Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Journamalism and Journalism

QOTD, Jonathan Cohn:
Republicans have made their point. They don't want to be part of this discussion. That's their right. Let's move on without them.
Congressional Dems find dodge for GOP stalls
Jan. 4: Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at The New Republic, explains to Rachel Maddow a tactic expected to be employed by Congressional Democrats to produce a final health reform bill while keeping it out of the reach of Republicans' obstructionist strategy.

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Greg Sargent

* Republican leaders are furious about the Dem plan to skip Senate-House conference negotiations on health care, which Dems say is essential for getting around GOP obstructionism. John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel emails:

“Something as critical as the Democrats’ health care bill, with its Medicare cuts and tax hikes, shouldn’t be slapped together in a shady backroom deal. Skipping a real, open Conference shuts out the American people and breaks one of President Obama’s signature campaign promises. It would be a disgrace — to the Democratic Leaders if they do it, and to every Democratic Member who lets them.”

Greg Sargent:

* Question of the day, from Joe Klein: Is “Cheneyism” in foreign policy the future of the GOP? It is striking how much many GOPers these days sound like Cheney when extolling torture and attacking Obama’s national security policies.

* Indeed, Michael Steele, the public face and chief operative of the GOP, is now embracing Cheneyism.

* Great stuff from Jason Linkins and Matt Corley on the refusal of media figures to fact-check the bogus claim that Obama doesn’t use the word “terror.”

* Brewing controversy of the day: CIA collaborating with scientists to assess climate change.

* David Brooks: Tea partiers are here to stay, get used to it.

* But the Tea Party movement is not translating into a grassroots fundraising boon for the national GOP.

* Lindsey Graham’s apostasy on cap and trade and the financial bailout earns him another censure from South Carolina Republicans.

* And Sarah Palin is still MIA from the national security debate. Will the nation survive?

Sullivan: The Full Gitmo List

If you need a factual account of who was seized and imprisoned at Gitmo, Andy Worthington has compiled the definitive one. It's particularly apposite when you hear the current debate in which Cheneyites still use as a premise the notion that everyone in Gitmo was and is "the worst of the worst." Since the Bush administration released hundreds even they realized were innocent of anything, they had already conceded this, but won't, of course, publicly admit it (that would require admitting error which Cheney and Bush are incapable of doing). But this staggering fact is worth reiterating again and again and again as the disgraceful legacy of Cheney and Bush gets burnished by the pro-torture right:

I also hope that it provides a compelling explanation of how that same government, under the leadership of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, established a prison in which the overwhelming majority of those held — at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total — were either completely innocent people, seized as a result of dubious intelligence or sold for bounty payments, or Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.

If you want another highly credible source for the same conclusion, read National Journal's exhaustive study, summarized by Stu Taylor here. Of 132 cases examined by NJ's Corine Hegland, more than half were not even accused of fighting the US at all. These people were those whom National Review's Cliff May wanted assassinated en masse by a missile.

DougJ: They came in here and trashed the place

I’m not linking but Kaplan has a big Sally Quinn piece calling for the head of Desiree Rogers. It’s pretty fucking comical:

Obama has had some real successes this fall. He did a masterful job of bringing together incredibly disparate positions to craft a strategy for Afghanistan. He put himself on the line and will probably come up with a reasonable health-care plan. He left Copenhagen with at least promises of cooperation from other world powers regarding climate change. But he is not getting credit that he deserves because he is being ill served by those around him who will not step up as needed and take the fall for him.

The president needs to start making that happen. The first step would be to accept the resignations of Sullivan and Rogers today.

That’s right, folks—global warming, health care reform, and a couple of nuts crashing a state party dinner are all equally important issues.

But take heart, none is as important as a president getting a blow job from an intern.

I can’t do this justice, but Digby and Bob Somerby probably can.

Somerby: DISPENSED IN THE NEW YEAR’S FIRST LETTER! The New York Times pimped familiar old pap, right in the new year’s first letter:

Dispensed in the new year’s first letter: Where do we Americans get our political information—or our political dis-information? Consider this letter to the editor, the very first letter the New York Times published in this, the brand new year.

On the morning of January 1, the letter sat at the top of the letters page in the paper’s hard-copy edition. It helps us see the way bogus claims come to rule our lives.

In the letter, a New York Times reader discussed a recent editorial about the estate tax. In the process, he advanced a familiar, and highly influential, claim:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (1/1/10): You are right: the estate tax is a mess. But you do not address the idea of using death as a tripwire for the tax—a tax on money and property that has already been taxed before death.

The opposition to the estate tax is as vigorous in those tax brackets that do not pay it as it is among the wealthy because everyday people like me recognize its unfairness.

You seem to believe that since the federal leviathan needs money, we should apply Willie Sutton’s law: go where the money is. I suspect that even the old bank robber himself would shy away from punishing financial success by using death as an excuse to tax the same money twice.

According to the letter writer, the estate tax “uses death as an excuse to tax the same money twice.” (He calls the estate tax “a tax on money and property that has already been taxed.”) Apparently for that reason, “everyday people” like the writer “recognize its unfairness.”

This is a widespread belief about the estate tax, a belief that is endlessly pimped on pseudo-conservative radio. And yet, the claim is false, or at best grossly misleading—a long-standing piece of pseudo-conservative disinformation. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities treats this claim as Myth #4 in its list of eight myths about the estate tax (click here). More colorfully, Michael Kinsley wrote on this subject in the Washington Post, many moons ago.

Kinsley’s piece appeared in 2001, as the newly-installed Bush Admin was trying to ditch the estate tax. Is the estate tax “unfair double taxation?” Colorfully, Kinsley said no:

KINSLEY (4/6/01): Wednesday's Washington Post and New York Times had carried an ad from a group of black businessmen supporting repeal of the estate tax. The group was organized by Robert L. Johnson, chairman of Black Entertainment Television. The ad declared: "The estate tax is unfair double taxation since taxpayers are taxed twice—once when the money is earned and again when you die."

A Times article yesterday about the ad noted correctly that this "repeats one of President Bush's familiar themes." Indeed it is probably the most tediously repeated sound bite of the estate tax debate. It is also false. Not "controversial" or "disputed" or "misleading" but out-and-out false. Most of the accumulated wealth that is subject to the estate tax was never subject to the income tax.

This is so obviously, overwhelmingly true that anyone with the slightest business or financial experience surely knows it.

In their 2002 book about the estate tax (Wealth and Our Commonwealth), Bill Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins wrote this: “When it comes to the estate tax, some people are concerned that they have already paid income or other taxes on the money that they have saved...But the bulk of assets that are taxed in people’s estates take the form of appreciated property that has not been taxed at all.” Gates and Collins attempted to quantify the matter. According to the pair, one study “suggests that unrealized capital gains make up...over 56 percent of estates worth more than $10 million.” In the case of family-owned businesses, “several studies suggest that between 66 and 80 percent of such enterprises are unrealized capital gains.”

In the case of Johnson’s ad campaign, Kinsley ventured a bit of a guess: “If Bob Johnson has paid income tax on even one-tenth of the money that would be in his estate if he died tomorrow, it would be astonishing.”

In short, large estates include truck-loads of money which haven’t already been taxed. But whenever the estate tax is being debated, pseudo-conservative talk show hosts begin to issue sweeping claims designed to obscure this reality. People like the letter-writer hear these familiar claims—and they’re inclined to believe them.

And then, along comes the New York Times, in the new year’s first published letter!

Where do we Americans get our political “information?” In the very first letter of the new year, readers of the New York Times encountered this misleading claim once again! No, that letter shouldn’t have been printed, because its claims are so misleading. But this is the way our politics has worked for decades now.

Some editor decided to run that letter—a letter which furthered a standard bit of pseudo-conservative messaging. Question: Did that editor understand the actual facts concerning the way the estate tax works? Your guess is as good as ours. But alas! The very first letter of the new year helped show how our politics works.

So typical! In the very first letter of the new year, a hoary old claim filled the air.

Digby: Journalism 101

It's come to this:

Today (Jan. 4) 21 policy experts sent a letter (below) to Washington Post Board Chairman Donald Graham, requesting a meeting. Why? Because we've gotten no response to our protest letter to The Washington Post's ombudsman.

In that earlier letter we demanded an explanation for publication by the Post of an article about the U.S. federal deficit by The Fiscal Times, a "news content provider" founded and financed by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson, whose budget-cutting ideology promotes cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The group noted that while The Fiscal Times article focused on the Peterson-promoted Conrad-Gregg budget commission—and quoted several Peterson-supported "experts"—it ignored the views of those who oppose that approach to the deficit, including a coaltion of 40 groups representing workers, women, seniors and others.

read on

I know the journalism business is tough these days. But they aren't going to solve their problems by selling their news pages to biased organizations and calling it journalism. (On the other hand, if what they want is to protect their personal wealth from all but the most token taxation, then maybe this makes a little bit more sense...)

Sullivan: About Those Stress Tests

You know: the ones so many people ridiculed Geithner for? Guess what? They worked:

In the end, the stress-tests were a nice metaphor for Obama administration economic policy writ large: The communications aspect was a bit muddled—who outside Wall Street has more than a vague idea of what they entailed? The macro forecasting was a bit off--the stress test’s pessimistic scenario assumed unemployment would average 8.9 percent in 2009; the actual number will be at least 9.2 percent. But the tests and their aftermath were well-thought through--top officials like Geithner, Larry Summers and Christie Romer spent hours gaming out every possible scenario (including a meeting during Passover that ran so long Geithner’s special assistant passed out matzah to stave off starvation). And, most importantly, they backed us away from the brink of disaster. Not bad for a policy that cost about $787 billion less than the stimulus.

GOP struggles to restart terror exploitation machine Jan. 4: Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne joins Rachel Maddow to talk about whether Republicans have lost their touch when it comes to politicizing terrorism for their own gain.

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