Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fear for the Nation

 I watched a bit of the Wallace-Limbaugh interview and I was actually shocked by the extent of the rhetoric, by both parties.  Repubs get this 24/7 - and it is all they hear.  Something like 75% of republicans think Faux News is the only reliable source of information. Watching Faux, listening to talk radio, they won't hear about anything the Dems do that is working well, without a slant that says it's actually really bad and killing the country.  This is a huge problem.  I don't know if our nation can survive this - and that's not hyperbole.

In November, Fox News' Chris Wallace appeared on "The Daily Show" and took some good-natured ribbing about Republican defeats on Election Day. Jon Stewart eventually tried to give his guest some credit, saying that Fox News has some credible people on the air including, "you and Shep Smith, and you and Shep Smith...."
Wallace has generally tried to pretend to be a credible media figure with professional standards, thus earning credit from viewers like Stewart. Wallace, the argument goes, isn't like the wild-eyed activists in the network's high-profile lineup (Beck, Hannity) and the obvious partisans on during the day (Megyn Kelly, Jon Scott). Chris Wallace is allegedly interested in doing real journalism.
If only reality didn't prove otherwise.
The Obama White House has, for the past few weeks, waged an informal war on Fox News, lashing out against the network for its conservative bias and blacklisting it from interviews with high-ranking administration officials.
So what type of counter-punch did Fox have to offer?
On Sunday they handed over the first half of their hour-long Sunday show to an interview with bombastic radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. A hard-hitting interview it surely wasn't.
If we were to grant the premise that Limbaugh is a noteworthy public figure, worthy of a half-hour on a Sunday morning, a real news program might at least press the right-wing radio host on some of his more recent controversial remarks. That didn't happen -- it was effectively a 30-minute screed against the president, with the "objective" host egging on the attack dog.
Faiz Shakir did a nice job highlighting the importance of the questions in the interview -- the answers were predictable right-wing claptrap -- which included one softball after another.
As Limbaugh offered one ridiculous falsehood after another, the "journalist" host made no effort to set the record straight for the viewing audience. Best of all, after the program, Wallace praised Limbaugh as "very nice, very sweet."
What was the point of the interview? What journalistic purpose was there to give a notorious right-wing blowhard a half-hour of airtime to bash the president? If Fox News is touchy about being identified as the Republican network, was yesterday's Limbaugh interview intended as some kind of bold assertion that it no longer cares about keeping up appearances?
Andrew Sullivan concluded, "It seems to me that any pretense that [Chris Wallace] remains a journalist must now be retired. He's a Republican Party operative, trading on a once-respected name in news."
Think Progress: Cable news networks help spread Republicans’ ‘highly misleading’ stimulus math. 
Back in January, the Republicans claimed that the economic stimulus package would cost $275,000 for every job created, which they calculated by taking the entire cost of the stimulus package and dividing it by the number of jobs created in just one year. At the time, Paul Krugman called the Republicans’ number a “bogus talking point.” With the White House’s announcement last week that the stimulus package has created 640,000 to 1 million jobs, the GOP is employing fuzzy math once again. Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), told reporters on Friday to “get out your calculators” and divide the spending by the jobs, producing a figure of $230,769 per job. Media outlets Fox News, CNN, and CNBC have all repeated some variation of the number (using slightly different estimates) in the last few days. Watch a compilation:

The AP’s Calvin Woodward was not fooled, and today released a piece telling readers to “beware the math” coming from the Republicans and calling it “satisfyingly simple but highly misleading”:
First, the naysayers’ calculations ignore the value of the work produced. Any cost-per-job figure pays not just for the worker, but for material, supplies and that worker’s output — a portion of a road paved, patients treated in a health clinic, goods shipped from a factory floor, railroad tracks laid. Second, critics are counting the total cost of contracts that will fuel work for months or years and dividing that by the number of jobs produced only to date.
As Woodward wrote, “dividing apples by oranges won’t settle” whether or not the stimulus package has been a success.
BarbinMD (DK): Apparently The Revolution Will Be Televised
Not only have Republicans lost control of their party, ceding power to the teabagging element that makes up only a fraction of the electorate, but they've lost their collective minds. Taking their cue from swastika-wielding screamers, the elected arm of the GOP is now joining in the cacophony of undemocratic, anti-American rhetoric on health care reform that is coming from the furthest right extremes of this country.
Consider Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
I hope this is not the way the majority leader is planning on handling the health care debate because the American people will storm the Capitol if they think the majority is going to dictate to the minority what amendments will be offered on a bill as significant as restructuring one-sixth of the economy.
And Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who is calling for a tea party-like protest in Washington:
Just like that brand new Michael Jackson movie came out, ‘This Is It.’ This is it for freedom. If you believe in liberty, and if you’re rejecting tyranny, this is it. Dr. Mark Levin wrote a seminal book that really swept this country called Liberty and Tyranny. And that’s what this debate is about next week. Liberty and tyranny.
And Virginia Foxx (R-NC):
I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.
Threats of storming the Capitol, calling for mass protests and comparing the results of the American process of elections and legislating as worse than terrorism? These aren't cry-on-command commentators who are peddling their schtick to a gullible audience, these are elected official of the United States government. Ones who are, by the way, more than happy with the process when it goes their way, and when it doesn't? Viva la revolution!
But in English, of course.
The day before the closely-watched special election in New York's 23rd, Doug Hoffman decided to take some time to check in with his friend Glenn Beck.
It is not a casual connection. Lee Fang explained that Hoffman is one of a small number of congressional candidates to pledge his "sacred honor" to "uphold Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project principles in Congress."
And on Beck's radio show today, Hoffman continued to toe the line, assuring the host that he doesn't believe that climate change is "totally" the result of human activity. It prompted the host to proclaim, "He's getting stronger, there it is, every second."
It led to this rather striking exchange:
HOFFMAN: I have good mentors here.
GLENN: Wait, wait. Wait, wait. Are they mentors that will show...
HOFFMAN: I'm talking about you, Glenn.
GLENN: Oh, okay. I was going to say all right, as long as they are standing out from the shadows. [...]
HOFFMAN: No. Yeah, well, I'm going to keep in touch with people like you so I don't get infected with that disease.
So, the leading congressional candidate in New York's 23rd considers a deranged, self-described "rodeo clown" his "mentor"?
I guess Michele Bachmann and Steve King won't be lonely in the House Mad as a Hatter Caucus meetings.
Republicans turn away from the middle  Nov. 2: The Nation's Chris Hayes joins Rachel Maddow to analyze how the alienation of Republican moderates in New York's 23rd district election will affect the character of the Republican Party and the policital fortunes of their Democratic opponents.

NYT: To Some, Winner Is Not American Enough 
He was widely celebrated as the first American to win the New York race since 1982. Having immigrated to the United States at age 12, he is an American citizen and a product of American distance running programs at the youth, college and professional levels.
But, some said, because he was born in Eritrea, he is not really an American runner.
The debate reveals what some academics say are common assumptions and stereotypes about race and sports and athletic achievement in the United States. Its dimensions, they add, go beyond the particulars of Keflezighi and bear on undercurrents of nationalism and racism that are not often voiced.
Washington Post political reporter Perry Bacon, Jr., chatted with readers about a variety of issues today, but one exchange in particular stood out for me.
A reader asked a good question that often goes overlooked: "The filibuster is out of control. Why should 40 Republicans get to veto what the majority wants? Do you think we'll ever get filibuster reform? It wasn't always like this -- filibusters used to be rare."
Bacon's response, in its entirety, read: "The Democrats filibustered lots and lots of things from 2003 to 2007." That was it, the whole response to a highly pertinent question. Nothing about the reform-minded inquiry; nothing about the relevant history.
Now, I'm not necessarily trying to pick on Bacon here. In fact, I suspect many political reporters work under the same assumptions -- Dems filibustered when the GOP was in the majority, the GOP filibusters when the Dems are in the majority. It's all perfectly routine. "Everyone" knows that nothing passes the Senate without 60 votes, so there's no point in even answering a legitimate question about the filibuster being "out of control" in any kind of detail.
Except, these assumptions are wrong. Perhaps now's a good time to republish this chart from Norm Ornstein.
If you're having trouble making out the years, note that as recently as the 1960s, filibusters were rare (and as it turns out, largely inconsequential). The number spiked in the last two years of Clinton's presidency, and then spiked again after Democrats won back Congress in 2006. The chart doesn't include the current Congress, but we know all too well that the tactic is now an assumed hurdle for practically every bill and nominee.
Is Bacon right that Democrats "filibustered lots and lots of things from 2003 to 2007"? It depends, I suppose, on how one defines "lots and lots" -- the differences between those Democratic minorities and the current GOP minority are quantitative and qualitative, and it's irresponsible to argue that the two are comparable, or worse, identical.
Senate Republican broke a record in the last Congress -- and that was with a veto backstop at the White House -- and there's every reason to believe Republicans' obstructionist tactics will break the record again in the 111th Congress that ends next year.
There's nothing routine about this distortion of institutional constraints. It's an abuse unseen in American history.
Think Progress: Senate GOP embrace Inhofe’s boycott of Clean Energy Jobs Act.
Senate Republicans have endorsed Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) plan to boycott the legislative markup of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), scheduled to begin tomorrow. Inhofe’s GOP compatriots on the environment committee hope to block action by refusing to participate in the markup on the pretext that the Enviromental Protection Agency’s economic analysis of the bill is not “complete.” In a letter sent to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), ranking member Inhofe and his counterparts on five other committees said any attempt to begin the markup before acceding to his demands “would severely damage” its chances for passage:
We understand that there may be an attempt to report S. 1733 from the Committee not only without a satisfactory analysis, but also without sufficient opportunity to address the bipartisan concerns raised over the course of legislative hearings on the measure. As we are sure you will understand, from our viewpoint, such an approach would severely damage, rather than help, the chances of enacting changes to our nation’s climate and energy policies.
The signatories are the top Republicans on the six Senate committees that will consider this legislation — environment, energy, agriculture, commerce, foreign relations, and finance. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX, ), like Inhofe, flatly deny the reality of climate change. However, several of the signatories have claimed concern about the threat of global warming — Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Dick Lugar (R-IN), who in 2006 warned of the “significant long-term risks to the economy and the environment of the United States from the temperature increases and climatic disruptions that are projected to result from increased greenhouse gas concentrations.” Evidently their commitment to partisan obstruction is greater than their concern for the future of the nation.
Download the letter here.
Update The Sierra Club has posted the "Top Ten Excuses for not showing up for work on the Clean Energy Jobs bill."
Update According to a Washington Times newsletter, Boxer has extended the amendment deadline to Tuesday night, and will hold off on the markup of the legislation, saying:
We're going to be very patient. We're going to wait for them to come. We're going to sit there every day and ask them to please come back to the table. We're not going to rush this through because we don't think that would be the right thing to do.
 Mcjoan (DK): Orrin Hatch Explains the Difference Between the Parties 
While expounding on the threatened end to the two-party system if healthcare reform passes, Hatch lays bare the basic difference between Democrats and Republicans.
Hatch asserted that the health bills, which he believes represent a "step-by-step approach to socialized medicine," will lead to Americans' dependence on Democrats for their health and other issues.
"And if they get there, of course, you're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody's going to say, 'All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party,' " Hatch said during an interview with the conservative CNSNews.com.
"That's their goal," Hatch added. "That's what keeps Democrats in power."
"Do I believe they're that diabolical? I don't believe most of them are, but I think some of them are," Hatch said. "Maybe diabolical's too harsh of a word, but the fact is, they really, really believe in socialized medicine."
See, the Democrats are trying to stay in power by enacting popular legislation that actually helps people. Republicans tried to stay in power by taking the right to vote away from as many people as possible. Now that's diabolical.
Sullivan: What Happens In NY-23 Now? Ctd 
John Cole:
You know the thing that I find most amusing about the NY race is that what they are basically telling every moderate Republican across the country is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a loyal Republican for decades, it doesn’t matter if you know the district and the people, it doesn’t matter if you fit the district, and it doesn’t matter that you have given decades to the party.
What matters is orthodoxy, or obedience to principles of fiscal responsibility the GOP hasn't actually lived up to in a generation and fealty to discrimination against gay couples and banning all abortion.
This is effective as a rallying cry, but someone open to persuasion is confronted by some uncomfortable facts. The first is that these conservatives have yet to tell us what spending they would specifically cut.

By spending, I mean entitlements and defense, the only two areas where any serious effort to cut the debt will be found. Which entitlements does the GOP propose slashing? (Yes, slashing really is the only option to get us back to fiscal sanity.) Which war does the GOP propose ending? Which troops does it believe should be brought back to the US or laid off? How will Medicare by saved?
On the social issues, the practical questions are just as salient. We know that the GOP is horrified by gay people and our relationships. So what rights does the GOP believe gay couples should have? Civil unions? Domestic partnerships? Or nothing but psychiatric treatment? Which specific rights that straight couples have should gay couples be denied?
And on abortion: does the GOP favor making abortion illegal in all cases if Roe is overturned? Or legal in some respects? Again: I have no idea what the actual policy is. Until these proposals are actually fleshed out, we should regard this upsurge as therapy, not politics. But we should also encourage the practical policies to be spelled out.

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