney keeps going on Fox News to defend. Fine if he wants to defend them, as long as we’re all very clear that crimes were committed and Dick Cheney says it’s OK.

I have not to this point seriously believed that prosecutions over the torture policies of the Bush Administration were possible. No reflection on the Obama Administration, but every White House is resistant to prosecuting previous administrations for fear of the same being turned on them. Precedent is a bitch. But as this story unfolds, two things are becoming clear: that the torture policies of the Bush White House were much, much worse than we feared and that this is an issue which is destined to get out of the hands of the Obama Administration – indeed, it may already have. There is a sense of inevitability in the air, of justice that will not be denied. The question is: how high up the ladder to the charges actually end up going, and will that height be adequate to the crimes committed?

Do Republicans think George Bush invented government? Because if not, and if you take the more accepted version of history, namely that large social structures and governments are really a product of human evolution, it’s difficult to understand how he deserves credit for the fact that Iraqis are finally forming their own government. It seems like anywhere on the map where an assemblage of humans has existed with an absence of government, a government has eventually formed.

That our troops happen to have been there at the time, struggling to keep the peace, does not mean that Bush’s policies are what led us to this pass.

Let me just say, for the record: fuck Rod Blogojevich. And fuck Rick Warren, too.

Not because I dislike either of the two men. Not because I resent what they stand for. Simply because I don’t give a rat’s ass in a wheelbarrow what either one of them is doing, what people think of them, or for god’s sake, what the hell any talking head’s opinion of their situation might be. Any opinion of either man I thought I held last week has given way to a mountain of I Don’t Give a Shit.

In fact, I miss the runaway bride.

It certainly appears as though Rod Blogojevich is one unscrupulous bastard, it’s true. He seems to have taken the idea of politics – which is, let’s face it, the art of getting what you want – a bit too far in at least the case of trying to sell off Barack Obama’s Senate seat. We’ve not heard the tapes, but I think its still safe to take the word of a U.S. Attorney when he repeats what is contained therein. And if we believe he tried to sell the Senate seat so blatantly, there’s no reason not to think this is but the latest in a string of corrupt dealings he must have had.

And clutch the pearls!!! A Senator from Illinois (Obama), recently elected President of the United States and his chief of staff (Emmanuel), a House Representative from Illinois might have had some dealings with the Governor of Illinois! That is the low-hanging fruit upon which all the news stories cycling out there are based. Otherwise, it would just be one corrupt Governor, wheeling and dealing like every other politician. At least Governor Spitzer had the decency to have rough sex with a hooker.

So, until there is some evidence that Blogo’s secretly been running the new Everleigh Club, count me among the unimpressed.

And then there’s Rick Warren. You may have heard of him, he’s the Conservative pastor of the Saddleback Church who doesn’t like gay people. What a shockingly freakish person he must be! You don’t see that every day.

So, Barack Obama spent two years of his life and ours on our television screens, in our Internet Tubes and in our newspapers saying he wanted to bring Right and Left together around common purposes. He decried the “Red and Blue America.” In fact, its that kind of talk which got him elected. But now that the universally-acknowledged supporter of gay rights has been elected and he asks Rick Warren – the pastor who don’t dig queers – to do his benediction, we find that people were only into the “idea” of bringing the sides together, not the practice.

In fact, it strikes me that Obama’s biggest asset in the election may well be his biggest weakness in his term: he has been a Rorschach test for a nation full of people looking to leave the Bush Years behind them. Beyond his core of supporters, most people have simply seen what they wanted to see in him, and are surprised when he doesn’t live up to their expectations.

But then in sum, those expectations were never really attainable in any human, anyway. And I’m not sure that we really wanted them to be, which brings me to my theory of what’s happening right now. We are suffering from a type of Stockholm Syndrome. I’m sure actual psychologists could probably come up with a better term for it.

Stockholm Syndrome is a condition occasionally experienced by hostages wherein the hostage begins to sympathize with their captors. I don’t mean to suggest that we’re all rooting for George Bush. That ship has long since sailed for 75 percent of us. What I am suggesting is that we have perhaps grown so accustomed to recoiling in disgust from the word “president,” that we don’t know how else to react to a chief executive. We’ve come to expect that every single news program should be filled to the brim with stuff the White House is doing behind our backs and against our will that either erodes our Constitutional rights, lines the pockets of its billionaire buddies or threatens to reduce our nation to a smoldering heap of non-biodegradable, overdrawn credit cards.

Or maybe it’s not Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe it’s like that experiment we did as kids where you stand in a doorway and lift your arms till they hit the door and keep pushing against the frame; then after a time, you walk away and try to relax your arms, but they keep lifting. We’re trying to relax, but something inside of us tells us to keep pushing against a door frame that isn’t there.

And so we scour every detail of the Blogo case and even those of us who think it’s nothing get a pit in our stomach, worried there might be something. We get all up in arms over one dude and one speech at one event, and even the atheists are more worried about his views on homosexuality than they are about the separation of church and state, for a time. We discuss the non-issue of nepotism in a Caroline Kennedy appointment to the Senate in breathless tones. Holy crap, people, who gives a shit?

I’m of course not suggesting that there is nothing and will be nothing worth objecting to in the Obama White House. But I am saying its worth taking a moment to just stop and think whether or not the issues we’re discussing right now are the most relevant ones. Maybe it’s just that we’re stuck with an idiot at the wheel while the nation’s financial future crumbles, and bitching about Obama’s cabinet seems more proactive than worrying about a president we know can’t do anything right. Maybe the tension between bank bailouts we don’t understand and the Detroit bailout we don’t trust, between the hundreds of billions already as good as spent and the comparably small number of billions we need to spend again is just too much.

It would be nice if journalism could help focus our attentions. But to be fair, I think they’re no better off than the rest of us. I think we all need to relax a little bit, drink some egg nog, and get into some good old-fashioned arguments with our relatives over twenty year old bullshit. That will make us feel much better.

I remember back in the freak-out days of 2004, as Bush’s surveillance programs were sweeping a black hand across our country and the Republicans in Congress were strutting around like kings, I had the sick sensation in the pit of my stomach that come 2008, Bush would declare some sort of emergency that for such reasons compelled him to stay in office regardless of the electoral outcome. I worried at the end of American Democracy when Bush made his final power grab right at the end of his administration.

Well, now with the president gallivanting in Peru and the Treasury Secretary basically throwing his hands up in the air, unwilling to do any more, I almost wish I still had that concern. Who would have thought that the exact opposite of my worst fear would be our biggest threat?

Count Josh Marshall among the throngs of liberals who are agape at the idea that Republicans would want to run a presidential candidate like Sarah Palin in 2012.  After the disasterous campaign of John McCain – much of whose demise was either accellerated by or fueled by Sarah Palin’s presence at the second bannana position – many of us would have thought her career ended at this point.  At least, we certainly wouldn’t have expected to hear from her on the presidential level.  But for many reasons, I find her potential nomination to be – if in concept while not necessarily in practice – to be an entirely predictable one.  And for many reasons, I think that nomination is doomed as well.

Beginning with the most basic and short-term of reasons, Republicans lost the election.  Now is not the time for rational thought or effective planning.  Now is the time when we usually find ourselves clinging to the silliest of spars in the sea; to whit, Sarah Palin.  I recall insisting that Al Gore and John Kerry would have made great presidents, even though I’d spent most of those two Presidential election seasons with a knot in my stomach because I really didn’t believe it.  What the reality of the situation is does not matter.  To what extent either of my two emotions towards the Dem tickets was justified is not germane to the discussion: what matters here is the contradiction that comes when you’re licking your wounds and wishing things were different.

But beyond that, there is a larger truth of Republican politics that cannot be ignored: the Republican power structure adores pretty, ineffectual figureheads in executive positions.  From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush (and notably skipping over George the Elder), what Republicans really want for a president is someone who looks good and evokes love from the general public to take center stage.  They can then fill the void left by a basically clueless figurehead with lots of people behind the scenes whom the public rarely if ever gets to meet.  Here in Rochester, I would in many ways count Maggie Brooks among the popular figureheads of Republican power politics.

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In a CNN Money article about Obama’s push to get Bush to sign on for help for the auto industry, the last paragraph sums up the last eight years quite nicely, actually:

Regarding any new economic stimulus plan, the White House has repeatedly stressed that its main priority is passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia.

What?!?  Why would *another* trade agreement be the top priority of the White House at a time like this?  Well, you can bet that a bunch of Bush’s corporate buddies decided to press for this one last thing before he left office.  One more billion dollar present from the President Reject of the United States.