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Monday, December 29, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

In the LAT today, Richard Viguerie argues that The GOP must reject Big Government.

The column is ultimately a fairly typical piece about how big government conservatives have ruined the GOP and that the faithful must gird themselves for a fight against “Chicagoism” (meaning, Obama tainted by guilt-by-association with Blagojevich and the suggestion that all politicians from Chicago are, by definition, corrupt).

However, Viguerie, like many of his fellow travelers, miss the point of where the debate really needs to be. Constantly re-casting this discussion in the language of the early 1980s is not the appropriate route to take politically, nor it is an approach that is salient to the current era policy-wise. “Big government” can mean a lot of things: high taxes, big budgets, lots of power in the hands of the state, heavy regulation, etc. However, part of the problem is that many who currently speak frequently of “big government” really never define what they are talking about, because the phrase is more of a slogan than a meaningful philosophical or policy-oriented notion. Really, it is a fairly empty set of words, as it is difficult to have an intelligent conversation about the US government and not acknowledge that it is a) pretty darn big, b) had been such for a rather long time, and c) isn’t going to shrink anytime soon.

As I have noted before, the Reagan approach to the tax code won decades ago: we are not going back to extremely high top income tax brackets. That fight is over, and the failure of the GOP (as evidenced in the last campaign) to recognize this fact is part of their problem. While there are arguments to be made that moving the top marginal rate from 35% to 39.5% shouldn’t occur, to pretend like it is the same fight that Reagan fought in the early 1980s over top marginal rates of 70% is simply foolish.

Now, while the Reagan approach to the income tax code appears to be ingrained in current public policy, the bottom line is that so, too, the basic welfare state is ingrained in our public policy as well. This isn’t going away, and it is likely to expand over time. This creates serious fiscal policy problems, but it can’t be wished away. Beyond the tax code, however, it really is a stretch to suggest that, at the end of the day, the Reagan era was one of “small government.” It is time the GOP recognize this fact.

In terms of deregulation, this is little doubt that given the current financial crisis, re-regulation sentiments are growing in strength, and indeed, it is hard for even free marketeers to say that perhaps some tinkering in this area isn’t needed.

One of the areas that Viguerie and his camp ignore in terms of “small government” is the increasing ability of the central state to intrude on our private lives, and well as the increase in power of the executive in way that damages our democracy. This is a more pernicious problem than most “small government” conservatives admit, and indeed, many who forcefully criticize fiscal policy aspects of “big government” are frequently boosters of an ever-growing security state that will “keep us safe” replete with an executive that ignores Congress when it feels like it. To me this is far more antithetical to the notion of “small government” than any amount of welfare spending could ever be.

Beyond any of that, conservatives need an intellectual re-assessment, as they are fooling themselves if they think that the government is going to shrink. We have a big government because we have a big country, with a big economy and are a major power in world. The small federal government of the mid-19th Century isn’t coming back, and if it did, I am betting even the most stringent supporter of that notion would find themselves far less happy with that outcome than their fantasies would predict.

This may sound somewhat contradictory, but we need a more forward-looking conservatism, or, at least, a more forward-looking center-right in this country. What we seem to have now is more reactionary and fantastical: hoping for the restoration of past that never really existed in the first place.

One thing is for certain: given the current economic crisis, there is going to be a great deal of spending by the central government in the coming year (to go along with the massive spending from this year). As such, to spend too much time railing against “big government” is an exercise in empty sloganeering that will lead one to being left out of the more serious debates that need to be had.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Jean-Jacques Taylor of the DMN hits the nail on the head: Your Cowboys are a gutless crew. An excerpt:

It seems to me, the folks wearing white coats from Terrell State Hospital need to spend a few hours with Jerry today. See, either Jerry has lost his mind or he thinks the fans in Dallas are so dumb they will fill his new billion-dollar stadium regardless of the product on the field or the man running the team.

That’s the only conclusion you can draw because if Phillips keeps his job after this season, Jerry should never, ever fire him. Phillips will never do a worse job than he did this season.

Ever.

[...]

it’s hard to talk tough about taking folks to the woodshed, when Phillips, who managed a 13-3 team with Super Bowl expectations so poorly that it didn’t even make the playoffs, remains the coach.

This group of arrogant faux stars played with a sense of entitlement, in part, because Phillips provided a plethora of ready-made excuses for their flaws, when he should’ve been challenging his underachieving players to perform better.

Indeed.

One thing has been clear in numerous games (today’s, last week’s against the Ravens, not to mention the first game against Washington, as well as those against the Bengals, Rams and Cardinals), this team has frequently been ill-prepared to play. The coaching staff hasn’t gotten them ready and Phillips frequently makes excuses, rather than taking players to task. He looks befuddled on the sidelines every week.

Another thing that is quite concerning: while everyone had Jason Garrett as an offensive genius last year, it would appear that Tony Sparano (now head coach of the AFC-East winning Miami Dolphins, after being 1-15 last year) may have been the real brains behind last year’s offense.

The question now is whether Jerry will do a 180 on Phillips and fire him–or if Wade will decide it is time to retire.

Regardless, things very much feel like the “bad old days” with this team after a couple of years of hope. That is to say starting with Switzer’s second year through the Gailey and Campo administrations: listless and under-achieving with Jerry acting like the next big deal (e.g., trading for Jerry Galloway, trading up to get Quincy Carter, signing Pacman Jones or trading for Toy Williams) will be The Piece that completes the SuperBowl puzzle. Jerry wasted Aikman’s remaining years by chasing off Jimmy Johnson and now he is poised to squander the pool of talent currently assembled. He came to his sense briefly with the Parcells hire, and Bill got the organization going in the right direction, but one Big Bill left, Jerry went back to his old ways and here we are: home for the playoffs.

Pathetic.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I’ve said it before, and I am more convinced of it than ever: Wade Phillips must go. Not only was there that ridiculous back-to-back 77+ yard runs allowed last week, the Cowboys don’t appear ready to play today (and this is hardly the first time that has been the case this season).

And yet, Jerry the GM has said that he is keeping the coaching staff: Jerry Jones announces Cowboys coaches staying put.

Even with the team’s injuries this season, there is no excuse for to have missed the playoffs.

(And yes, I am writing this at the half, but barring a miracle of Biblical proportions, there is no way that Dallas can overcome a 24 point deficit).

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Boston Globe: Samuel Huntington, author, Harvard political scientist; at 81

One of the nation’s preeminent political scientists, a longstanding professor at Harvard University, and founder of the influential journal Foreign Policy, Dr. Huntington died Wednesday at an Oak Bluffs nursing home. He was 81.

“He was a man of enormous influence,” said his longtime friend and colleague, Henry Rosovsky. “I think he was one of the really great figures in the field.”

Huntington was one of the true giants of political science, writing multiple major works over a multi-decade span. His first major work was The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (published in 1957) and is a classic on the subject of civil-military relations and is still considered relevant. In the 1960s he wrote Political Order in Changing Societies (published in 1968) which was a major work in the area of political development, which also remains relevant even today. He remained an active scholar throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but the next work that made, at least in my experience, a major impact was The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991), and he went on to publish the work that he probably most well-known for in the general populace, The Clash of Civilizations (1996).

May he rest in peace.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher asks: Bill Kristol’s Year Up at ‘NYT’: Will He Get Axed?

Kristol was on a one-year contract and that year is up, so it is the NYT‘s move at this point, as one would expect that Kristol would want to stay if the chance to do so exists. There was time when I thought that Kristol was vaguely interesting (this would have been when he was a panelist on This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, it has been a while), but have found him to be rather cartoonish in his analysis for some time now. Still, it struck me as good for the NYT to add another regular conservative voice to it’s opinion page, I thought Kristol an odd choice (and I have noted, on occasion, that he isn’t as impressive as one might like). As an aside, this strikes me as good place to note that Kristol took the #1 slot in Foreign Policy‘s The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008–including two honorable mentions to go along with the main prediction. He was also, one would note, a major booster of Palin.

Were I in charge of the NYT op/ed page, I wouldn’t renew Kristol’s contract, and would instead seek out another, more interesting, conservative voice.

Any suggestions out there?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Massive Israeli air raids on Gaza

Israeli F-16 bombers have pounded key targets across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 195 people, medics say.

Gaza officials and the Hamas militant group said more than 300 others were hurt as missiles hit security compounds and militant bases.

The strikes, the most intense Israeli attacks on Gaza for decades, come days after a truce with Hamas expired.

Israel said it was responding to an escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza and would bomb “as long as necessary”.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said “it won’t be easy and it won’t be short”.

[...]

It is the worst attack in Gaza since 1967 in terms of the number of Palestinian casualties, a senior analyst told the BBC in Jerusalem.

Haaretz has the death toll higher than does the BBC: Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes

According to the NYT (Israeli Attack Kills Scores Across Gaza/):

The Israeli Air Force on Saturday launched a massive attack on Hamas targets throughout Gaza in retaliation for the recent heavy rocket fire from the area, hitting mostly security headquarters, training compounds and weapons storage facilities, the Israeli military and witnesses said.

[...]

Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the head of emergency services at the Gaza Ministry of Health, said at least 140 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

Most were members of the security forces of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, but a few civilians were also among the dead, including children. Scores more Palestinians were wounded.

In regards to the rocket attacks:

The air attack came after days of warnings by Israeli officials that Israel would retaliate for intense rocket and mortar fire against Israeli towns and villages by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. On Wednesday alone, more than 60 rockets and mortars were fired, some reaching further than previously. While the rockets are meant to be deadly, and several houses and a factory were hit, sowing widespread panic, no Israelis were killed or seriously injured in the recent attacks.

There has been a rocket attack in retaliation. The Jerusalem Post reports: One killed as Kassams rain on Negev

Over 80 rockets and mortar shells struck areas throughout the western Negev. In Netivot, one person was killed, one person was seriously wounded, and four others sustained light to moderate injuries when their house was hit by a rocket.

The pattern here is similar to the war with Hezbollah in 2006: a provocation (in that case the kidnapping of two soldiers and in this the rocket attacks) that lead to a massive retaliation (which was likely not what was anticipated in terms of scale).

While I do not know what Hamas thought it was going to achieve by randomly flinging rockets at Israelis, I likewise wonder what this attack by Israel will ultimately achieve aside from convincing even more Gazans that Israel is their mortal enemy and to further recruitment into the militant wing of Hamas.

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Friday, December 26, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

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By Steven L. Taylor

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By Steven L. Taylor

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