Tuesday, February 9, 2010


QOTD, digby:
The idea that conservatives don't accuse liberals of being out of touch with heartland values is so absurd that I have to assume that Alexander has been living in another country for the past 30 years. It's insane.
Media Matters: Washington Post actively sought out "liberals are condescending" piece

Well, this is interesting. Remember that "Why are liberals so condescending" piece by Gerard Alexander the Washington Post published last week? Turns out, the author didn't submit the piece the the Post -- the Post sought him out:

Bethesda, Md.: I thought that "Why are Liberals So Condescending" was the most intelligent article I've read in the Post in some time.

Do you think that this is the result of a decision by your editors to be more fair and balanced?

Also, I would appreciate your comments on the "All serious scientists agree that Global Warming is an enormous problem." school of thought. This matter has been positioned in exactly the same condescending manner.

Gerard Alexander: I can only tell you that the Post editor I dealt with searched me out, and were as encouraging as any editor could conceivably be.

I wonder when we'll find out that a Washington Post staffer is actively seeking out a similarly disparaging column about conservatives? After all, Howard Kurtz keeps telling us how liberal the Post's opinion operation is.

Meanwhile, Alexander spent the bulk of today's Washington Post online Q&A acknowledging that some conservatives are plenty condescending to liberals, but claiming that it just isn't very common. Or something. Alexander, for example, contends that "conservative magazines, elected officials, etc" don't accuse coastal liberals of being out of touch with heartland values -- and that if they did so, they'd be "run out of town."

In reality, of course, such accusations are not limited to conservatives; they are pervasive in the media. And those making such accusations are not "run out of town," they are given television shows on CNN.

  • digby adds:
    I honestly don't know what to say. The idea that conservatives don't accuse liberals of being out oftouch with heartland values is so absurd that I have to assume that Alexander has been living in another country for the past 30 years. It's insane.

Media Matters: Will there be green tea in CNN's green room?

With Candy Crowley set to take over CNN's Sunday State of the Union broadcast, let's take a moment to review some of her most memorable moments.

Like the time Crowley insulted Iowans in a ham-handed attempt to portray John Kerry as a coastal elite for drinking green tea -- revealing her own elitist attitudes in the process.

And the time Crowley claimed Democrats "message" was "we don't support the troops and we're not tough on national security."

Or the time Crowley said it wasn't her job to tell viewers which politicians were lying more.

Or the time Crowley accused then-presidential candidate Barack Obama of rooting for economic difficulties.

That's the kind of track record that gets you a high-profile gig hosting a Sunday political talk show on CNN.

Racist history embraced by Tea Party Feb. 8: Rachel Maddow reviews the history of how "literacy tests" were used to prevent black people from voting in America and why Tom Tancredo's opening speech to the Tea Party Convention calling for the return of those tests is so abhorrent. Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree shares his insights on racism in the United States.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Ezra Klein: There will be no smackdown

Talking to some of the liberals I know, the hope seems to be that the White House health-care summit goes something like this, but for health care rather than religion:

But it won't. The political point of the summit is to make the president look good, not to make the Republicans look bad. The White House's fondest hope is that it can keep saying yes -- yes to a summit, yes to an exchange of ideas, yes to some small concessions -- while the Republicans keep saying no to the idea of a summit, to the possibility of virtue in any of the underlying bills, to the potential for any real compromise.

Remember here that the White House simply needs to give congressional leadership a way to pivot toward a vote, and that means giving legislators who want to pass health-care reform but are afraid to do so a reason to take a deep breath and push the bill past the goal line.

Think Progress: Bachmann’s Plan: To Deal With Debt, We Must ‘Wean Everybody’ Off Social Security, Medicare

This past weekend, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) addressed the right-wing Constitutional Coalition’s annual conference in St. Louis. She had dropped out of the Tea Party Convention occurring on the same day in Nashville to make the appearance.

Speaking to a small group of conference attendees and ThinkProgress during lunch on Saturday, Bachmann outlined how the Republican Party and its 2012 nominee must address the national debt. Bachmann referenced Glenn Beck, who falsely warned about a $107 trillion in supposed “unfunded liabilities” from Social Security and Medicare. She then called for a “reorganization” of entitlements where people “already in the system” would continue to receive benefits, but “everybody else” would be weaned off:

BACHMANN: Is the country too big to fail? No, the country can fail. We can, we’re not invincible. And we’re so close now to being at that point because the thing is, as Glenn Beck said last night, it is true. The $107 trillion that he put on the board. We’re $14 trillion in debt, but that doesn’t include the unfunded massive liabilities. That’s $107 trillion, and that’s for Social Security and Medicare and all the rest. You add up all those unfunded net liabilities, and all the traps that could go wrong we’re on the hook for, and what it means is what we have to do is a reorganization of all of that, Social Security and all. We have to do it simply because we can’t let the contract remain as they are because the older people are going to lose. So, what you have to do, is keep faith with the people that are already in the system, that don’t have any other options, we have to keep faith with them. But basically what we have to do is wean everybody else off. And wean everybody off because we have to take those unfunded net liabilities off our bank sheet, we can’t do it. So we just have to be straight with people. So basically, whoever our nominee is, is going to have to have a Glenn Beck chalkboard and explain to everybody this is the way it is.

Bachmann is echoing a growing chorus in the GOP caucus. Recently, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced an alternative budget plan which would privatize both Medicare and Social Security. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has noted, the type of private Social Security accounts Ryan proposes would have cost seniors tens of thousands of dollars in the 2008-2009 market plunge. But Bachmann takes Ryan’s effort a step farther and seems to be suggesting a full repeal of the retirement safety net.

Bachmann, who has gained influence within Republican leadership circles, was a star at the event. At his speech on Friday, Glenn Beck proclaimed that Bachmann was the only person he trusted in Congress. Other accolades for Bachmann were heard throughout the conference. At one point, Heritage Foundation scholar Matt Spalding, who had been whispering in Bachmann’s ear while other panelists spoke, exclaimed, “if there’s one person who everyone at Heritage has a crush on, it’s Michele Bachmann.”

  • digby adds:
    What she fails to note is that unless we can arrange for all the old people to die much younger (and without Medicare that's fairly likely, since nobody who isn't Donald Trump would be able to afford health care when they're 80) all the young people had better set aside some of their tax savings for training in incontinence management because mom and dad are moving in.
Ackerman: Bond, Hoekstra, GOP Leaders Claim Ignorance on FBI Procedure

Evidently out of patience with attacks on the Obama administration for reading would-be Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights, John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief, called out the Obama administration’s conservative critics for what he described as selective outrage. Brennan told ‘Meet The Press’:

On Christmas night, I called a number of– senior members of Congress. I spoke to Senators McConnell and Bond. I spoke to Representative Boehner and Hoekstra. I explained to them that he was in F.B.I. custody. That Mr. Abdulmutallab was in fact talking. That he was cooperating at that point. They knew that in F.B.I. custody means that there’s a process then you follow as far as mirandizing and presenting him in front of the magistrate. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me, at that point.

Sure enough, Sen. Chris Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees, insisted that Brennan never specifically told them the FBI would Mirandize Abdulmutallab. “If he had I would [have] told him the Administration was making a mistake,” Bond said. The entire Republican leadership, including fact-averse Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House GOP leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed Bond’s claims in one form or another. Apparently these men, who claim leadership on national security, know less about FBI procedure than the average movie-goer. Obviously the FBI Mirandizes suspects in their custody.

Greg Sargent:

* Justin Elliott makes a key point that risks getting lost: GOP leaders aren’t denying that they were told the Christmas Day bomb suspect was in FBI custody.


For reasons that are still unclear, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has decided to take a leadership role in going after the Obama administration's handling of the attempted Abdulmutallab attack. So far, this hasn't gone especially well.

Collins said officials only interrogated Abdulmutallab for 50 minutes. That was wrong. She said Abdulmutallab "stopped talking" after having been told of his rights. That was wrong. Collins suggested Abdulmutallab only began cooperating "in the context of plea negotiations." That was wrong. She said there "was no consultation with intelligence officials" about the questioning. And that was wrong .

More recently, Collins has emphasized her outrage over the Obama administration's decision to make Abdulmutallab aware of his rights (the same step taken by the Bush/Cheney administration in a nearly identical terrorist plot in 2001). Except, she, too, was briefed on the arrest by a top Homeland Security official, and raised no concerns about the legal process.

This afternoon, a Collins spokesperson, without a hint of irony, accused the Obama administration of trying to cover its "mistake."

It is offensive, to Senator Collins and the American people, that the Obama Administration is more concerned with political spin to cover a mistake than with taking the actions urgently needed to improve our nation's security. Clearly, the Administration is trying to divert attention from the fact that it interrogated a foreign terrorist for less than one hour before the Justice Department unilaterally decided to Mirandize him and he stopped talking.

Senator Collins calls on the Obama Administration to immediately change its policies and ensure consultation with top intelligence and security officials before treating the capture of the next foreign terrorist as only a civilian law enforcement matter. She will continue to press for her bipartisan legislation that mandates this consultation.

When we cut through the nonsense and cheap talking points, what we're left with is Collins, after making a series of demonstrably false claims, complaining that the Justice Department didn't coordinate further with other agencies on how best to deal with Abdulmutallab. That's it. That's all that's left from the original argument.

But, again, this is foolish. For one thing, the Obama administration has applied the exact same procedures as Bush/Cheney, and Collins never expressed this outrage before. For another, as Attorney General Eric Holder explained last week, "No agency supported the use of law of war detention for Abdulmutallab, and no agency has since advised the Department of Justice that an alternative course of action should have been, or should now be, pursued."

What we're left with, then, is Susan Collins making a mistake by falsely criticizing the administration, and then digging deeper with a series of even more absurd false criticisms.

She should have quit while she was behind. As this story has dragged on, Collins has sounded less like a reasonable, moderate, influential senator and more like a rookie House member trying to impress Fox News producers. As Josh Marshall noted recently, Collins' criticisms have turned her into something of "an embarrassment."

Yglesias: No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition

To recap a bit of history, back in the early days of the Bush administration a man named Donald Rumsfeld—deemed one of the worst secretaries of defense in American history by John McCain—was running the Pentagon. He had a guy working for him named Marc Thiessen as a speechwriter. This was all when George W Bush was president, one of the worst in history. In addition to Bush, Rumsfeld, and Thiessen there were other dimwitted and immoral people in charge of running the government. One thing that dimwitted and immoral people do when under pressure is decide that lashing out with a kind of dimwitted and immoral violence is going to help them. Consequently, they got the dimwitted and immoral idea that they ought to torture people with techniques they got out of techniques the US government has developed to train soldiers in torture-resistance.

This was a bad idea, so they were warned that it was a bad idea. Instructor Joseph Witsch told a Pentagon working group on interrogations “The physical and psychological pressures we apply in training violate national and international laws … I hope someone is explaining this to all these folks asking for our techniques and methodology!” They established a Behavioral Science Consultation Team at Gitmo that was told “Bottom line: the likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery of accurate information from a detainee is very low.”

But Marc Thiessen and his friends aren’t very smart and they are very immoral. They love inflicting violence. So they went ahead and tortured. One technique they used, waterboarding, bears a great deal of similarity to the so-called “tormenta de toca” from the Spanish Inquisition. Since the Spanish Inquisition is famous for its cruelty, sometimes critics of the kind of dimwitted cruelty beloved by Marc Thiessen and his pals point out the similarity. But Thiessen doesn’t like this comparison so earlier today he called me out for making it, observing:

Apparently, Yglesias has not bothered to read Courting Disaster. If he had, he would know better than to make this ridiculous argument. Even a basic review of the facts makes clear Yglesias is completely uninformed.

Courting Disaster is Thiessen’s book, and if he wants me to read it he’ll have to force water down my throat to induce the sensation of drowning. But having summed that up, we come to Thiessen’s big point. It turns out that during the Spanish inquisition, in addition to the basic “water cure” elements beloved by Thiessen they also used “Sharp cords, called cordeles, which cut into the flesh, attached the arms and legs to the side of the trestle and others, known as garrotes, from sticks thrust in them and twisted around like a tourniquet till the cords cut more or less deeply into the flesh, were twined around the upper and lower arms, the thighs and the calves.” So you see, it’s totally different—when Thiessen and friends were running the show, they did tie people down to boards (like in the Spanish Inquisition!) and they did pour water on them (like in the Spanish Inquisition!) but in the Spanish version they used the cords to cause additional painful torture whereas in the more refined Bush/Rumsfeld/Thiessen era the water torture itself was deemed sufficient!

And that, my friends, is the advance of civilization over time.

I suppose the natural question to ask, though, is why these kind of comparisons to the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge and the Korean War-era People’s Liberal Army seem to bother torture advocates so much. The basic point made by torture advocates (when they’re not quibbling about whether or not you should call techniques poached from a torture resistance manual “torture”) is that the problem with liberals is that we’re not sufficiently willing to engage in brutal treatment of prisoners in order to compel their cooperation. But do you know who really didn’t shy away from brutal treatment of prisoners? The Spanish Inquisition! The Khmer Rouge! These are people who knew how to get the job done and it strikes me as deeply hypocritical of torture fans to turn around and get all squeamish and liberal when they hear that the inquisitors added a garrote or two into the torturing fun. The core element of the water torture is the same, even though different iterations of it are conducted in somewhat different ways—that’s the point of the Inquisition comparison.

I’m the kind of weak-kneed liberal who thinks that the government of a free people neither must nor should seek security through torture, so I’ll concede that I’m not nearly as well-versed in the precise ins-and-outs of different ways of torturing as a sicko like Thiessen is. But what’s the point. If torture in the name of a good cause is as awesome as Thiessen says it is, then why is it such a point of pride to try to maintain that what he advocates isn’t quite as brutal as what was done in the Inquisition? Could it be that somewhere lurking beneath the defensiveness, the partisanship, the blinkered worldview, and the immorality is a little nub of a conscience?

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