Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Potpourri

This was the week I started getting a little tired of the media's interest in Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- the NYT ran yet another profile on Thursday -- but I suppose it's worth noting that the far-right lawmaker had an op-ed in the Washington Post the other day on Medicare.

For context, keep in mind that Republican rhetoric on the seniors' health care program has been hard to grasp. For many years, the GOP goal was to cut Medicare. When Democrats proposed cost-saving measures in the same program as part of health care reform, Republicans pretended to be outraged that Dems would try to cut Medicare.

Soon after, Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee and the media's new conservative darling, unveiled his budget "roadmap," complete with deep cuts to Medicare. It this strikes you as an incoherent message, then we're on the same page.

This month, however, we learned that the savings from the Affordable Care Act will strengthen Medicare by extending the Trust Fund for 12 years. Ryan was unimpressed.

We do not have a choice as to whether Medicare will change from its current structure. It is being driven to insolvency. An honest debate requires a serious discussion of how Medicare will avert its collapse and be made sustainable. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Democrats' political machine has attacked my contribution to this debate, making the false claim that the only solution put forward to save Medicare would "end Medicare as we know it."

I'm not sure why Ryan considers this characterization "false."

Ryan's approach isn't particularly complicated. Under his "roadmap" plan, Medicare funding would be overhauled and replaced -- seniors would get vouchers to purchase coverage from private insurers, offering unregulated, pre-ACA insurance, without the Democrats' consumer protections.

The value of those vouchers would not be designed to keep up with escalating health care costs -- coverage would cost more than the benefits, and seniors on a fixed income would be expected to make up the difference.

Would this "end Medicare as we know it"? That seems more than fair as a description. Stephanie Cutter had a good item on this published at the White House's blog:

The bottom line under the Ryan plan: Costs would continue to rise, the value of benefits provided to seniors would continue to fall, and seniors would be stuck with fewer benefits and bigger bills. And, according to outside analysts, his plan would substantially increase the deficit in the medium-term.

We won't go down Rep. Ryan's road.

I sure hope not.

John Cole:
The Blind Leading the Stupid

So apparently even the NRO has realized how silly the conservative list of History’s Worst Americans is, and Jim Geraghty attempts to correct his fellow wingnuts:

UPDATE: A couple readers argue that I’m being a bit unfair, that clearly many of these bloggers using the measuring stick of how far a figure’s bad deeds reached, instead of who committed the most evil acts in American history.

I actually think you can make strong cases for some of the political figures on this list. Anyone who’s read Liberal Fascism understands Wilson’s inclusion, and there’s a lot of supporting evidence to the argument that Jimmy Carter was the century’s worst, or most ineffective president.

I’m dying over here.

If you start with Liberal Fascism as your authoritative source for history, it’s kind of easy to understand why the list looks like it does.

There they go again...

The blog Right Wing News asked "more than a hundred bloggers" who they thought were the worst people in American history. The results may shock you! Or maybe not. [..]

This question was put out to over 100 crazies with internet connections:

Out of all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks in all of American history — have you ever wondered who the worst of the worst was?"

[..]Here are the results, from 43 bloggers who responded:

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

I love the framing of the question: murderers, terrorists and "left-wing kooks". And what did these mental giants come up with? is Osama Bin Laden on the list? No. But FDR is. And he's WORSE than assassin John Wilkes Booth and domestic terrorist Tim McVeigh and traitors Aldrich Ames, Benedict Arnold and the Rosenbergs. And of course, the worst person in the history of the country is Jimmy Carter. Sorry Obama, you just missed the top spot.

Sweet Jesus, do these people have anything but bumper sticker slogans in their heads? The list is replete with such nonsense and brainless smearing (really, Jane Fonda and George Soros? Quick, someone on the right name for us how they have influenced the country. No fair cribbing notes from Glenn Beck).

  • Steve Benen adds:
    It's occasionally helpful to be reminded why I stopped reading far-right blogs.

    A fairly prominent site called Right Wing News sent out a questionnaire to more than 100 leading conservative blogs, ...

    Rick Moran, himself a conservative blogger, wrote in response:

    Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

    James Joyner, another conservative writer, described the top 25 list as "bizarre."

    Also note, in case it's not clear, the exercise appears to be entirely sincere. Every weeknight, Keith Olbermann names the "worst person in the world," but there's a tongue-in-cheek quality to the segment -- the music, the audio effects, the exaggerated speech are all intended to suggest that Olbermann does not literally consider his targets the single worst human beings on the planet.

    The Right Wing News survey, however, was a serious attempt to identify the worst the United States has to offer -- the worst the United States has ever offered.

    The results say far more about conservative bloggers than the finalists on the list.

Reflecting on the twin horrors of gay marriage and the wholesale destruction of a Burlington Coat Factory outlet in lower Manhattan, I see a lot of similarity between the two issues. Frum Forum makes the point that all Obama said last night is that that “our laws grant people the right to do what they please with their own property….One’s rights don’t evaporate upon the majority taking offense”. Indeed, the argument that the government should prevent the Cordoba house from being built is that the Islamic community center would be such an affront to the awesomeness of post-9/11 America that we should deny Muslims their rights under the law, and even their basic humanity, to stop its construction. There is no serious practical argument against the Cordoba house; even some notable supporters of bombing Iran assert that people like Feisal Abdul Rauf are Al Qaeda’s greatest enemies.

So it is with gay marriage. Though conservatives oppose it, it would probably encourage same sex couples to lead the kinds of lives that conservatives think everyone should lead. Ta-Nehisi Coates correctly points out that the conservative argument against gay marriage is that paying tribute to the ideal of Lifelong Heterosexual Monogamy is more important than treating gay people like human beings. Hearing this argument made by thrice-married serial philanderers adds to the absurdity, of course, but it’s just as ridiculous a point when made by those so chaste they would resist the pre-marital advances of Reese Witherspoon lookalikes.

Both debates are ultimately comical. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, it is not funny that someone should be dehumanized, but it is sometimes funny that he should be dehumanized over so little, and that his dehumanization should be the coin of what we call civilization.


I was shocked when I read this morning that President Obama had defended the Islamic Center. I was proud as hell of him, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why he did it. As I wrote to a friend earlier today, “this President doesn’t do ‘controversial.’” Sadly, I was right. The President has now backed away from his comments of last night, claiming that they weren’t intended to show support for the Islamic Center. When they clearly were.

This tickles me to no end. Aravosis misinterprets Obama’s remarks, and when he finally figures out what Obama said, he flames Obama for changing his position.

This is why we made the manic progressive tag.

Call me a Firebagger, but , while I support Obama’s decision to affirm that Muslims have normal property rights, I don’t think it was the most courageous political move evah. Sure, Politico has produced 80 articles on it in the past 24 hours, but in a few days Sarah Palin will put out a brilliant new wolf-shooting helicopter-mama video or John Thune will do surprisingly well in the Des Moines Rotary Club’s straw poll or Bill Cosby will criticize Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain or someone will bomb Iran, and CordobaGate will be mostly forgotten, even among Morning Joe viewers.

Nate Silver makes a good statistical case that “Palin and Gingirch will scream and shout, but they may be doing little more than preach to the converted”. Jon Chait takes the long-term view (which I agree with strongly):

I think this will pay long-term political dividends for Democrats. There’s a classic pattern of Democrats cementing the allegience of minority groups by standing up for them when those groups sit outside the mainstream culture, and thus when there’s a real political price to defending them. Fifty years from now, Muslims will be voting heavily Democratic because they’ll remember that Obama defended their rights when it was unpopular to do so.

DC insiders think this issue is a big deal because they read Politico and watch Morning Joe and forget that most winger poutrages are only famous for fifteen minutes. I have to believe that most Americans have bigger problems than worrying about where in Manhattan to build a new Islamic community center.

Major media outlets continue to give him a pass, but the ongoing FBI investigation into Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) took an interesting turn recently when the scandal-plagued Republican started begging for cash for his legal defense fund.

Ensign, at the center of a humiliating sex/corruption/ethics scandal, registered his legal defense fund as a tax-exempt 527 political organization, which itself was a bizarre move. But this week, the right-wing senator sent out his first appeal to help pay his legal bills, acknowledging his adultery, but denying corruption allegations that appear to be plainly true.

Nevada journalist Jon Ralston described the appeal as "galling," adding that by sending the letter, Ensign "showed that not only does he lack self-awareness, but he thinks most people who receive the letter are ignoramuses."

That mistake -- this is just about sex! -- did not lead to a "difficult legal battle." Ensign is in legal jeopardy not because he slept with his wife's best friend and his best friend's wife — that never sounds less grotesque, does it? -- but because of how he tried to cover it up, pay off the couple through Mom and Dad and then try to hush up the cuckolded husband by importuning people he regulates to hire him.

The vast majority of people, I think, would forgive Ensign for weakness of the flesh -- the social conservative base he pandered to, notwithstanding. But his manipulation of the lives of Cindy and Doug Hampton and his shameful attempt to play the victim now have outraged many who might have been forgiving.

As for "being accused of things I absolutely did not do," I ask: Really? Do tell. All we've heard is "no comment" for more than a year. What is there in the past that should induce us to believe him?

Also note, instead of taking responsibilities for his own outrageous behavior, Ensign blamed his legal difficulties on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which the far-right senator dismissed as a "liberal organization" going after him without cause.

CREW's Melanie Sloan responded, "Senator Ensign had an extended affair with a campaign staffer, who happened to be married to his chief of staff Doug Hampton, fired them both, and had his parents pay them off without properly reporting it to the Federal Election Commission. He then conspired to help Mr. Hampton to set up a lobbying business to lobby his own office, in violation of federal law. So what exactly are the things that Senator Ensign is being accused of that he did not do?"

What a good question.

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