Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday Potpourri

Atrios notes: The vampire squid is, unsurprisingly, a whiny ass titty baby.

mistermix: Drill Here, Y’all

I didn’t know that the South, region that houses 36 percent of our population, consumes 44 percent of our energy. And, because of low utility rates, Southerners spend less per-capita on energy efficiency than any other region.

I guess this explains a hell of a lot of the “drill here, drill now” rhetoric coming from Republicans, as well as opposition to cap-and-trade. They have a huge short-term incentive to keep energy prices low for their base.

Consider this my obligatory Earth Day post.
Americans (even tea partiers) value government April 21: Rachel Maddow points out the contradiction between the "Big Government" boogieman protested by tea partiers and the government programs those same tea partiers value and which many Americans are protesting to keep. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell joins to talk about the value of government.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There have been a few entertaining exchanges of late between "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart and Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg, but there was something the conservative media critic said last night that seemed especially noteworthy.

It started when Goldberg and other Fox News personalities started over-generalizing about what liberals think, after having complained about the way liberals over-generalize. It prompted Stewart to tell Fox News, "Go f*ck yourselves."

This wasn't well received at Fox News HQ, and led to a discussion between Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly. Goldberg conceded that Stewart had a point about over-generalizing, but proceeded to go after "The Daily Show" host anyway. Responding directly to Stewart, Goldberg said, speaking into the camera:

"You're just a safe Jay Leno, with a much smaller audience, but you get to say the F-bomb, which gives your incredibly unsophisticated audience the illusion -- the illusion -- that you're courageous and a renegade, but it's only an illusion."

Stewart's response is well worth watching -- I've included the video below -- and I was especially pleased to hear him explain, "I know that I criticize you and Fox News a lot, but only because you're truly a terrible, cynical, disingenuous news organization." Stewart also noted the contradiction underscoring the criticism of his audience -- Goldberg thinks "Daily Show" viewers are "elites" and "unsophisticated" at the same time?

But there's a related point I wanted to emphasize that Stewart didn't mention. In 2004, the National Annenberg Election Survey found that Fox News viewers were the most confused about current events, while viewers of "The Daily Show" were among the best informed news consumers in the country. Comedy Central, relying on data from Nielsen Media Research, also found that Stewart's audience not only knew more about current events, but were far better educated than Bill O'Reilly's audience.

Three years later, the Pew Research Study published a report showing that "viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have the highest knowledge of national and international affairs, while Fox News viewers rank nearly dead last."

Bernie Goldberg, if you want to talk about "incredibly unsophisticated audiences," we can talk about incredibly unsophisticated audiences.

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Benen: THE NEW $100
How predictable have conservatives become? Just 24 hours ago, DougJ made a prediction: "I'm pretty sure that the new $100 bills will produce some kind of wingnut freakout. The most obvious angle is, 'They look like European money!'"

Right on cue, Drudge came through:

Even Obama's New $100 Bill Looks European...

Might as Well Be a Euro...

A couple of things. First, the new $100 bill doesn't look like a Euro, not that there's anything wrong with the appearance of Euros anyway.

Second, the design for the new $100 bill was adopted -- you guessed it -- during the Bush/Cheney administration. It was supposed to go into circulation in 2008, but was delayed "to give the government time to refine all the new security features."

Add this to the list of steps the Republican administration took to make us more "European."

DougJ: Credit where credit is due

Just so you know the things I do for you, I’ve been reading every post on “The Corner” on my RSS reader for the past few weeks. Mostly they’re a disappointing mixture of stupid and insipid. Sometimes, they’re just strange (e.g. this exchange about roofies). Today I read the first one I really liked:

I started to read Mark Levin’s massive bestseller Liberty and Tyranny a number of months ago as debate swirled around it. I wasn’t expecting a PhD thesis (and in fact had hoped to write a post supporting the book as a well-reasoned case for certain principles that upset academics just because it didn’t employ a bunch of pseudo-intellectual tropes). But when I waded into the first couple of chapters, I found that — while I had a lot of sympathy for many of its basic points — it seemed to all but ignore the most obvious counter-arguments that could be raised to any of its assertions. This sounds to me like a pretty good plain English meaning of epistemic closure. The problem with this, of course, is that unwillingness to confront the strongest evidence or arguments contrary to our own beliefs normally means we fail to learn quickly, and therefore persist in correctable error.

I’m not expert on many topics the book addresses, so I flipped to its treatment of a subject that I’ve spent some time studying — global warming — in order to see how it treated a controversy in which I’m at least familiar with the various viewpoints and some of the technical detail.

It was awful. It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times — not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.

Update. And the inevitable Fruming begins in earnest. Also too.

Heather (C&L): Anderson Cooper Asks Birther Arizona Rep. Cecil Ash Why He's Perpetuating Internet Rumors

Anderson Cooper does a pretty good job with calling out wingnut birther Arizona State Representative Cecil Ash for his decision to support a bill that would make Arizona the first official birther state (edited to make it safe for work):

Can anyone tell me exactly what the f**k is wrong with the state of Arizona? There are at least twenty-two rational people there. But not enough to stop the Arizona state legislature from passing a law that, “Would require U.S. presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the constitutional requirements to be president.”

In other words, Arizona is well on its way to becoming the first official birther state. Mesa Republican Representative Cecil Ash stated that, “He has no reason to doubt Obama’s citizenship but supports the measure because it could help end doubt.” Really? End the doubt, eh? He is apparently unaware that only the truly insane believe that sh*t in the first place. I know that there is some doubt lingering out there in Wingnuttia. I also know that this grim fairy tale is being deliberately propagated by people who know it to be untrue. But they have a political agenda and won’t let a little thing like the truth get in the way of delegitimizing the nation’s first black President.

He said as much to Anderson Cooper and I give Cooper credit for at least asking this guy if he should know better than to be doing this because unlike his uninformed constituents, he's in a leadership position.

Cooper: So why vote for something which perpetuates these false Internet rumors?

Ash: Well Anderson I think there’s been a lot of controversy over the issue. It’s created a division among a lot of people in the United States and for better or worse many people don’t believe he’s a U.S. citizen. They believe he has loyalties… ah… divided loyalties I suppose you could say.

Cooper: But those people are wrong. He is a U.S. citizen.

Ash: Well, you’re telling me that he’s wrong. I’ve never investigated that. If he is then he has nothing to fear.

Cooper: But I mean, the information is out there. It has been released. It has been shown. There are some people who don’t believe it, but there are also some people who believe that the moon is made out of cheese and you can say you’ve never investigated it but I think you would probably say to them the moon is not made out of cheese.

Ash: Well, I certainly would but the reason I spoke up on this bill is simply because there is a lot of division in the country and I believe this would put an end to any future controversy about a President’s qualifications.

Cooper: You told our producer you voted for this because you get a lot of calls from constituents who have questions based on things they read on the Internet. I mean isn’t it your job as a leader to actually lead; to not just throw up your hands and say well who knows what’s real or not on the Internet, to actually say well, actually Hawaii has released this information and it’s factually correct?

Ash: Well as I said I haven’t personally investigated that but I think that if…

Cooper: But I mean there’s plenty of things you believe that are not personally investigated? Why this you’re holding on to?

We know why Anderson. The guy's playing to the lowest denominator in the Republican base and demonizing our first black President. Anyone else notice how he continually uses the word "qualified" instead of "eligible". Cooper should have called him out for that one as well.

I'm sure this won't shock anyone, but guess who Cecil Ash is a fan of? Glenn Beck -- from his Twitter page.



How Wall Street operates would seem to be of interest to the Tea Party crowd. After all, this is a matter at the core of many of their ostensible concerns -- powerful elites, acting irresponsibly, ignoring the needs of the American mainstream, generating devastating consequences for everyone.

The legislative fight over reforming Wall Street, then, should be of great interest to the so-called "movement." But as Benjy Sarlin explained, Tea Partiers seem to be taking a pass on the major legislative fight of the day.

Tax Day rallies last week in Washington, D.C., were devoid of signs, slogans, and speeches on the finance bill, and influential right-leaning websites like Red State and Hot Air have all but ignored the issue this week, despite major movement on the Democrats' legislation. There are some exceptions ... but by and large there's been no high-profile campaign to defeat the bill, and a number of conservative activists concede that the grassroots are inactive.

Dick Armey, president of Tea Party organizer FreedomWorks, acknowledged in an interview that his group has yet to make its mark on the debate.

"We haven't had a chance to study it," Armey said.

What an interesting response. The Tea Party crowd didn't study the health care bill, but the activists opposed it. They didn't study tax policy, but they're still whining incessantly about tax increases that haven't happened. They didn't study budget policy, but they still think Obama is responsible for huge deficits (he's not).

But when it comes time to bring some accountability to a financial industry that pushed the global economy to the brink, Armey and his band of confused followers "haven't had a chance to study it"? Since when does that matter?

Steve M. takes a compelling stab at explaining what's up:

What's really happening is that the GOP/teabag complex is having a little trouble getting the messaging on this one right. The big kahuna leaders can read a poll, and they know that, even as skepticism about affirmative government increases, Wall Street reform remains popular with the public at large. So they're a tad reluctant to send a big ol' tea party bus out there with anti-reform slogans -- that might hurt the movement's indie cred. They're reluctant to urge the rank-and-file teabaggers' Pied Pipers on Fox News to go full bore into transmitting anti-reform talking points -- at least not until really solid talking points can be developed.

karoli (C&L): Congratulations, GM! All TARP funds repaid 5 years early

For all of the shouts and cries from conservatives about "bailouts", GM has just proven the wisdom of Congress' decision to lend Federal funds to keep GM afloat until they could get back on their feet. Today the company paid off their loans from the Canadian and US governments in full, five years early.

The company is paying back the loans “in full, with interest, years ahead of schedule,” Whitacre said in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal. The two governments hold a majority of the automaker’s equity, he said.

The repayment shows “our plan for building a new GM is working,” Whitacre said. GM is “leaner, stronger” and building new vehicles whose sales have allowed the company to invest more than $1.5 billion at 20 plants in the U.S. and Canada, he said.

The GM loans have been a real talking point for conservatives. In exchange for the loans, the US and Canadian governments took an equity stake in the company as security for the loan. In any other world, this would be the prudent choice, but in our hysterical 24/7 tea and whine culture, that decision led to cries of "Socialism! Socialism!" In conservative-land, it was somehow better to allow one of our core industries to fail, to more or less end any competition between US companies, and throw 2 million people out of work, not to mention the support industries around GM's manufacturing and sales business.

I'd say it was an investment worth making. By getting GM the cash they needed to stay afloat and restructure, they've emerged stronger, more competitive, and poised to compete. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I'm a huge fan of the Chevy Volt and am still jonesing for the opportunity to take it for a test spin. I gave up my Honda a year ago and walk everywhere right now. I'm not planning to buy another car until I can buy the Volt or something as cool as the Volt.

Cheers, GM, and congratulations! It's good to see you roaring back.

Republican leaders, taking their cues from a pollster's strategy memo, began trying to characterize the Wall Street reform as a "bailout" bill. It's obvious the argument was a lie. It was equally obvious the GOP didn't care.

As I noted the day after Mitch McConnell started pushing it, the lie doesn't have to make sense; it doesn't have to withstand scrutiny; it doesn't even have to be persuasive. It just has to be repeated enough to muddle the debate.

With that in mind, consider the remarks made this morning by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Conference. See if you can pick up on the theme.

"The American people are tired of runaway federal spending, borrowing and bailouts. The legislation being considered by the Senate, which passed the House, is nothing but a permanent bailout and House Republicans are determined to oppose it. Last week, some Democrats said there wasn't a permanent bailout in this bill. Other Democrats, by the end of the week, said there was a permanent bailout fund in the bill. This may be one of those instances where the left hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

"The truth is, the American people are not deceived here. They see that what's being passed under the cloak of financial services reform is nothing more than making permanent the Wall Street bailouts that passed, a year and a half ago, in the form of the TARP. House Republicans are determined to bring about financial services reform that begins with ending the era of bailouts."

The transparency of the lie is arguably the most galling aspect. Pence, like McConnell, is lying. But what's almost impressive about it is the shamelessness -- everyone, including Pence, already knows the claim is demonstrably wrong, but he's decided this is no time for pesky details like facts. There's an argument to win. Pence is no doubt aware that fact-check pieces will expose his argument as ridiculous, but he's willing to take that risk. His base won't mind, and the media probably won't call him on it anyway.

Before Republicans had even seen the bill, Luntz picked the lie, and urged GOP officials to repeat it, even if it didn't make any sense. Mike Pence is making clear that Republicans found this advice compelling.

What's more, Matt Yglesias thinks it's a strategy that will likely prove to be effective.

The overwhelming evidence is that the media gets bored with these fact checks very quickly and that if you just put your head down and charge forward, you come out a couple of weeks later back into "he said, she said" territory. The only real test for whether or not lying works is whether or not you can bring your ideological fellow-travelers along. Will Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck echo your line? Will the Weekly Standard and National Review? Will the bulk of your legislative caucus? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

Which, in a nutshell, is why our political discourse can be so mind-numbing -- Republicans believe they have an incentive to lie with impunity.

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