Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Before John L. Perry began his long association with the wingnut site NewsMax, he had a respectable career, including fairly important jobs in journalism and stints in the Johnson and Carter White Houses. But as a NewsMax columnist since 1999, he's been a tad, um, apocalyptic -- and not just in the now-scrubbed column in which he engaged in speculation about a possible military coup against President Obama (cached version here; text here).

It doesn't seem to take much to set Perry off. Here he is writing about a failed Cabinet appointment on January 10, 2001:

If left to stand as is, the savaging of Linda Chavez will mean the crippling and eventual destruction of the entire presidency of George W. Bush.

Oh, if only.

But anything can start an apocalypse in Perry's imagination, including the proverbial Some Guy on the Internet. Here's Perry on January 15, 2001:

Appearing below is the text of what might properly be labeled a Manifesto for the Subversion of America....

It would make Joseph Paul Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's unsurpassed disinformation artist, both proud and envious.

It heralds a gathering
sturm of fascism in this nation that goes against everything for which America stands.

The text in question, which we're told is "making the rounds of the Internet," could, admittedly, be read as a wee bit extreme:

"... I will give Bush the same respect and support that his party gave President Clinton these past eight years....

"I will make common cause with any enemies of the United States, foreign or domestic, who are willing to criticize President Bush...."

But if this little screed was, in fact, "making the rounds of the Internet" in a techno-fascist way, all traces of it have been lost except for Perry's own column and one (1) other Google appearance, at the ur-blog The Mote (item #2143 at the link), where it's ascribed to a contributor to Salon's Table Talk with the pseudonym Quentin Compsom. Last time I looked, Quentin and the TT crowd (full disclosure: I did my share of posting at TT) hadn't led a jackbooted overthrow of the government. (UPDATE: It also shows up here, as a letter to The Seattle Times. Oh, and Google also lists the blog post you're reading now.)

Sometimes Perry sees the apocalypse coming from, um somewhere, and even he can't determine the source. But it's out there! Really! And we're in deep, deep trouble! This is from August 21, 2001:

A political crisis is brewing out there, growing nastier by the day, awaiting a catalytic lightning bolt to precipitate the nature and direction it takes....

This nation and its Constitution do indeed face dangers and enemies, both foreign and domestic, as never before....

There is a latent ugliness -- latent but nonetheless real, nonetheless menacing.

It is a witches' brew of apathy, ignorance, misunderstanding, uncertainty, frustration, insecurity, arrogance, resentment, prejudice, bigotry, paranoia, fear, desperation, reaction, vindictiveness, xenophobia and hatred.

Those qualities, self-destructive all, manifest themselves in a number of unwholesome ways – reality-denial, self-indulgence, gullibility, irrationality, scapegoating, racism and violence.

All those traits are fertile ingredients of the hotbeds for demagoguery.

They are almost a textbook case history of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany and V.I. Lenin's successful revolution in Czarist Russia....

Read the whole thing. It would be amazing if he were predicting 9/11, but he wasn't; he just thought something out there was going to lead to .... DOOOO - OOOO - OOOM!!! But he had no idea what.

Here he is predicting the U.S. loss of Alaska, Hawaii, and Manhattan as the result of a bloodless yet sinister Chinese maneuver called Operation One From Column A (no, really), all because missile defense was voted down in Congress. Here he is imagining societal breakdown in the U.S. after a court decision found that the Pledge of Allegiance violated the separation of church and state, which led tof a mass abandonment of religion:

...This in turn led to the nullification of perjury statutes, there being no longer any oath for holding liars accountable.

That fallen domino tipped over the next: Juries, also no longer oath-bound, were passing out not-guilty verdicts left and right, unable to discern manufactured from authentic testimony.

Felony convictions were appealed in such number that governors in state after state had no recourse but to grant wholesale pardons....

Convicted murderers and rapists were back on the streets doing business at the same old stands....

Oh, and here is he is imagining that, after Afghanistan, the next target in the U.S. war on terror would be ... Kashmir. (Thaty's not apocalyptic. It's just stupid.)

So, yeah, John L. Perry's Obama column seemed part of a dangerous strain of thought. But don't just blame the zeitgeist. Blame whoever hasn't managed to keep Perry adequately medicated.

From the bestseller list at Amazon right now (click to enlarge):

I didn't include the #1 book -- The Lost Symbol by Dan (Da Vinci Code) Brown -- but I probably should have, because its mega-popular conspiratorialism is one more sign that we've devolved as a society and are entering a superstitious, fear-drenched Dark Age.


UPDATE: I see from the wingnuttosphere that Palin's hit #1 at Barnes & Noble, though she doesn't seem to have gotten higher than #2 at Amazon.
It Should Never Have Been Played Out In Public This Way:

John Amato and everyone else I read is cautiously optimistic that yesterday's weird pavane in Max Baucus's hearing went as well as could be expected. I've seen piece after piece analyzing the exact implications of this vote, or that, or this statement, or that. Harkin says a few days ago that we have 51 votes in the Senate as a whole for the Public Option. Nelson's moronic statement to his constituents that no vote will be legitimate without 65 votes is evidence that he is trimming and will vote for a Public Option, maybe. Schumer is cautiously pleased that sheer, righteous, reason and hard facts were enough to partially embarrass a few Dems to switching their votes even though Landrieu and Lincoln and others are still voting against Democratic initiatives and Baucus himself is still voting against his own party.

I just don't get the optimism here. The Democratic Senators who have been signaling, semphoring, bitching, whining, and all but screaming that their interests are not their constituents interests, that their votes are not democratic votes but industry votes, are *not reliable* when the vote gets to the Senate Floor. They can continue to be intransigent, if they want, and if its worth their while. And if its not worth their while because they are wholly owned subsidiaries of the insurance industry then its still not going to be worth their while--in fact its worth more to them--to vote no, or to support a filibuster, at the last minute.

The White House and the Democratic Party as a whole have accepted, for way too long in this process, the notion that there could, or should, be some deference paid to Senatorial position, or status, or even to the notion that these Senators were independent, moral, actors. There has never been any logical, moral, or political reason why a Democratic Senator in a majority party should ever have deferred to the interests of Corporate America or sided with the minority Republican party--not rhetorically and not really. Never. From the get go the White House and Schumer, qua head of the DSCC, and Reid as Majority leader should have insisted that there would never be *any* breaking of ranks on the Public Option. Not only should Baucus never have been allowed to negotiate privately with the Republicans but it should never, ever, have come to the point we saw yesterday where Democratic Senators voted down any Democratic Amendments to Baucus's bill.

Please don't explain to me that Blanche Lincoln, for instance, is "in trouble" in Arkansas. I don't care. And neither should anyone else. She should have been told she would have to take a bullet for National Health Care and if she took it graciously she'd be rewarded after. Or supported more heavily in the eventually Senate fight. But either way her personal fortunes are not my problem.

I look at what happened yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee and I think that, as usual, the Democrats are either too caught up in the process, or too stupid, to grasp that a public hearing and a public committee meeting is a show trial, not the place to hammer out a compromise. Schumer and others think they "won" by shifting a few votes publicly? I think we "lost" because it was clear that the Democrats are pretending that their counterparties--the Republicans and Blue Dog Dems--are acting in good faith and can be reasoned with. They can't. And the same thing is going to happen on the floor of the Senate if the Democrats don't wise up and start playing hardball behind the scenes. They have allowed the few industry friendly Dems, like Carper and Lincoln et al, to hold the stage and attack the Public Option. They have allowed them to essentially piss all over the very idea of a national plan, and a national party. If we proceed to the attempt to merge these bills on the floor without taking care of this problem--the problem of dual loyalty and betrayal--we are going to find ourselves surprised by the fact that we lose our "sixty votes" and perhaps even our 51. We are already losing the public battle for the legitimacy of our policies because of our continued insistence that the Carper's, Nelson's et al be allowed to speak for our party.

Edited to Add:

I see that Joe Sudbay agrees with me.

Edited to Add:
This is what I'm talking about.
Noted Without Comment:

On the One Hand:
Newsmax columnist John L. Perry encourages his right-wing readers not to "dismiss" the notion of an American military coup as "unrealistic."

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont [sic]. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it....

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for "fundamental change" toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

And On The Other:

About a dozen retired generals and admirals, trying to add momentum to President Barack Obama’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison, are accusing former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz of scaremongering about the dangers of closing it.

“It’s up to all of us to say these arguments advanced by Cheney and his acolytes are nonsense and that really what they’re doing is undermining our national security by delaying the date at which Guantanamo is closed,” retired Brig. Gen. James Cullen, a former chief judge of the Army’s Court of Criminal Appeals, told POLITICO Tuesday.

“Some of the fear issues that are being raised in this are really unfortunate. It gets people excited about things they shouldn’t be excited about and impedes doing what is critical to this country. Get that damn symbol off the table,” said retired Gen. David Maddox, a former Army commander-in-chief for Europe. “We take a setback every time somebody, whether it’s the vice president or his daughter comes out and says the things that they say….We have to get out there again and just keep pounding.”

OK, one comment. It is, in fact, necessary to comment, perhaps it is even necessary to be a little shrill and obvious.

It is absolutely necessary, for the health of the country, to get these two quotes on the same page again and again. As long as the right wing does what it does without some pushback, some rolled up newspapers, some "go to your fucking corner, sir!" we will continue to see the mainstreaming of absolutely John Bircherite lunacy from the fringe to the center. I'm not worried that the Generals will actually execute a coup against Obama, but I am worried that the average authoritarian follower, submissive masochist looking for his once a year sadist holiday fling, will take the unrebutted first proposition as license for the longed for saturnalia of the losers.

Today Obsidian Wings had a great post up about Peter Daou's original description of just how the main stream media became and becomes tolerant of outright lunacy from the right wing fringe. We must push back, and push back hard, against totally unacceptable threats of violence from the right wing. But we have to do that not by dismissing or ignoring this stuff, and not by treating it as merely beyond the pale, but by holding it up to scorn, ridicule, and shame.

Athenae over at First Draft draws our attention to this priceless interaction between smug atheist PZ Meyers and smug Christianist blogger St. Eutycos who is upset that Atheists won't play nice and offers five ways for us to be more humble. I have an almost pathological love of arguing both science and theology with America's nuttiest christianists and this discussion is a classic. But the real story, as it were, is embedded slightly deeper down in the links--the whole interchange arose because "Communicate Jesus...Insights and Inspiration to Maximize Your Ministry"

was sincerely trying to reach out to the hitherto untouched pagans through a viral marketing, bus billboard, and tweeting campaign. Alas, the new technology can't quite make up for the old moral conundrums and even the believers find that the high concept pitch may not be easily resolved in 160 characters:

The ‘Thank you’ Jesus website is technically unstable

Unless you uploaded a ‘thank you’ message, I can’t imagine why you’d like one printed onto a t-shirt or other merchandise. However, I decided to test this functionality out, and both times I tried I got a (different) error message (e.g. ‘Length cannot be less than zero. Parameter name: length’ and ‘Check that the path is correct and that the domain is in your allowed domains for upload.’). Despite the best de-bugging, error messages are hard to avoid, but it is possible (and recommended) to create custom error messages that make more sense to visitors when they encounter them.

Reason #4 – The ‘Thank you’ Jesus concept is overly simplistic

Perhaps most disappointing is the main concept – thanking Jesus. I’m all for thanking Jesus, and encouraging people to remember that everything good comes from God. But this concept, when promoted to those who don’t know Jesus, opens itself up to big questions that lie not so deep beneath the surface, because, as one person on a blog pointed out:

“If one should thank Jesus for all the nice things in our lives, shouldn’t one also blame Jesus for all the crap things too?

After all, if some crazy flight of fancy convinces you that Jesus gave the world hot chips, then I guess he also gave the world throat cancer, poverty and Dolf Lundgren movies.”

Should we also be encouraging people to say:

* “Thank you Jesus for letting my baby girl die”? or,
* “Thank you Jesus for giving me cancer”? or,
* “Thank you Jesus that I don’t have a job and can’t afford to feed my family”?

Whilst this encourages people to thank Jesus for the good in life, it doesn’t deal with so much of the pain that people are experiencing, and what God’s role in that pain is.

* Why is there pain?
* Is Jesus only in control of the good and not the bad?
* If Jesus isn’t in control of the bad, why should I be interested in a powerless God?
* If Jesus does have control of the bad, why doesn’t he do something about it?

In short, having read this plaintive missive from the front lines of evangelism, as it were, I think the Atheists among us, smug or not, can just kind of lie back and watch the whole outreach plan fall under its own weight. With evangelical support like this we Atheists can really just not bother to go on the attack.

I don't entirely agree with TBogg, who explains why he thinks the Sarah Palin book will sell (at least at first):

I think it is safe to say that we can expect the following:

The heartwarming story of a plucky small town girl, her family, her trials, her tribulations and how her faith has carried her through it all. This is will be Christian ghostwriter Lynn Vincent's contribution to the book and the reason it will sell well at Wal-Mart for $14.97.

Bitter recriminations, finger-pointing, revenge seeking, blame casting, contempt, snarling self-regard, whining, disgust, smug but baseless know-it-all-ism, and an unreliable narrator's inside view of the Wiley Coyote campaign of John McCain. This will be the Sarah Palin's contribution.... and the reason that the rest of us will buy it.

I think the Palinites think they'll buy it for the former reason. But they're really going to buy it mostly for the rage.

But I think the 'Bogg has accurately described what most of the book is going to be like -- it's going to be that rage. It's going to be pages and pages and pages and pages about what ingenuity-stifling losers Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace and other McCainites were. And I'm not sure that's what Palin's fan base wants. I think they're hoping she's going to alternate tearjerking stories about Trig with explanations of why only she and Jesus, side by side, can deliver America from the clutches of Barack Obama, socialist instrument of Satan. And I'm not sure she's going to deliver.

Evidence? Well, yesterday The Wall Street Journal's John Fund issued the first press release on behalf of the Murdoch media empire (Murdoch, of course, owns HarperCollins, Palin's publisher) -- and here's the anecdote he was tasked with leaking in his breathless "Sarah Palin, a Soon-to-Be Publishing Phenom":

Ms. Vincent [Palin's writer] didn't reveal any details about the book, but did acknowledge it will describe Ms. Palin's frustration over her treatment by the staffers she inherited from the McCain campaign after her surprise pick as the GOP vice presidential nominee last year. Ms. Palin was booked on grueling interviews with hostile reporters while talk-show hosts such as Glenn Beck couldn't even get through to her aides. Mr. Beck tells me he was stunned when he picked up the phone one day just before the election to discover Sarah Palin was on the other end of the line. "She explained that she had been blocked from reaching her audience, so she was now 'going rogue' and booking her own interviews," Mr. Beck told me. "I was thrilled she had burst out of the cage they'd built for her and we were finally talking."

This tedious, played-out crap could be half the book. I think the faithful could be seriously disappointed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I know a little bit about the business in question, and I can assure you that the folks at HarperCollins are moving up the publication date of Sarah Palin's memoir for a simple reason: because they can. Now that Palin and her writer have turned in the manuscript, the book can come out for Christmas, which means it will bring in serious revenue by the end of what's otherwise been a dismal year for the book business. That's the reason this is happening -- not (as Andrew Sullivan speculates) because Palin is "trying to beat any other account of her bizarre career and surreal private life," or (as a number of Steve Benen's commenters seem to believe) "out of fear that she will be irrelevant by the spring" (please, folks, she's worshipped on the right, and the deification of her increases every time one of us says something like that).

The book is going to be a big bestseller. And I know, I know: when I talk about a right-wing bestseller, nearly all of you start thinking: destined for the remainder tables. So let me try this again.

You know Fox News utterly dominates the cable news ratings, right? You know Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers win radio ratings wars, right? Do you think those numbers are fake? Do you think right-wing foundations are "bulk-buying" positive Nielsen and Arbitron figures? Do you think Limbaugh's bosses pay him $33 mil a year even though no one's really listening to him?

So why not books, too?

Look -- wingnuts constitute a third of the country, and a third of the country is still a hell of a lot of people, especially in a highly segmented media environment. And in fact, it takes only a small percentage of that third of the country to make someone a superstar -- Beck's average viewership is a bit over 2 million a day, which is less than 1% of the country. But that's a huge number on cable.

And in the book world, if you sell a million hardcovers -- i.e., if you sell a book to less than half of one percent of all Americans -- you're a mega-seller. (A million movie tickets, by contrast, means your film is a flop.)

I say Sarah will get to at least half a million, and I'd say a million is a serious possibility. (HarperCollins says it's printing 1.5 mil.) Will that include some bulk buys? Sure. But there'll be lines around the block for any personal appearances she makes, mark my words.

And really, so what? Fahrenheit 9/11 made nearly $120 million at the box office, and Bush still got elected; Palin's book will sell like hotcakes to her idiot cult, and still she'll never be president (though she may get to lose a presidential election, because her party may not be able to prevent that idiot cult from getting her nominated).

He's a hardworking entrepreneur who's had it up to here with Barack Obama's policies. In fact, he's so tired of Obama that he's put up the Obama Joker poster on the wall of his small business.

So why isn't he the toast of Fox News? Why isn't Michelle Malkin singing his praises? Why aren't Drudge and Power Line and RedState declaring him a hero?

Hmmm, let's see:

The Virginia NAACP called it an abomination and a sign of disrespect. The owner of a downtown Richmond strip club called it exercising his right to free speech.

About three dozen people attended a lunchtime protest yesterday outside Velvet, where a new banner on one of the exterior walls depicts President Barack Obama as the Joker of "Batman" movie fame.

The banner was unfurled over the weekend by club owner Samuel J.T. Moore III and overlooks a busy intersection outside his business at 15th and East Main streets....

Yup, there's your ideological soul mate, righties: a strip club owner. And not just any strip club owner:

Last year, Moore was convicted of three misdemeanor charges related to having sex with a minor and another female at his apartment above the club, and filming it illegally.

Gosh, it's your own Polanski. He's even sort of an auteur.

Politics aside, I'm sure this will be great for the strip-club business. I know nothing says "sexual arousal" to me more than a picture of a disfigured guy in clown makeup.

I find this image idiotic but, as I've said in the past, I don't see it as racist. It's an image of a black man in whiteface that parodies an image of a white man in whiteface. In any case, it's protected expression under the First Amendment -- but then again, so is making a CD of flatulence.

Whether or not the sign is racist, the Freepers sure are reacting to it in a racist way:

This "magic negro" has set race relations back 30 years.
I know I trust blacks a little less after this marxist ass clown.


They voted for Obama for two reasons.

1. He’s perceived as black

2. He promised to use the government to take money from whitey and give it to them.


I personally will look at ALL blacks as quota boys after this p.o.s.


I have met Blacks who absolutely believe that it is illegal, i.e., against the law, to criticize Obama. This shows their penchant for totalitarianism as well as their expectation to be coddled and pampered by Whitey.

They are not used to being treated as equals.

Enough. I usually have a high tolerance for the bloviations of the bottom-feeders, but this is even getting to me.

Adam Serwer yesterday, in response to a New York Times profile of Liz Cheney, who thrills right-wing audiences when she defends torture:

For the GOP, torture is no longer a "necessary evil." It is a rally cry, a "values" issue like same-sex marriage or abortion. They don't "grudgingly" support torture, they applaud it. They celebrate it. Liz Cheney's unequivocal support for torture methods gleaned from communist China has people begging her to run for office.

... torture is now a "values" issue for the right, it is, like abstinence-only sex education, unmoored from the necessities of proving its usefulness in the real world....

One of the things I learned growing up in Boston during the busing crisis was that the hateful and vengeful very much want to believe that their feelings of hatred and vengeance are moral. They want to lash out -- and they want to be told they have God or morality on their side. Vengeance draws great strength from those rabble-rousers who can explain why the vengeance is righteous indignation. So the people who threw rocks at school buses in 1970s Boston were told that their cause was to preserve neighborhood schools -- that was the slogan -- and they lashed out in the belief that they were the good guys.

More recently, in years of lurking at Free Republic and Fox Nation and other right-wing sites, I've learned that right-wingers' embrace of bellicosity is invariably about the same thing: the fact that they want moral leeway to kill or hurt -- or, more often, to vicariously savor the death or suffering of -- people they hate. Only secondarily, if at all, is it about national security (or, on the domestic side, about, say, crime reduction or traditional morality). It's about having societal permission to be brutal (or vicariously brutal). They want their hatreds socially sanctioned; they want to feel virtuous about watching their enemies suffer. They'll never admit it, but what happens to the country is a side issue at best.

That's why 9/11 was the best Christmas present angry right-wingers ever got. They had a new enemy, and wishing the torments of hell on that enemy was just fine. Anger at terrorists was widespread, of course, but for angry right-wingers, the wishing-the-torments-of-hell part was the point -- that and the wallowing in their own sense of moral superiority. It's been clear for years that they're savoring this hatred and sense of self-righteousness. If we managed to eliminate the terrorist threat, efficiently and with as little bloodshed as possible, they'd feel a sense of letdown.

So of course they cheer Liz Cheney and her torture talk. They want to hurt someone -- righteously. She holds out the hope that that pleasure won't be denied them.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Headline at Drudge this evening:

(The link is to this story from -- naturally -- the Fox affiliate in Chicago.)

Yeah, right -- we mustn't bring the Olympics to Chicago because Chicago sometimes has senseless murders. That's the message right-wingers are getting right now from folks like Drudge.

And I'm sure that, as a result, right-wingers think the city that's going to win if Chicago doesn't must have much more peaceful, crime-free low-income neighborhoods....


Yeah, schmucks -- Rio. That's the city that gets the Olympics if the Olympics don't come to Chicago. Can you spell favela, boys and girls? Can Drudge? Can Malkin? Can Beck?

The death of Bill Sparkman -- found hanged in a Kentucky cemetery with "Fed" written on his chest and his Census Bureau ID taped to his body -- is making right-wingers nervous, and, not wanting to wait for possible confirmation that the killing was a political assassination, they're lashing out preemptively. You may have seen the post in which wingnut blogger Dan Riehl speculated that Sparkman was a pedophile, based on no evidence whatsoever; now we have this from Roger Hedgecock at World Net Daily:

Dead Census worker: Victim of open borders?

... Now it looks more like Sparkman was yet another victim of illegal drug operations on national forest land, and possibly also a victim of our still open border with Mexico.

... According to the Wall Street Journal, Mexican drug gangs operate marijuana plantations in 61 national forests in 16 states, up from three forests in one state (California) 15 years ago....

Um, no. That's not what the Journal article says. Here's what it says (emphasis added):

Marijuana growers, many believed to be affiliated with Mexican drug cartels, are aggressively expanding their illegal farming operations in the U.S., clearing land to plant pot in dozens of national forests from coast to coast.

... Authorities have discovered pot farms in 61 national forests across 16 states this year, up from 49 forests in 10 states last year. New territories include public land in Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia.

Nearly half the farms were tended by foreign nationals, and investigators say they believe some of the big operations are controlled by Mexican drug-trafficking rings....

All... nearly half ... some ... hey, what's the diff, right?

I'd say this was just a reading comprehension problem if the massaging of the facts didn't push the story oh-so-conveniently in the desired direction. That's what I call truth creep. Now half the wingnuts in America think this is a verified fact.

Word clearly went out in Wingnuttia last night and this morning that the story righties were supposed to bump up to the top of the charts today was Drudge's "FOX-TV CHICAGO ORDERED NOT TO RUN ANTI-OLYMPICS STORY" (which turns out to be a highly inaccurate headline, given the fact that the story in question actually was run by the Fox affiliate -- it just wasn't run again -- and the decision not to air the story again was made by the station's news director, not any Obama-linked Chicago "thug").

But OK, I'll bite. Let's say someone "thuggish" actually did pressure the Fox station not to air the story again. And let's say the news director complied out of a well-placed fear.

Well, funny how that doesn't seem to have happened at any non-Fox station.

Funny how no "thug" ever pressured Chicago's ABC affiliate not to air this three-part report, which contains a fair amount of skepticism about Chicago's Olympic bid:

...concern about cost continues.

"I would never bankrupt the city of Chicago," Chicago's Mayor Daley said.

Anti-Olympics groups like to point out Vancouver's politicians made the same pledge for the 2010 Winter Games.

And funny how no one pressured the ABC affiliate not to do the story "Group Argues Against Chicago's Olympic Bid" a few months ago.

Funny how no one pressured WGN-TV in Chicago not to run a poll story titled "Chicago Support for 2016 Bid Fades." Or pressured the CBS affiliate not to run "IOC Report Finds Problems In Chicago 2016 Plan" or, last year, "Activists: Chicago Doesn't Deserve 2016 Olympics." Funny how the NBC station in Chicago still has "Chicagoans Back the Bid ... for Rio" up on its Web site -- essentially the same story allegedly "banned" at Fox.

For thugs, these fearsome Obama-backed censors sure rule with something less than an iron fist.

Steve Benen doesn't agree with the decision by The New York Times to "assign an editor to monitor [right-wing] opinion media and brief [top editors] frequently on bubbling controversies." Steve writes:

... part of responsible journalism is separating fact from fiction, identifying which stories have genuine value, and which don't. Allowing Fox News and talk radio to become assignment editors for major, legitimate news organizations is backwards -- the vast majority of the time they're pursuing obvious nonsense.

I'm repeating points I've made in the past, but I've always felt that the responsibility to separate fact from fiction is precisely why legitimate news organizations should be pursuing stories that are making noise in Wingnuttia -- otherwise, the only people talking about whether, say, there's something sinister about Obama's "czars" or whether there's "Chicago-style" suppression of stories about critics of the Windy City's Olympics bid are the wingnuts themselves.

These stories don't die from lack of oxygen -- they get plenty of hot air from the right-wing media. Wingnuts discuss them with swing voters at the proverbial backyard barbecues -- and if non-wingnuts don't have the answers, part of the reason is that they're not getting the truth about these specific stories from responsible media outlets.

Hell, it's not just some swing voters in Indiana. Jay Leno had Rush Limbaugh on TV last week and Limbaugh went on and on about how George W. Bush valiantly tried to rein in mortgage excesses, but bad loans were made because Democrats and ACORN wanted them to be made. (See the video below, about 4:15 in.) And Leno didn't have a rebuttal. (He didn't have rebuttals to much of what Limbaugh said, beyond vague New Dealish platitudes.)

The wingnut-rebutting truth is out there on the mortgage mess (The New York Times, for instance, has done some good work on how it happened, and This American Life fans got an updated rerun of the quite splendid award-winning story "The Giant Pool of Money" over the weekend, which was full of money-hungry boiler-room cowboys and others of that ilk who didn't give a rat's patootie about ACORN) -- but the noise-making ability of the right-wing media machine means a serious, sustained response to wingnut mythmaking is not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary.


(And yes, I realize I'm making a big leap of faith when I assume that non-wingnut news outlets will rebut rather than echo wingnut memes. And I also realize that the only acceptable opinion on this subject is the opposite of mine.)

Cokie Roberts on NPR this morning:

"The leaking of that request of General McChrystal ... for more troops puts the president in a very tough position. His lack of a military background makes it hard for him to challenge his commanders, if that's, in fact, what he decides to do."

Yes, how can Obama possibly be taken seriously on military matters when he lacks the extensive service record of, say, retired five-star generals George W. Bush and Ronald Wilson Reagan? Or, for that matter, the new go-to expert in the Beltway on matters military, multiple Medal of Honor winner Liz Cheney?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I don't know if I agree with this:

Former President Bill Clinton told NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press" that the so-called "vast right-wing conspiracy" still exists and is "as virulent as it was," but has had its impact diminished by the nation's changing demographics....

But he reminds me of one more reason Democrats took a hit in '94:

During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Clinton said, "There's no way they can make it that bad."

"No. 1, the country is more diverse and more interested in positive action," Clinton said. "No. 2, they've [the American public] seen this movie before, because they had eight years under President [George W.] Bush when the Republicans finally had the whole government, and they know the results were bad. And -- No. 3 -- the Democrats haven't taken on the gun lobby like I did...."

Right -- the gun issue. That hurt. A lot of people are saying Obama can't fail on health care because failing on health care was the reason for the Democrats' '94 losses, but you've got to add guns to that. And before the health care debate started, the conventional wisdom was that the Dems' '94 losses happened because of the Clinton tax increase. And Firedoglake thinks the problem was NAFTA. And Frank Luntz says it was midnight basketball.

I say it was many of the above in combination, if not all. And that might have added up to more than the GOP has now against Obama (sorry, "Too many czars!!!1!1" is not a hot-button issue outside the base), even though the base-inspiring machine is much more efficient right now. I can't assess how '94 and '10 compare -- I'm worried, but not sure I should be -- but I really don't think there's as much that's getting swing voters angry at Obama as there was in Clinton's first two years, rightly or wrongly.

Predictably, main object of right-wing bloggers' wrath this morning is a piece by New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt about the paper's response to the ACORN-video story. The paper didn't have enough coverage of the videos for the righties' tastes, or, we now learn, for Hoyt's, and the righties think it's obvious that the Times was protecting Democrats, liberals, and ACORN.

I'm going to make a case that the Times was protecting Republicans.

Or to put it another way: the Times was protecting its image of Republicans from any contact with the reality of what Republicans are now.

Hoyt writes:

Some editors told me they were not immediately aware of the Acorn videos on Fox, YouTube and a new conservative Web site called

Well, of course they weren't. To those editors, the GOP and the conservative movement are made up of the fine right-wingers the editors meet at Georgetown cocktail parties. Those fine folks have nothing to do with this, this ... online/Fox News rabble. Right?

Institutionally, the Times believes that Republicans are wonderful fellows and gals, friendly, collegial, patriotic, and devoted to the best interests of the nation. Frank Rich and Paul Krugman and a couple of other opinion columnists (even Tom Friedman these days) may recognize that that isn't so, but a long tradition of thinking well of the major players inside the Beltway is still obvious in the straight-news political coverage in the Times and other major media outlets.

That's why these outlets have essentially ignored talk radio for twenty years. That's why they often ignore books by right-wing rabble-rousers. If they paid attention to the radicalism that is now mainstream in the GOP -- that is the minstream of the GOP now -- they'd have to stop thinking of Republicans as good citizens acting in good faith for all of America's betterment.

So they pretend all that tossing of stink bombs isn't happening. They pretend GOP pols are open-minded, and not in thrall to the bomb-throwers. They pretend that, if they ignore what the bomb-throwers are saying and doing, it'll all fade into irrelevance, and they and the pols and pundits can all have lovely times together over drinks.

Is the press protecting Democrats, too? If so, it's protecting Democrats who endorse what ACORN does in its best moments and don't endorse its worst sins.

Republicans, on the other hand, are currently embracing some of the craziest and most irresponsible ideas and notions on the right. They're joining hands with irresonsible people precisely because they're saying and doing irresponsible things.

And the Times doesn't want to believe that. So, with regard to the right, it sees, hears, and speaks no evil.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


At a certain point in a murder investigation, details about the crime ought to emerge that make certain scenarios more or less likely. What's curious about the Bill Sparkman murder case is that the details fit two scenarios equally well. What does it mean when a right-wing assassination and a drug murder would look pretty much the same?

... The word "fed" was written in felt-tip pen on 51-year-old Bill Sparkman's chest....

Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, told The Associated Press on Friday that he was certain from the gruesome scene that someone killed Sparkman....

"... they had like his identification tag on his neck. They had it duct-taped to the side of his neck, on the right side, almost on his right shoulder."

Both of the people briefed on the investigation confirmed Sparkman's Census Bureau ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area....

Although anti-government sentiment was one possibility in the death, some in law enforcement also cited the prevalence of drug activity in the area -- including meth labs and marijuana fields....

Both drug dealers and angry right-wingers consider federal restraints on their behavior unacceptable. Many angry right-wingers consider the federal government essentially illegitimate, just like the bootleggers who are the spiritual -- and in some cases literal -- forebears of rural drug dealers. Angry right-wingers and drug dealers both feel they're answerable to a different set of laws from the rest of us. In both cases, it's rejection of the government's authority, with oneself and one's peers proclaimed as the legitimate authorities.

So no wonder no one can tell what really happened in this case.
The Question that Is Never Asked:

What is the difference between someone old enough to choose Medicare Coverage and everyone else? Why should everyone *under* the age of 65 live in fear of health care costs, job loss, private insurance recission and loss? Is there some magical bar, some fairy dust, that prevents us from admitting that American Citizens have precisely identical health care needs from cradle to grave--and that they should, of course, have the exactly same set of rights to meet those needs through a national co-insurance pool based on taxes levied evenly, and (for preference) progressively on all salaried employees and employers?

I've never understood the willingness of the average person and the average journalist to pretend that categories like "over 65" and "under 65" reflect anything other than historical accident. We're all citizens. We are all human. We all have health care needs. My grandparents aren't more needy than I, or more worthy than I, and its not even clear that they have paid more into the system than I have. I have been astounded, absolutely astounded, at the inability of our pundits and our representatives to simply ask the most basic question: What's the difference between me and someone older than me, from a legal or moral point of view, that enables the Government to assume responsibility for ensuring proper medical care for someone of age X + and not for me or my children?

Atrios links to this new poll showing that the public, in general, would be interested in expanding Medicare downwards to include lots more people.

But here’s the stunner: In the very same poll, respondents were asked whether they favored a Medicare-like public option for everyone. The right-wingers were out there in roughly the same numbers that they registered in answering the other questions: 26 percent of respondents said they opposed the public option. But a whopping 65 supported it.

Despite the piss poor job of our elected leadership the people actually get it. What's good for our elderly parents is, in fact, good for all of us.


Friday, September 25, 2009


Steve Benen writes:

Michael Crowley noted this morning, "It's a little weird that there hasn't been more alarm surrounding the apparently major Denver-based terror plot busted up by the feds in the past few days. Last night, ABC News reported that authorities believe Najibullah Zazi's may have co-plotters who are still at large."

We obviously need quite a bit more information about the Zazi case, but given what we know, it's a fair point.

... where's the freak-out? Jason Zengerle offers a compelling explanation.

Part of it is the crying wolf phenomenon: After so many supposedly big-deal domestic terrorism arrests turned out to be what NYU law school's Karen J. Greenberg calls "fantasy terrorism cases" (Padilla, the Liberty City Six, the Lackawanna Six, etc.), I think a lot of people have just become inured to this sort of thing, not to mention skeptical....

I think that's a good part of the reason -- but there's an additional obvious reason. Before January 20, 2009, when people freaked out at being told of thwarted terrorist plots, why did they freak out? A lot of them freaked out because they were Republicans -- outside the White House as well as in -- and it was politically useful to freak out, because the president was a Republican and his chief selling point was that he was the reason we hadn't all been annihilated in our beds.

Well, now the president's a Democrat, and Republicans apparently don't want to freak out, do they? That might draw attention to the fact that terrorists seem to have been thwarted on a Democrat's watch. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.



And no, we shouldn't torture Zazi. I'm glad Jeffrey Toobin said no in response to Crowley's post on the subject (Crowley seems disappointed) -- but, really, the person who ought to be telling Crowley no is someone who actually has skills and experience as an interrogator.

The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal apparently doesn't like the proposed new financial reforms:

Congress and the Treasury have been forced to peel back their financial reform ambitions, which is some cause for relief. But not nearly enough, because their plan for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency would still unleash 50 state attorneys general to harass America's banks. Think Eliot Spitzer, without the self-restraint.

Hmmm, Spitzer, but more so. OK -- and the downside is ... ?

Ah, but this is the Journal editorial page, so we're expected to shed a tear for money people:

...the Frank-Obama proposal still contains the Treasury's not-so-bright idea to require all banks to comply with national rules, plus a different set of regulations in each state where they operate. The regulatory possibilities are endless, starting with the fact that each state could impose different rules for pricing, product features, repayment schedules, bank capital requirements, consumer disclosure, regulatory reporting requirements, and so on. If each state can set its own rules, expect endless legal confusion over which law prevails when a bank in one state serves a customer in another.

Oh, my goodness -- "confusion"! "Confusion" will make bankers' heads hurt! We can't possibly expect our financial system to function if it contains any "confusion"! "Confusion" will crash bankers' primitive computers, and no one connected to the world of finance is brainy enough to devise a way, technological or otherwise, to cope with all the "confusion"!

After all, the people who handle our money are simple country folk who -- especially in the past decade or so -- have become accustomed to dealing strictly in down-to-earth, back-to-the-land items like collateralized debt obligations:

How do you expect these humble Norman Rockwell types to cope with the supersubtle work of the most brilliantly evil geniuses of our time -- state legislators?

I really appreciate today's Paul Krugman column ...

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you'll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change....

... because Krugman shows that he clearly understands the need to anticipate, rather than merely rebut, the arguments made by the right. He knows the real battle hasn't started yet -- and he uses this column to make the case for climate-change legislation before that happens. Would that the Obama administration understood the need to do the same. Would that Team Obama were setting the terms of the debate -- now. But I'm afraid I know what's going to happen: the we're all going to die or be rendered penniless at Obama's hands!!! lies are going to fly thick and fast as soon as Washington is focused on climate change, and the White House is going to have to play a desperate game of catch-up. I really hope I'm wrong about this, but I fear no one at the White House ever really expects the worst, therefore no one at the White House has a plan for fending off the worst in order to prevail, which is the point.

The FBI has apparently disrupted a terror plot centered on Najibullah Zazi of Colorado; it conducted a sting operation that led to the arrest yesterday of a man charged with attempting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper; and it conducted another sting that led to the arrest of a Muslim convert (and apparent admirer of John Walker Lindh) in Illinois who allegedly tried to detonate what he believed was a bomb outside a federal courthouse.

Odd that this is all happening while we supposedly have a president who loves our enemies and hates America.

No, really -- why didn't B. Hussein Osama, pinko commie and bestest friend of domestic terrorists, order the FBI to stop pursuing these cases? Wouldn't that just follow logically? For a man dedicated to the destruction of America, wouldn't allowing the pursuit of these cases fly in the face of everything he holds dear?

Isn't it high time we demanded an explanation of this apparent contradiction from those who literally believe Obama is a treasonous America-hater? I don't just mean teabaggers or Beck or Limbaugh -- I mean "respectable" people like barking lunatic Michael Ledeen ("I think that [Obama] rather likes tyrants and dislikes America").

But I suppose that, for them, all that treason talk is like the verbal nastiness in sexual sadomasochism -- we're supposed to just know that they don't really mean it and it's all posturing and playacting; surely there's a "safe word" that can be uttered before someone takes it all too literally and decides Obama is a genuine menace to the Republic who's earned a bullet in the head. (See, e.g., John McCain, who gets a lot of credit for ultimately acknowledging Obama's patriotism on the campaign trail, even though he did so only after tolerating and encouraging the build-up of a hell of a lot of rage based on fantasies.) It's all theater; it's all sport. All fun and games -- until what?
Doug Giles...Doug Giles...Where Have I Heard That Name Before?

Oh, Yeah:

That would be this Doug Giles.

Giles: Now all I have to do if I want [pornography] is go on my laptop or click on Sesame Street (sic). When do you think it’s going to be in church or synagogue?

Hm. Seems like Hanna was probably just be imitating something daddy let her watch on his lap-top.

Doug is pro meat!

8. And lastly for now (‘til my book gets brokered), in Genesis chapter twenty-seven Isaac, one of Jehovah’s main covenant kids, gets to feeling a bit peckish one day, and you know what he asks for to satisfy his hunger? Was it tofu? No. Lentils? Wrong again. A wheat grass smoothie? Strike three, Chicken Little. It was venison, a Ted Nugent back strap fever feast, that’s what! Yep, Isaac commanded his son to pick up his bow and collect him a buck for some down home barbeque.

Doug likes chicks!

I’m not Homophobic; I’m Chick-O-Centric...9. When we look at a pretty girl, we think “wow” and say, “howdy.” To us, the lovely lady lumps trump a man’s hairy back any day. Call us crazy.

And for extra Clash-Points--from the Incomparable Sadly, No!

Can you guess which of the following were written by Doug Giles, and which were concocted by the twisted minds of Sadly, No!?

a) From a communication standpoint, the prophets, patriarchs, warriors and wild men of scripture were more like Bill O’Reilly.
b) My ClashPoint is this: Every exposed nipple on TV acts like a decay agent on our morality tooth.
c) I know this doesn’t sound like “paradise” for those who are immoral, lazy, stupid and fat, but it was God?s and primitive man’s idea of Yippee Land.
d) It’s about time all your say-nothing, do-nothing Christians open up a can of whoop ass of faith on the intolerant liberal secular minds that won’t rest until God is eliminated from our lives.
e) My ClashPoint is this: Listen, concerned Christian?even though the times are going to get tougher than Joan Rivers’ elbows before they get any better in the United States of Liberal Acrimony, we must not acquiesce.
f) We’ve become a society so free of character that slaying a dragon is no longer a requirement to be elected to the presidency.
g) Liberals eat away at our morals, like Michael Moore set free at the opening of a new Krispy Kreme Donuts.
h) We’ve got to re-inject a mega dose of faith, character and virtue back into the personal and national mix. That is, if we want to continue to enjoy a free and just society.
i) You?ll remain a voiceless, passive facilitator of secularism who squats on the sidelines of life, sitting out the greatest ideological battle our nation has ever faced.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


ACORN is suing chief honcho Andrew Breitbart and video pimp and hooker James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles for non-consensual videotaping in Maryland -- and now, of course, there's a legal defense fund to which all wingnuts are being invited to contribute.

But, oddly, it's not a legal defense fund for all three defendants, or even just for O'Keefe and Giles. It's only for Hannah Giles.

From Free Republic:

Hannah the Heroine on Hannity-new defense fund website

Saw Hannah Giles on Sean Hannity's show...her new defense fund website is Defend

She is being supported by a foundation associated with Dr. James Dobson's Focus On The Family. If you are a Christian, you will help another good Christian effort to support Hannah the patriot!


She is cute as a button....


What! No pictures? ....

Several pictures follow:

Um ... I think these folks are hot for the, er, 20-year-old.

Over at NewsBusters, Breitbart is also plugging her legal defense fund:

According to Breitbart, there is an initiative underway at his Web site,, to form a legal defense fund, which includes a link where contributions can be made.

Both the latter link and Defend take you to a page that looks like this:

I don't know if the focus is on her because the Dobson-affiliated group was the quickest out of the gate in seeing this as a fund-raising and mailing-list-building opportunity (Hannah Giles is the daughter of Doug Giles, a wingnut minister who's also a radio host and columnist) -- or because the crowd backing O'Keefe and Giles thinks Giles is the new right-wing hottie, the new Carrie Prejean (or Sarah Palin, or Ann Coulter).

Either way, pulses are racing in Wingnuttia right now -- and just thinking about that makes me want to take a shower.


(And Aimai has more on Hannah's dad.)
Doesn't Get Any More Backwards Than This:

On Wednesday, the new head of the federal Census Bureau revealed his reason for dropping ACORN as an agency partner. He said the bureau's link to ACORN was hurting efforts to get Americans to participate in the count. And Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Wednesday asked the House Judiciary Committee to summon Lewis, ACORN founder Wade Rathke and other ACORN officers for a hearing on its activities.

So, we have a census program that is so politicized and embattled and underfunded that it must routinely rely on low paid, unskilled, almost volunteer labor to conduct its work. It turns to ACORN and other community groups who are at least dedicated to working with undercounted communities. The right wing, who oppose accurate Census counts as well as universal voting registration attack and delegitimize the entire process of Census taking, counting, and voter registration and it is ACORN and poor communities that pay the price? And the Census thinks that it is ACORN's reputation that is "hurting" the Census and not the full frontal push by Michelle Bachman and others to demonize the Census and the Census workers? Issa knows what he's doing--why don't the Democrats hold angry, ugly, hearings with Census workers who have been attacked, spat on, threatened and put Bachmann and other right wing poster nuts for anti-federalism and anti-census nonsense on a show trial? If you aren't on offense, you aren't even on defense. This is no long game they are playing. They are playing dead.

h/t Crooks and Liars

I keep telling you that Glenn Beck and the teabaggers are very, very good for the Republican Party, but, hey, I'm just a dumb schmuck, and obviously not as smart as Frank Rich, Glenn Greenwald, Ezra Klein, and Nate Silver, all of whom have said in the past week, in one way or another, that Beckism/teabagism/town hall anarchism is a double-edged sword that potentially threatens both parties. Since they obviously know more than I do, the lead story in this morning's USA Today can't possibly be true, can it?

GOP gets big bump of donors in August

Despite being in the minority in Congress, Republican campaign committees outraised Democrats by $1.7 million in August as they have aggressively collected political cash amid the rancorous debate over health care....

The GOP spike is a departure. In each of the past four years, the party in power -- whether Democrat or Republican -- raised more than the minority's fundraising committees in August, a USA TODAY review of campaign records shows.

"Republicans have been able to tap into some of the anger against Democrats in power and translate that into fundraising," said Nathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report....

Yup -- Republicans had that fundraising spike. Not None-of-the-Above-icans. Not Throw-All-the-Bums-Out-Regardless-of-Party-icans. Not Post-Modern-Conservatism-icans.

I don't care how much lip service Beck pays to the notion of pox-on-both-your-houses -- his Antichrists are Democrats, and the vast majority of Americans see one and only one alternative to the Democratic Party.

And they're now backing that alternative with vitriol and cash.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gelman, a Nate Silver co-blogger, has crunched some numbers and concluded that Republicans are seriously gaining ground:

Generic House Polling Suggests the Republicans Could Regain the House in 2010

... The current state of the generic polls gives the Democrats .412/(.412+.377) = 52% of the two-party vote. Going to the graph, we see, first, that 52% for the Democrats is near historic lows (comparable to 1946, 1994, and 1998) and that the expected Democratic vote--given that their party holds the White House--is around -3%, or a 53-47 popular vote win for the Republicans.

Would 53% of the popular vote be enough for the Republicans to win a House majority? A quick look, based on my analysis with John Kastellec and Jamie Chandler of seats and votes in Congress, suggests yes.

... the numbers now definitely do not look good for the Democrats.

I know how pleasant it is to think of the GOP as an aging, shrinking, regionalized cohort of ignoramuses and lunatics. But don't get complacent. They're coming back. Hard.
Can this Possibly Be True? Or, If True, of Whom is It True?

According to Huff Po the Dems are finally figuring out that the battle for Health Care is entirely on their side of the Aisle and the push for Cloture has begun in earnest. However the party still seems to be under the impression that there is some real world electoral reason why their most intransigent, right wing, members are refusing to simply commit both to cloture and to voting for a popular and important party priority--ie the actual bill. Tad Devine explains to us that "people" lose seats over "procedural votes."

"People have lost seats on procedural votes," said Tad Devine, a long-time Democratic strategist. "That is what happened in the 1994 election, when President Clinton's economic package went into law and a number of Democrats in the House lost their seats... But if you are talking about one or two people who are well established, they can oppose legislation on the merits but allow it to come to a vote and I don't think that's enough to cost them a seat."

I just find that impossible to believe. For one thing, as usual, it assumes a static world in which Republican propaganda is naturally let to fly free and the Dems can't even marshall enough gumption to stand up and proclaim the value of what they are doing. Certainly if the Party as a whole doesn't publicly back its initiatives and brag about their value and demonstrate their value to the voters people who merely stand on the sidelines and spit may not pay a price for that intransigence and people who vote with the party won't reap the benefits electorally. But that is merely to say that the Dems must be prepared to actually, you know, run on their record instead of running away from it.

But, more to the point, I find that impossible to believe of the people--like Landrieu, Lieberman, Conrad, Nelson, etc...who are in question. These are simply not liminal people politically. Or, if they are, voting *for* cloture and *no* on the actual bill just seems to be a recipe for suicide by some other means. Anyone know the actual history of the '94 lost seats? Way, way, way, more was going on than could be captured in "procedural votes."

In today's Washington Post, Harold Meyerson dares to defend ACORN as an organization that's out there doing important work (campaigning against predatory lending, registering large numbers of voters with -- though he doesn't put it quite this way -- some cases of embarrassing but easily corrected voter-registration irregularity but little if any fraud involving actual voting).

But I want to talk about what Meyerson says about media coverage of ACORN:

...Peter Dreier, a professor of politics at Occidental College, and Christopher R. Martin, a professor of journalism at University of Northern Iowa, just concluded ... an exhaustive study of news coverage of ACORN. Looking at the 647 stories on the group that ran in leading newspapers and broadcast networks in 2007 and 2008, they found that not only did a majority of such stories focus on allegations of voter fraud but also that 83 percent of the stories that linked ACORN to those allegations failed to mention that actual instances of voter fraud were all but nonexistent.

"Only a handful of the stories in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal," Dreier and Martin note, "mentioned that actual cases of voter fraud were very rare" -- even though all three papers had covered the firings of the U.S. attorneys for their failure to find such cases. But the steady drumbeat from right-wing pundits and journalists about ACORN and voter fraud, the authors conclude, eventually set the terms of discussion even at elite mainstream media.

Nonetheless, the mainstream media have also come under attack for not giving greater play to the most recent round of alleged ACORN scandals because the stories were first aired on the TV broadcasts of such right-wing polemicists as Glenn Beck. On Sunday, The Post's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote that "one explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints." Dreier and Martin's study makes clear that in the case of ACORN, the reverse is true.

But these are two sides of the same coin.

When non-wingnut journalists don't pay attention to the obsessions of wingnuttia, they get caught flat-footed when a story the wingers are obsessing over breaks through -- catching up, they find themselves looking for context and finding it only in whatever wingers are yelling and screaming.

What I mean is: If non-wingnut journalists had noticed the right's ACORN obsession and been producing some calmer, saner coverage of ACORN all along, their stories on ACORN in recent days would have had more non-hysterical context.

I'm a big believer in paying serious attention to the obsessions of Limbaugh and Beck and Breitbart and Free Republic. The point is not to join in the wingers' craziness -- it's to acknowledge that the subjects these people cover are what a significant percentage of the population calls "news," therefore responsible news organizations ought to be doing responsible stories on the same subjects. When that doesn't happen, conspiratorialism runs rampant.

Stories don't go away because the major networks and The New York Times and The Washington Post think the stories are beneath them. They fester in Crazy Land, and non-crazy truth never emerges to counter the insanity. Crazy Land stories get spread by talk radio/Fox fans at the proverbial backyard barbecues. And then sometimes the Crazy Land stories go fully mainstream -- and only Glenn Beck feels prepared to provide context. That's not good for America.

Look at what the wackos are covering -- and cover it in a non-wacko way.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Ezra Klein writes:

You guys like polls, right?

45% approve of Obama's handling of health care, while 46% disapprove, which is up from his 41%-47% score last month. By comparison, just 21% approve of the Republican Party's handling of the issue.

The Republican Party's strategy against health-care reform has been something of a kamikaze mission: destroy the bill through a strategy that also destroys the party, at least in the short-term.

Well, Ezra, nothing ever actually destroys a major party in this country. No one can figure out a way to get from our calcified two-party system to anything else. So it doesn't matter how many times Glenn Beck leads his minions in a chant of "Both parties suck!" Voters will still see themselves as having two choices.

The hope is that if they win the war, they'll be in better shape come the 2010 midterms. Maybe that'll work. Maybe it won't.

With the base, it'll work. I don't know when, but before you know it, the bait-and-switch is coming from the right-wing noise machine: we'll be introduced to a new bunch of candidates who profess hatred of everyone Glenn Beck hates. And surprise! They'll all be Republicans!

But if it does work, it won't leave them in a better position to govern.

OK, this is where you lose me, Ezra. Who in the Republican Party gives a crap about the ability to govern? Controlling government is about accruing power. It's about obtaining and distributing boodle. It's about rewarding rich friends and starting popular, rabble-rousing wars (domestic and foreign) so you can keep doing more of the same indefinitely. And if you're not a stumblebum named Bush (but I repeat myself), it's probably a viable plan.

What Republicans -- and, when they're out of power, Democrats -- are doing is essentially discrediting the political process.

For Republicans, that's a feature, not a bug.

Piece by piece, bill by bill. The argument, essentially, is that politicians are untrustworthy and Congress is corrupt and interest groups are trying to do horrible things to you and problems are not being solved.


All those thing might be true, but they're being said, in this case, by politicians who want to take back Congress


and start negotiating with interest groups to solve problems.

False. They're not being said by politicians who want to start negotiating with interest groups to solve problems. They're being said by Republicans.

That's not going to work terribly well, and for obvious reasons. Republicans may think they've found a clever strategy in making it hard for Democrats to govern, but what they're really doing is making it nearly impossible for anyone to govern. American politics is trapped in a cycle of minority obstruction, and though that's good for whomever the minority is at the moment, it's not particularly good for making progress on pressing issues.

Right. Exactly. That's the point. The way you stay in power forever is to (a) gain control of the government, then (b) define "government" as your evil enemies, the liberals and Democrats, against whose predations you're defending ordinary Americans. It worked for Reagan. It even worked for that stumblebum George W. Bush for a while. And this governing thing? Well, if neglect of that means that chaos eventually rains down, you had a hell of a ride, and years of currying the favor of the powerful will protect you well.


UPDATE: Steve Benen said essentially the same thing, though in a much more civilized manner.
This is One of the Best Things I've Ever Read on the Subject:

David Kay Johnston knocks it out of the park:

Atop the front page of The New York Times today is a color photo of Georgia homes flooded up to their rafters, an image that illustrates how when it comes to insurance our Congress applies two standards, separate and unequal, one for property and a lesser one for people.

Unlike people without health insurance, homeowners have access to public option flood insurance.

Even those who fail to take personal responsibility to buy insurance to protect their property can get benefits, thanks in good part to politicians who are leading opponents of public option healthcare.

Read the whole thing. Its nothing we don't already know, but its said very elegantly, and with details.

I keep hearing that Barack Obama's approval ratings have plummeted to unprecedented depths, so I was struck by his personal approval ratings in the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (PDF). I'll give you the same set of results, with two dates highlighted.

First, the current numbers (click to enlarge):

Add up the "very" and "somewhat" positive numbers and you get: 56%.
Add up the "very" and "somewhat" negative numbers and you get: 33%.

Now, the numbers the last time NBC/WSJ asked the same question in the pre-election period:

Add up the "very" and "somewhat" positive numbers and you get: 56% -- again.
Add up the "very" and "somewhat" negative numbers and you get: 33% -- again.

In between now and then, his numbers were noticeably better from December through about ... er, April. That's the month when the first tea party happened. That, in other words, is when the right decided it was time to re-contest the November election.

And that's where we've been ever since.

It can be argued that this is just the public doing what it should do, which is constantly testing and challenging elected officeholders. Or it can be said that this is something more -- that even though voters decided that Barack Obama was the person to hold the office of president, some people refused to accept him as legitimate; some began suggesting not only that he shouldn't be president but that he wasn't a decent American (or an American of any kind) and wasn't fit to walk among decent people.

Which is pretty much what was happening to him in October.

So Obama's personal approval rating is back where it was during the campaign, possibly because we're back where we were -- in a campaign.

The bargaining table is not a holy altar. Senator Carper, (D. Delaware) confuses a poker game played with baseball bats with a harpist playing "feelings" while weeping in front of a picture of the baby jesus.**

I was not involved in negotiations with PhRMA but I believe that the administration was, obviously PhRMA was, and I presume this committee was involved in some way in those negotiations.

And what PhRMA agreed to do through those negotiations is to pay about
80 billion dollars over 10 years to help fill up half the donut hole. That's my understanding. And they are prepared to go forward and to honor that commitment. As I understand it, the commitment from our colleague Senator Nelson would basically double what was negotiated with PhRMA.

And whether you like PhRMA or not -- remember I talked earlier today in our opening statements, I talked about four core values, and one of those is the golden rule, treat other people the way I want to be treated?

I'll tell you -- if someone negotiated a deal with me and I agreed to put up say, 80 dollars or 80 million dollars or 80 billion dollars and then you came back and said to me a couple of weeks later -- no no, I know you agreed to do 80 billion and I know you were willing to help support through an advertising campaign this particular -- not even this particular bill, just the idea of generic health care reform? No, we're going to double -- we're going to double what you agreed in those negotiations to do. That's not the way -- that's not what I consider treating people the way I'd want to be treated.

That just doesn't seem right to me.

Interestingly enough it *seems totally right* to me. I mean, that's what bargains are--you make them, and you renegotiate them if you can. Say, if you get a better offer. Until the deal's done--signed, sealed, delivered and paid for you can usually return anything from a blender to a car. You can return things because they were sold to you under false pretenses, didn't belong to the seller in the first place, or are broken. You can refuse to be a party to negotiations taken in bad faith, or that are taken on behalf of others who didn't get invited to the table. Not only can you do that--its incumbent on you to do that. The free market gods told me so.

h/t Campaign Silo

** Carper seems to think that THIS isn't satire.

From U.S. News:

Some Republicans are working to delay votes on President Obama's healthcare reform until after November's off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey, but not just because they want time to amend the plan. GOP strategists are hopeful that Republicans will upset Democrats in the gubernatorial races there, scaring moderate Democrats away from the Obama plan as they worry about their own re-election in 2010....

To state the obvious, this is the real reason the Obama White House cares about who's running in the New York governor's race. It's not just because of the possible impact on down-ticket races that could change the head count in Congress. (And it's not because, in Richard Cohen's idiotic formulation, Obama is a Chicago thug and "When you become a problem for Obama, don't get too close to a window.") It's because the conventional-wisdom-molders of the political world will read way too much into any relatively high-profile election result that tips against the Democrats, even if it doesn't directly involve the House or Senate, and even if the loss had nothing to do with Obama. Any Republican victor in any race will be hailed as an Obama-killer.

Corzine is in trouble in New Jersey because of economic woes (which predate Obama) and because of state Democratic Party corruption; New Jersey is also a state with a recent history of electing Republican governors (Tom Kean, Christie Whitman). Virginia, though it elects some Democrats, was right-wing for decades and has begun to inch left only recently. And yet losses for the Democratic candidates in those states (which are likely) are already being spun as "upsets" -- and, will be spun as referenda on the entire Obama agenda (and nothing else).

Obama worries that thestaggeringly unpopular David Paterson will stay in the race for good reasons. Paterson's unwillingness to step aside might persuade the very popular Andrew Cuomo to stay out of the race -- or might lead to a bruising party primary, quite possibly with racial overtones. And either of those outcomes might lead to Rudy Giuliani in the governor's mansion -- and yet such an election result would be deemed a referendum on Obama. At that point, the guardians of conventional wisdom would declare Rudy Giuliani to be Barack Obama's debating partner (a role he'd only too happily accept). That's the risk: not that Giuliani could use a gubernatorial victory as a launching pad for a presidential campaign (sorry, Karl Rove, that ain't gonna happen unless Rudy does a Romneyesque flipflop on abortion and homosexuality), but that he'd become the press's idea of a shadow president. (The New York media, part of which is the national media, still harbors a hell of a lot of goodwill for Rudy, whom it regards as a sort of Sinatra of politics.)

And if we're going to talk about Rove and interventions in elections, we should talk not only about the AG scandal but also about stories like this one, from 2004, which describes the heavy-handed way the Bush/Rove White House intervened -- arm-twisted -- to get Mel Martinez on the ballot as a Senate candidate in Florida and apparently pressured the once-moderate Martinex to run a wingnutty and McCarthyite campaign. Let me know when we see evidence of anything like that on the current White House's part.


ON THE OTHER HAND: aimai's point in comments about the way Paterson was handled is absolutely correct.