Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Wingnuttery: "difficulty recognizing satire" Edition

Sully: Rasmussen Again
Just looking at this raft of polling data, it's perfectly clear that Rasmussen is polling a different country than other polling outfits.
Conservative activist Hugh Hewitt published an item over the weekend from Lee Habeeb, which I'm fairly certain was intended to be a joke. The piece ran on Saturday, Oct. 24, and pointed to an event that "occurred" on Wednesday, Oct. 28. (via Karen Tumulty)
More bad news for Fox News ..... sort of.
Oct. 28, 2009 12:43 PM. This just in from Speaker of the House Pelosi. In an interview with MSNBC's Keith Olberman [sic] last night, Nancy Pelosi announced that she would move to bring a vote to the floor of The House of Representatives as early as next week to ban Fox from covering Congress. "That Fox regularly grants access to Republican Congressman to spread their lies and propaganda on their airwaves is a violation of the public trust, and their continued desire to challenge such well documented facts as Global Warming, and the efficacy of single payer health insurance, proves that they are simply doing the work of the special interests. They should thus be stripped of their journalistic access in the halls of Congress," argued Pelosi.
As Tumulty noted, the first clue that an item might be satire is "when it mentions dates that are in the future."
And yet, you might be surprised at the number of blogs that ran with this as a legitimate story. Then again, if you're familiar with far-right blogs, maybe you wouldn't be surprised.
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of Michael Ledeen and Rush Limbaugh falling for a satirical blog post claiming to show portions of a college thesis Barack Obama didn't write. Both eventually backpedalled when they realized they'd fallen for a joke.
Add "difficulty recognizing satire" to the list of conservative troubles.
BarbinMD: Isn't That Sweet? 
Sometimes we need to just step back and remember that politicians, yes, even Republican politicians, are just like the rest of us; people who love their children and whose first concern is for their health:
... Rep. John Culberson among hundreds of people lined up to get the swine flu vaccine at a public clinic at the Arlington County Public Health Division headquarters Wednesday morning.
That in itself isn’t terribly newsworthy — the Texas Republican was there to get his daughter vaccinated, a spokeswoman told HOH.
Isn't that sweet? Taking time out of his busy day because of concern for his daughter's health? It warms the cockles of the heart, doesn't it?
Except for one tiny detail:
But our tipster noted Culberson’s visit to the clinic was "a little ironic since the Congressman voted against the funding that was used to purchase the vaccines in the first place."
Naturally Culberson's office dressed up his no vote as standing up for fiscal responsibility and in the interest of national security, but the fact remains, if Culberson had had his way, he wouldn't have been able to make sure that his daughter was protected against swine flu. Oh, wait a minute, yes he would have -- he has great health benefits.

Think Progress: Perino: Obama’s Criticism Of Fox Is Akin To Chavez’s Tactics, Sets A Bad Example For ‘Emerging Democracies’
Today on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace made sure to devote plenty of time to covering President Obama’s “war on Fox News”; he even played a clip of Sean Connery as Jim Malone “The Untouchables” talking about “the Chicago way” of getting things done. Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino sharply criticized the Obama administration’s tactics and expressed absolute shock at the example the United States was setting for “the free press in emerging democracies,” comparing the criticisms of Fox News to when “Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations”:
PERINO: That was a coordinated, calculated attack. It was unbecoming. And if you look at some of the coverage of what mainstream media covers when, for example, somebody like a Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations, he calls them illegitimate.
Now, I’m not suggesting that this White House believes that they are going to come over here and shut down Fox News. But they are defining a narrative in their first year, and it’s going to be very hard to recover from it. [...]
Through our State Department, we are trying to help emerging democracies get journalists and government officials to talk to one another, because freedom of the press is essential to any democracy. Believe me, they are watching this, and they have — surely are raising questions.
Watch it:

The Obama administration, according to Reporters Without Borders, is actually setting quite a strong example of press freedom for the world. In 2008, the organization found that in terms of press freedom, the U.S. ranked 36th out of 173 countries. Its report singled out “wars carried out in the name of the fight against terrorism” as a cause for the steep decline in press freedoms around the world. Just one year later, the United States has jumped from 36th to 20th. “Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this,” concluded Reporters Without Borders.
So what type of example did the Bush administration set? A few lowlights:
– The Pentagon had a secret program to use retired military analysts to “generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Most of these analysts had “ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.” When the “message machine” became public, Perino defended the program as “absolutely appropriate.”
– The U.S. military was “secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.” The articles contained anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials — which may or may not have been authentic — and “read more like press releases than news stories.”
– The Education Department paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Even after the corruption was uncovered, the administration defended it as “a permissible use of taxpayer funds.”
– The Government Accountability Office found that the Bush administration violated anti-propaganda laws when it disguised two promotional ads — on federal drug policy and Medicare — as news reports. The “reports” aired on dozens of stations, and the GAO “faulted the administration for distributing seemingly independent, ready-to-air reports that did not inform viewers that they came from the government.”
Bush also called a New York Times reporter “a major league asshole” — and never apologized. In fact, Bush never gave the NYT a single interview throughout his presidency. The White House frequently went after NBC News, and Perino has admitted that they essentially froze out MSNBC “towards the end.”

In the Clinton era, Senate Republicans blocked a lot of the White House's judicial nominations. In the Bush era, Senate Democrats blocked votes on some would-be judges, too. But as Doug Kendall explains today, we've never seen anything quite like the new levels of Republican obstructionism.
It seems clear that Senate Republicans are prepared to take the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory -- delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the president's judicial nominees.... Over the past several decades, senators in both parties have used an escalating set of procedural tactics to block confirmations, particularly near the end of an out-going president's term in office. To date, however, the tit-for-tat game has played out within a fairly narrow category of nominees who are deemed controversial. While there has never been an agreed-upon definition of what that means -- it's an eye-of-the-beholder type of thing -- there has consistently been a large category of nominees that are not considered controversial.
Despite all this, Senate Republicans still won't give Obama's judges a vote. The three Obama judges confirmed to the lower courts -- Gerald Lynch from New York and Jeffrey Viken from South Dakota in addition to Lange -- each spent weeks pending on the Senate floor and endured a confirmation process that lasted more than three months. Two additional nominees, Andre Davis of Maryland and David Hamilton of Indiana, cleared the Senate judiciary committee way back on June 4 -- 144 days ago. Yet their floor votes are still pending.
Davis and Hamilton have spent longer in this particular form of limbo than any Bush nominee confirmed from 2007-08.
Kendall describes this as "unprecedented and dangerous." It not only leaves vacancies on the bench, clogging the federal courts, but it also discourages qualified, uncontroversial jurists from even accepting nominations in the first place, knowing that the Republican minority won't give them a fair shake. Prospective judges realize that they can have a skeleton-free closet and plenty of support to be confirmed, but can wait indefinitely for a vote, simply because the GOP feels like it.
And it's not just judicial nominees. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, pointing to the difficulties of responding to the global flu pandemic, recently noted that the Senate isn't allowed to vote on a surgeon general, because Republicans refuse to let Regina Benjamin's nomination come to the floor. "We are facing a major pandemic, we have a well-qualified candidate for surgeon general, she's been through the committee process. We just need a vote in the Senate," Sebeilus said late last week. "Please give us a surgeon general."
Benjamin was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Oct. 7, but the Senate minority has decided to block all HHS nominees, flu pandemic or no flu pandemic.
People for the American Way reported last week that between 1949 and 2009 -- spanning 11 presidents -- there were 24 nominees on which cloture was forced. In the first nine months of Obama's first year in office, there have been five, meaning Senate Republicans on track to force more cloture votes on more Obama nominees than practically every modern president combined.
And that doesn't include the secret and not-so-secret holds.
The Senate isn't supposed to be this dysfunctional.
Think Progress: Georgia Republicans Send Political Mailer Disguised As ‘Official’ Census Survey
11 Alive, a local Georgia news station, reports today that the Georgia Republican Party is sending out a political mailer disguised to look like an official U.S. Census survey. The news station learned of the scam when a voter called the station saying she was “upset” that Georgia Republicans would send out such a mailer, given that many Georgians, especially senior citizens, will not realize that it’s a political ploy and not an actual Census survey:
“I got real upset ’cause I think a lot of people would just automatically fill it out,” [Anne Wilson of Smyrna] told us in a Thursday TV interview, “It’s their civic duty; by law they have to fill out the census. Turns out I and many others across the country have received the same survey letter which is titled the “2009 Congressional District Census”.
The outside of the envelope is stamped “Do Not Destroy, Official Document”. The survey lists a specific congressional district and includes an individual “Census Tracking Code”, with the request, “Please Respond by: November 16, 2009″. [...]
“I could see a lot of my neighbors that are older who would get something like this in the mail and fill it out,” she adds, “all the information, every little section, and send in money.”
The Georgia GOP also sent the mailer to the 8th Congressional District Chair for the Democratic Party of Georgia, who promptly snapped a picture, which his wife placed on her blog:
She writes, “What a hoot! I wonder where the RNC is getting their lists these days, but do appreciate them wasting their donor’s money this way.”
 Atrios on Holy Wars
 Radical cleric Ross Douthat:

What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.
That foe, of course, is the Islamic religion, which is apparently taking over Europe or something.
Beyerstein: Shorter Douthat: It's embarassing to be such a bigot 
Social conservative NYT columnist Ross Douthat admits that he's uncomfortable discussing gay marriage in public because he opposes it for no good reason:
The question came from Christopher Glazek, a fact-checker at The New Yorker, who wanted to know whether Mr. Douthat and Mr. Salam believed that former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who has apologized on behalf of his party for the Southern Strategy, should also apologize for the Republican party's gay politics.
At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: "I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public."
Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public. [NY Obs]
It's understandable that Douthat doesn't like debating the issue in terms of his religious beliefs. Because he always loses to the opponent who says: "Who cares about your religion, Ross? We're talking about the criteria for civil marriage, here."
Ross said he doesn't even bother with the standard secular argument against gay marriage because nobody ever takes takes it seriously:
He added: "The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren't just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don't find purchase in American political discourse. I say, ‘Institutional support for reproduction,' you say, ‘I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him.' Who wins that debate? You win that debate." [NY Obs]
Ross says the notion doesn't "get traction" because it's too "abstract." Notice how the pundit speak absolves him from coming right out and saying that this argument is bunk. He says he doesn't make the case because nobody will listen, not because it's a crazy idea.
Actually, nobody takes the marriage/reproduction argument seriously because any undergraduate can debunk it. It's not abstract at all. Even Ross thinks that sterile opposite-sex couples should be allowed to get married and I'm sure he's aware that some same-sex couples raise children. So, the question is why straight childless couples have more rights than their gay counterparts. If reproductive support is so important, we have a moral obligation to support the children of gay and straight families equally by letting their parents get married.
It's obvious why Ross is uncomfortable talking about gay marriage in public. He wants the state to impose his religion on other people, but he doesn't want to look like a theocrat in front of the liberal cultural elite.

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