Saturday, April 24, 2010

"another liberal plant"

A.L. is back with a barnburner of a post (see bottom of this thread):
From my perch back in the empirical world, I'm just not sure know to deal with this. How do you begin to make your case when there aren't any mutually accepted facts? How do you convince someone that the people they trust are liars and charlatans? Writing posts trying to correct the record and dispel misinformation can at times feel about as pointless as trying to bail water out of the ocean.
Kurtz: The Year of the Chicken

From TPM Reader LM:

I just went to my doctor's office for a sinus/ear infection. I had never seen this particular physician before and certainly didn't bring up politics with him, but as I was about to pay my bill, he volunteered, "We take cash, check, credit or debit card. No chickens." I'm in Indiana, mind you. I think Sue Lowden is in real trouble if even random doctors in Indiana are mocking her to near-total strangers.
Marshall: This is Their Messaging?

I find this completely bewildering. The Republican Governors Association is embracing the mantle of a 17th century radical who tried but failed to pull off a mass casualty terrorist attack to kill the King of England and all of Parliament. Only now Obama plays the role of James I. Guy Fawkes is their new hero?

Nothing shocks me anymore. But this shocks me.

Kurtz (TPM): In The Crucible
When your mettle is truly tested, you don't get any do-overs. In her declining years, will Gov. Janice Brewer (R-AZ) look back on today with pride? Or will she feel the pangs of conscience that Earl Warren later expressed over his role in the internment of Japanese-Americans?
DougJ: Constitutional rights

This sounds more like some kind of Biblical right to me:

The Arizona cops are hot on the trail of the man who threatened to kill Raul Grijalva’s staff over immigration, Tucson police spokesman Fabian Pacheco tells me. They have the number of the cell he used to make the threats and are looking to make an arrest.

Intriguing detail: The man allegedly told Grijalva’s staff that he was going to exercise his “constitutional right” to go kill Mexicans at the border, Pacheco says.

Probably another liberal plant anyway.

It was fairly amusing earlier this week when Glenn Beck told his radio audience that God is communicating with him directly and giving him "a plan ... that is not really a plan." As Beck explained it, "What He is asking us to do is to stand peacefully, quietly with anger, loudly with truth."

As a rule, when strange men with a history of substance abuse start claiming that they're passing along messages from above, it's a strong hint that the audience might want to change the channel. What's that old joke? "When you talk to God, it's prayer; when God talks to you, it's schizophrenia"?

Nevertheless, it was even more striking to hear Beck go a little further today.

"We are entering a dark, dark period of man. Um, I was, um, I was in the Vatican, and I was surprised that the individual I was speaking to knew who I was. And they said: 'Of course we know who you are. What you're doing is wildly important. We're entering a period of great darkness, and if good people don't stand up, we could enter a period unlike we have seen in a very long time.'"

Ben Dimiero summarized this nicely:

Of course, Beck doesn't clarify whether the "individual" he talked to was a Vatican official or a tourist from Omaha, but the impression he wants to give his listeners is clear: the Vatican itself has identified Beck as "wildly important" in the coming "dark, dark period of man."

You may see the ongoing debate in our country about health care reform, financial reform, and a variety of other issues in terms of how they will affect our policy decisions. Glenn Beck envisions things on a slightly larger scale - with himself at the center of it all.

Two things. First, given the support the Roman Catholic church has shown for social justice -- a concept Beck believes is "code" for Marxism -- I'm not sure why he would consider the Vatican a source for wisdom anyway. Just last month Beck implored his minions to "run as fast as you can" away from churches that value social justice. So, why'd he go to the Vatican in the first place?

And second, I know the phrase "delusions of grandeur" gets thrown around casually sometimes, but when someone who claims to receive messages from God, and characterizes himself as "wildly important" in some kind of global scenario to prevent a dark period for humanity, doesn't the phrase take on a more literal, clinical meaning?


Long-time readers may recall a discussion we had back in December, about the quality of the debate over health care reform. It was obvious at the time that the meaningful, interesting disputes weren't between conservatives and liberals, but between liberals and other liberals.

It's not that the right remained silent; it's that they offered arguments that no serious person could find credible. Consider, just off the top of your head, the most prominent concerns raised by opponents of the Affordable Care Act. What comes to mind? "Death panels." "Socialism." "Government takeover."

It was the biggest domestic policy fight in a generation, but most of the policy debate was spent debunking transparent, child-like nonsense. The left approached the debate with vibrancy, energy, and seriousness. The right thought it was fascinating to talk about the number of pages in the legislation.

Making matters worse, the quality of the discourse on health care wasn't especially unusual. We endured a mind-numbing debate over economic recovery efforts because Republicans weren't prepared for a serious argument. We can't discuss Wall Street reform because Republicans keep saying "bailout" for no reason. We can't discuss a climate bill because Republicans reflexively reject the science.

Every major issue has strengths and weaknesses, and every major piece of legislation is subject to legitimate criticism. In 2010, however, the right seems fundamentally unprepared to even have the conversation.

Given all of this, Marc Ambinder asks today whether the right has "gone mad."

Can anyone deny that the most trenchant and effective criticism of President Obama today comes not from the right but from the left? Rachel Maddow's grilling of administration economic officials. Keith Olbermann's hectoring Democratic leaders on the public option. Glenn Greenwald's criticisms of Elena Kagan. Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn's keepin'-them-honest perspectives on health care, the civil libertarian left on detainees and Gitmo. The Huffington Post on derivatives.

I want to find Republicans to take seriously, but it is hard. Not because they don't exist -- serious Republicans -- but because, as [Julian] Sanchez and others seem to recognize, they are marginalized, even self-marginalizing and the base itself seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking, and that therapy is a substitute for thinking.

Ambinder ponders various explanations -- the habit of conservatives to take entertainers seriously as political actors, the "incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance," the epistemic closure problem in which conservatives ignore news outlets that might tell them what they don't want to hear -- but doesn't draw a clear conclusion.

In a way, that's a shame. I was really hoping he'd help me understand how one of the nation's dominant political parties and the ideology it embraces chose intellectual bankruptcy.

Anonymous Liberal: An Army of Trumans
This is the first post I've written since last November. Part of what drove me to take a break from writing about politics was a growing realization that the Great Conversation in this country had completely ceased, that the various sides were no longer speaking the same language, like dialects that have--over time--drifted so far apart that they are no longer mutually intelligible. Watching Fox News and Tea Party rallies, it became apparent to me that the right wing in this country had severed the few remaining ties it had to the world I live in, the empirical world.

In its place, the Right has constructed its own Bubble World, a sort of political Truman Show complete with its own facts and rules (albeit facts and rules that are constantly changing based on political expediency). The writers, directors, and actors in this conservative version of Seahaven are the legions of GOP politicians, operatives, and conservative media outlets that relentlessly push this politically expedient alternative reality, and the Trumans are the millions of regular Americans who don't realize the joke is on them.

In this Bubble World, it is an accepted truth that our President is a bumbling ignoramus who can only string together a coherent sentence if he uses a teleprompter (which, apparently, other politicians don't use). I can understand a world in which Obama's political opponents mock him as a being too professorial or out-of-touch or arrogant. But unintelligent? Inarticulate? I don't know how to deal with that. It's like mocking John Boehner for being pale.

Similarly, it is an accepted fact in the Bubble World that Obama is an extreme liberal, if not an outright socialist or communist. According to Newt Gingrich, Obama is "the most radical president in American history." Again, I just don't know how to deal with that. This is a guy who, at every point in his political career, has gone out of his way to position himself as a moderate, as a pragmatic technocrat. Since taking office, he has not, as far as I can tell, made a single policy decision that can fairly be described as liberal, much less radical. The only significant pieces of legislation he's passed are a stimulus package that nearly every economist endorsed and a health care reform bill modeled on Romney-care (which, while better than nothing, is nowhere close to the kind of bill most liberals--much less a communists or socialists--would have crafted).

In Bubble World, there is a movement known as the Tea Party, whose members are simultaneously incensed about the size of the deficit and the fact that they have to pay taxes (even though they have the lowest tax rates in the free world and just got significant tax cuts--from Obama--in the past year). Moreover, they're not angry at the party that built the deficit--by starting wars and giving massive tax cuts to people who are much richer than them--or that presided, just recently, over the near collapse of the economy. But they are furious at the party that just recently took the reins, inheriting both a crumbling economy and massive deficit. And if they had their way, they would put back in power a party whose only policy idea is, that's right, cutting taxes; which, of course, would only make the deficit much worse.

But not in Bubble World. In Bubble World, cutting taxes actually raises revenue. In Bubble World, "the market" will magically solve all of our health care problems and true "freedom" is defined by one's ability to be denied health coverage for pre-existing conditions. And in Bubble World, a set of sensible and long-overdue financial regulations designed to prevent another meltdown of the economy and foreclose any future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street is actually a "permanent bailout bill."

In this alternative universe, the facts are literally whatever the political consultants say they should be. Whatever resonates with the focus group. If you're working on behalf of Wall Street lobbyists to kill a bill that would impose more accountability on Wall Street, you simply accuse those who support the bill of doing Wall Street's bidding. It doesn't matter that this is the opposite of the truth and is, in fact, exactly what you're doing. While these facts might matter to people in the empirical world, the facts in Bubble World are whatever the right wing wants them to be. In Bubble World, Mitch McConnell is bravely protecting the people from the Wall Street bigwigs, not doing the bidding of Wall Street lobbyists.

And that sad reality goes a long way toward explaining why I haven't been blogging lately. We've reached a point where the right wing in this country has achieved complete epistemic closure. Aided by their extensive and growing media apparatus and a traditional media that is uninterested in playing umpire, the Right has managed to escape entirely from the gravitational pull of the empirical world, and in fact, has a created a world of its own, one with a rapidly growing gravitational field that, everyday, pulls in more and more of the unsuspecting and uninformed.

From the comfort of this Bubble World, people like Mitch McConnell can simply say whatever the hell they want to say, no matter how ludicrous, and trust that much of the country will readily accept it as true. As Christof famously says in the Truman Show, "we accept the reality with which we are presented." And that's particularly true when that reality is one that is focus-grouped tested to conform with our pre-existing biases and hammered home repeatedly by the folks we rely on to keep us informed (which, for a scary number of people these days, means Fox News and Rush Limbaugh).

From my perch back in the empirical world, I'm just not sure know to deal with this. How do you begin to make your case when there aren't any mutually accepted facts? How do you convince someone that the people they trust are liars and charlatans? Writing posts trying to correct the record and dispel misinformation can at times feel about as pointless as trying to bail water out of the ocean.

I had high hopes after the thumping the Republicans took in 2006 and 2008 that we had finally turned a corner, that the cracks were beginning to show in Bubble World and the empirical world was slowly re-exerting its influence. I got the feeling that more and more people who had been stuck in the bubble were beginning to sense that something just wasn't right.

But I was wrong. Freed from the burden of any actual governing responsibility, the GOP has been free to devote all of its efforts to reconstructing their Bubble World. And they've been largely successful. An entire movement has formed that is based, almost entirely, on confusion and mis-directed anger, a movement that sees the world only through the lens of Fox News and other right wing outlets. The Tea Party is an army of Trumans, a movement of people who have whole-heartedly embraced the false reality with which they've been presented.

The central dilemma for those us left in the empirical world is how to puncture the bubble. What can we do to make facts once again relevant? What can be done to dis-incentivize the kind of lying and reality denial that has become the hallmark of the modern conservative movement? I can't say that I have answers to these questions, but I'm pretty confident that these are THE questions that we should be asking. Policy debates are great, but only when they take place in the empirical world. If a majority of Americans aren't living in that world, then such debates risk becoming purely academic exercises.

Friday, April 23, 2010

An Open Letter to a Certain Half-term ex-Governor.

Dear half-term ex-Governor from Alaska who is fond of asking: “How’s that hopey changey thing workin for ya?”

Excellent question. Let’s see:

  • The Democrat’s Stimulus Bill created the largest and most successful economic recovery package in history. It saved us from a depression, created millions of jobs, stabilized critical industries, and moved from losing 700,000 jobs a month to increasing employment. The economy is recovering.
  • 99% of working West Virginians received a tax cut in 2009 as part of the Democrat’s Stimulus Bill.
  • Thanks to President Obama’s intervention, General Motors and Chrysler still exist. GM just paid off their loans from the Canadian and US governments in full, five years early, with interest, and is 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.
  • The war in Iraq is winding down and the war in Afghanistan has a strategy for success, eliminating a major sinkhole for our tax dollars.
  • Obama just signed a treaty that will achieve Ronald Reagan’s dream of reducing nuclear arsenals. This was possible only because he had restored America’s relationships with our allied nations.
  • Thanks to Obama’s international policies and behavior, America is once again the most admired nation in the world, instead of the most feared.
  • The Democrats passed a moderate universal health care plan that addresses one of the most serious economic and societal challenges of our time and will cut the deficit by a trillion dollars.
  • Obama is the only President in 30 years with the courage to eliminate the F-22 white elephant and cut billions in wasteful spending, despite bipartisan pork barrel opposition.
  • Finally, Obama has, remarkably, remained resolutely civil in spite of it all: the attacks from Republicans playing politics; the racist, violent, and hateful actions of the radical fringe; the willful disinformation campaign from the right wing media.

So, that hopey changey thing is working out really well!

Thanks for asking.

Real Media

DougJ: Now it’s gone too far

I can’t take ManziGate anymore. I just caught myself nodding along with Marc Ambinder, something I promised myself I would never do:

Can anyone deny that the most trenchant and effective criticism of President Obama today comes not from the right but from the left? Rachel Maddow’s grilling of administration economic officials. Keith Olbermann’s hectoring of Democratic leaders on the public option. Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of Elena Kagan. Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn’s keepin’-them-honest perspectives on health care. The civil libertarian left on detainees and Gitmo. The Huffington Post on derivatives.

I want to find Republicans to take seriously, but it is hard. Not because they don’t exist—serious Republicans—but because, as Sanchez and others seem to recognize, they are marginalized, even self-marginalizing, and the base itself seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking, and that therapy is a substitute for thinking.

Ambinder is one of the voices of Official Washington (he co-wrote The Note for years). So it’s pretty shocking to hear this from him. But he’s completely correct—I read lots of compelling criticism of Obama from the left and literally none only Daniel Larison from the right.

  • from the comments:


    The big difference between the right and left:
    During a Democratic Presidency, we get intelligent and constructive criticism from the same side as the administration

    During a Republican Presidency, we get blind and unquestioning devotion from the same side as the administration

Stelter (NYT): Jon Stewart’s Punching Bag, Fox News

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are long gone. Fox News Channel is Jon Stewart’s new enemy No. 1.

Last week that comedian did something that the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” the morning show on Fox News, did not do: he had his staff members call the White House and ask a question.

It may have been in pursuit of farce, not fact, but it gave credence to the people who say “The Daily Show” is journalistic, not just satiric. “Fox & Friends” had repeatedly asked whether the crescent-shaped logo of the nuclear security summit was an “Islamic image,” one selected by President Obama in his outreach to the Muslim world. The White House told “The Daily Show” that the logo was actually based on the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom.

“This is how relentless Fox is” in savaging President Obama, Mr. Stewart said.

On the subject of Fox, Mr. Stewart is pretty relentless too. As demonstrated by that crescent segment and dozens of others since Mr. Obama took office, he may well be television’s pre-eminent fact-checker of Fox News, the nation’s highest-rated cable news channel.

It has been noticed by, among other people, the Fox host Bill O’Reilly, who called Mr. Stewart a “devoted critic” of Fox News and said “his influence is growing.”

Separately, this week Mr. Stewart’s contract was renewed by Comedy Central into 2013. Combining the earnestness of a journalism professor and the sarcasm of a satirist, Mr. Stewart routinely charges that Fox’s news anchors and commentators distort Mr. Obama’s policies and advance a conservative agenda. He reminds some viewers of the left-wing group Media Matters but much funnier.

“Stewart does a great job of using comedy to expose the tragedy that is Fox News, and he also underscores the seriousness of it,” said Eric Burns, the president of Media Matters.

The segments about Fox are often replayed hundreds of thousands of times on blogs and other Web sites, amplifying their significance. “Media criticism has become part of his brand,” said Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who noted that Mr. Stewart had also dissected CNN and CNBC in lengthy segments in the past.

It is true that the often-left-leaning “Daily Show” deals with a wide array of topics, but Fox is one that Mr. Stewart is overtly passionate about; he said on the show this week that he criticizes the network a lot because it is “truly a terrible, cynical, disingenuous news organization.”

According to “The Daily Show” Web site,, Fox News has been a subject of 24 segments so far this year, including eight in the month of April. The lower-rated news channel CNN, by contrast, has been a subject of five segments this year.

In many of the segments, Mr. Stewart questions Fox’s journalistic practices. He noted that Fox had hired former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska to be a political analyst in a January segment he called “News of the Weird.” But he wasn’t laughing when he asserted that Fox is “functioning as her de-facto rapid response media arm, and they’re paying her for the privilege of doing it.”

In February he noted that Fox News had stopped showing President Obama’s widely praised meeting with Republican leaders while CNN and MSNBC had carried it start to finish. Mimicking a Fox anchor, Mr. Stewart said, “We’re gonna cut away because” — humorous pause — “this is against the narrative that we present.”

In March he ridiculed the news anchor Megyn Kelly for lining up guests who were opposed to the Democratic health care overhaul and citing polls that claimed the American people were opposed to it. Then he played a clip from October 2008, when Mr. Obama was leading in most polls, of Ms. Kelly’s saying “don’t trust the polls.”

In the past week and a half he found himself in a fight with Bernie Goldberg, the Fox News contributor, after suggesting that Mr. Goldberg and others were hypocritical for having bemoaned generalizations about the Tea Party while having demonized liberals.

As Fox’s ratings have surged, so too has the amount of criticism, particularly surrounding its combination of news programs and conservative opinion programs. Asked on Friday about Mr. Stewart’s criticism, a Fox spokeswoman, Loren Hynes, said the channel would pass on an opportunity to comment.

Mr. O’Reilly responded to Mr. Stewart on his Fox program on Wednesday, calling “The Daily Show” a “key component of left-wing television” and concluding: “Here, we have all kinds of views, all kinds of debates, and we’re not boring. That’s why Jon Stewart loves us, and, yes, needs us, especially Bernie Goldberg.”

Mr. Stewart and his executive producers usually let their segments speak for themselves, and they declined interview requests about Fox this week. Friends and colleagues of Mr. Stewart say privately that he cares deeply about media issues and happens to be in a position to talk about them.

His staff members regularly dismiss claims that “The Daily Show” is a form of journalism. “I have not moved out of the comedian’s box into the news box,” Mr. Stewart said on the show on Tuesday, adding, “The news box is moving toward me.”

But there he was, checking in with the White House when Fox didn’t. The inspiration for the “Fox & Friends” segment about the “Islamic image” came from The New York Post, which, like Fox News, is owned by the News Corporation. Mr. Stewart cut up the clips of the co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Gretchen Carlson reckoning that the flags of Muslim nations look a lot like the summit logo — followed by Ms. Carlson’s saying “you be the judge” — before letting rip.

“Yeah, you be the judge,” Mr. Stewart said, hurling an expletive and continuing, “We’re just curious citizens, wondering if we put that logo up with four Muslim flags, whether you’ll have a visceral reaction that our president is perhaps Muslim.”

He concluded: “Anyway, what do you think? We’re just doing the math and then giving you the answer, and then asking you to check our work.”

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.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bernie Goldberg Fires Back
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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.

The feathers are flying ...

I really didn't intend to do three posts about this today, but Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden keeps pressing her cluck, I mean, luck.

To briefly review, Lowden, the favorite to beat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in Nevada this year, recently encouraged voters to "barter with your doctor." On Monday, Lowden reiterated and expanded upon this, praising a health care delivery system in line with "the olden days" when those seeking medical care "would bring a chicken to the doctor." Despite the mockery this had already received, she added, "I'm not backing down from that system."

This afternoon, the Republican candidate's spokesperson told Greg Sargent that the campaign is sticking by Lowden's argument.

"Americans are struggling to pay for their health care, and in order to afford coverage we must explore all options available to drive costs down. Bartering with your doctor is not a new concept. There have been numerous reports as to how negotiating with your doctor is an option and doctors have gone on the record verifying this."

The campaign's statement went on to blame Harry Reid because, well, just because.

There are a couple of angles to consider here. First, when Lowden's spokesperson says bartering "is not a new concept," that's true. But as Atrios explained, "All joking aside, there's a reason we no longer have a barter economy. It's tremendously inefficient."

Second, the Lowden campaign went on to distribute some kind of background document, hoping to prove that bargaining with medical professionals is possible. But as we've talked about, haggling with doctors is hardly the basis for effective care and cost controls, and for that matter, bargaining and bartering aren't the same thing.

In a purely political context, campaigns are rarely lost in April, but Lowden's position has quickly made her something of a joke -- and once a candidate is a laughingstock, it's very difficult to recover. One Nevadan has characterized this as a "macaca moment" for the Republican hopeful, and that under the circumstances, that seems more than fair.

Sue Lowden could have walked this embarrassing incident back many times, but she's now tripled down on a position that simply doesn't make any sense.

Lowden has had a year to come up with a coherent approach to health care policy, and she's failed rather spectacularly. We saw our first hint about this last month, when Lowden praised Medicare and condemned "government run health care" at the same time, and we're getting an even better sense of her confusion now.

Sometimes, candidates just aren't ready for prime time.

Kleefeld (TPM): Dems Fricassee Lowden For Chicken-Bartering Health Care Plan

The feathers are flying in the political attacks over Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden's declarations that people could control health care costs through the use of barter.

On Monday, Lowden doubled down on the barter idea. "Let's change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I'm telling you that this works," Lowden said. "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I'll paint your house."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee rolled out its new satirical website, "Chickens For Checkups," in which readers can send a form letter to Lowden asking how they can find a doctor who would treat various olden-days ailments such as rickets, "ill humours," "the vapors" and others, in exchange for various types of livestock or even "indentured servitude." (Hat tip to Greg Sargent.)

We asked the Lowden campaign for further comment on what sort of policies Lowden might advance in order to facilitate the further use of barter -- that is, how could we incorporate these practices into an economic system in which doctors work for hospitals, which in turn are corporations that interact with insurance companies and process large amounts of money back and forth? And how would the tax implications be handled, with current law requiring that barter transactions be reported to the IRS and taxed at their market cash value?

The Lowden camp referred us back to their statement from earlier today, which declared in part: "Bartering with your doctor is not a new concept. There have been numerous reports as to how negotiating with your doctor is an option and doctors have gone on the record verifying this. Unfortunately, Harry Reid's failed leadership forces us to take drastic measures."

They also referred us to Lowden's issues page on "Health Care Solutions," which details her more general proposals on health care, and does not mention the barter system.

Marshall: ChickenCare Goes Viral

Perhaps inevitably, a progressive group has now created a special ChickenCare dance remix of senate candidate Sue Lowden's proposal to bring down health care costs by adopting a barter economy in medical care.

A bit more seriously though, this does put the Nevada senate race into a certain clarifying perspective. The Health Care Reform bill wasn't Harry Reid's bill -- ideas and strategy from lots of people went into it. And many people had endless criticisms of how he managed the process over the course of 2009 and 2010. At the end of the day, though, it passed. The Senate is where it happened. And Reid was central to the entire thing. That is an historic accomplishment. If his career in politics ends in January, his place in history will be secure.

So on the one side you have Harry Reid, a key architect of comprehensive Health Care Reform, the product of decades of activism, in all its messiness and policy complexity.

And on the other you have Sue Lowden, who thinks bartering livestock and other commodities for health care services from doctors is a way to rein in spiraling health care costs. (If you think that's an exaggeration, take a minute and watch this video.) There's no end of comedic possibilities thinking through the logistical and logical difficulties of managing co-pays and long-term care and drug costs in chickens and other barter payment. But step back and give it a serious look and ... well, this is this woman's take on confronting medical inflation. It's funny and also sad. But as a contrast it's stark and painful.

Seriously, think about it for a minute.

The Rachel Treatment.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Will peak wingnut ever arrive?

DougJ: You ain’t seen nothing yet

Lots of discussion of Sue Lowden’s bartering ideas. Add to that the facts that J.D. Hayworth has a shot at taking out McCain, Bob Bennett may lose to an even nuttier conservative, Rand Paul is in the mix in Kentucky, Marco Rubio is the front-runner in Florida…and you’re looking at a 2011-2012 Senate that will likely be much crazier than the one we already have.

I can’t think of an appropriately geeky way to describe this, but there’s no way we see peak wingnut much before 2014. If Senators aren’t beating each other with canes by then, I’ll be a little disappointed.

Marshall: GOPer Tries to Ape My Snark

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. A couple weeks ago our Eric Kleefeld came up with video showing Nevada Senate candidate Sue Lowden suggesting that "bartering" for medical care would be a good way to rein in spiraling health care costs.

I mocked her with the headline: "I bid three chickens for that MRI!" But I sort of figured she'd rethink that plan after her advisors sat her down for a moment and explained the concept of a cash economy or maybe if she found out what 'barter' meant. But it turns out that she was serious. Not just serious. She was actually thinking about payment in chickens too.

Yesterday she told a local news program: "I'm telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor."

I'm always troubled by these moments when my sarcasm and snark is outpaced by the ugly reality. See the video here.

PS. If you want to hear something really funny. This woman's probably going to be the freshman senator from Nevada next January. Think she'll be for repeal? I wager five chickens!

Marshall: Ask a Stupid Question ...

The Georgia state legislature, on top of the latest threats, is holding hearings on a bill to ban implanting people with microchips -- as one rumor suggested the Health Care Reform bill mandated.

But the good folks who run the Judiciary Committee seemed to have gotten a bit more than they reckoned with when one of their hearing witnesses claimed that she had already been implanted with a microchip.

And not just any microchip, but one the Pentagon had implanted in her "vaginal-rectum area", apparently to track her movements.

Presumably part of the Stimulus Bill.

Aravosis: Arizona legislature demands immigrants and President of the United States verify their status

Putting aside the birther thing, which is just embarrassing for Arizona, how do the police propose to determine who is and who isn't a legal immigrant? Are they planning on stopping people on the street? Make you prove your birthplace if you're pulled over for a traffic ticket? Who carries that kind of proof on them? Your driver's license doesn't say where you're born, so how exactly will police enforce this? The danger is that they'll simply use this new law to terrorize Latinos, Arabs, and any other out of stater the local police want to harass (and from what I understand from family in Arizona, harassing out of state cars is the local police pastime in parts of Arizona).

Aravosis: Right-wing anti-immigrant group says Lindsey Graham may be being blackmailed because he's gay

We've poked fun before at GOP Senator Lindsey Graham's unclear sexual orientation, but this is getting downright nasty. This comes on the heels of the Teabaggers outing, and attacking, Graham this weekend.

The national border security organization known as Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) is officially calling for US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to make his homosexual lifestyle public knowledge in the interest of political integrity and national security...

"US Senator Lindsey Graham is gay and while many people in South Carolina and Washington DC know that, the general public and Graham's constituents do not," said William Gheen President of ALIPAC. "I personally do not care about Graham's private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets. Senator Graham needs to come out of the closet inside that log cabin so the public can rest assured he is not being manipulated with his secret."

Even Halperin

It was a lively discussion on "Morning Joe" this morning, when White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee appeared to discuss Wall Street reform. In particular, he explained why GOP talking points about "bailouts" aren't just wrong, but are in fact the opposite of reality.

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Goolsbee also did a nice job highlighting the GOP's motivations for repeating obvious nonsense: "Everybody knows a consultant just handed them that line and they're just reading it. It doesn't matter what's in the bill. It could be a bill about breakfast cereal and they're going to say this is a bailout bill."

But what was especially interesting this morning was the moment when host Joe Scarborough turned to Time's Mark Halperin, and urged him to "defend the Republican position" on the legislation. Halperin, who often seems more than sympathetic to the GOP line, couldn't bring himself to support the Republican arguments.

"I cannot defend what they're doing," Halperin said. "They are willfully misreading the bill or they are engaged in a cynical attempt to keep the president from achieving something."

Note to Republicans: when even Mark Halperin is calling you out for lying, the conventional wisdom is turning against you.

Greg Sargent adds:
It isn’t every day that a consumate inside-game reporter/pundit type like Mark Halperin aggressively calls out one party for lying, but that’s exactly what Halperin did early this morning on MSNBC, talking about the GOP claim that the Dem financial reg reform bill will lead to a permanent bailout.
The point here is that Halperin is taking a stand, saying, in effect, that the GOP position is wrong and that the Goolsbee position is right.

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Josh Marshall: Big Stones

Some of the shrewdest analysts of American finance have argued that financial panic of 2008 was less a matter of lax regulation or reckless bets than a broader crisis of political economy -- one in which the financial sector had simply become too large to fill its proper role in the larger economy and its power, relatedly, too great in Washington to be restrained within healthy bounds.

Along those lines, I sometimes think that a cultural anthropologist might be better prepared to analyze what's happening today between the White House and Goldman Sachs than a political analyst or financial commentator.

Remember, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein was one of three Wall Street CEOs who famously stood President Obama up at a meeting at the White House back in December. Now, in response to the SEC's fraud suit, which it has made clear it will fight aggressively, Goldman has taken the eye-popping step of retaining the services of Greg Craig as its chief legal defender.

Now, as you know, until recently, Craig was President Obama's chief lawyer, as White House counsel. And protestations aside, few people believe White House claims that Craig left of his own accord. So hiring the president's former lawyer as part of a brewing battle with the White House is unquestionably the sort of high-stakes, aggressive play that one associates with the kind of Wall Street trader who makes it all the way to the top. Constantly upping the ante and lead with your fists.

Steven D: IMF Urges Financial Reform ASAP
The International Monetary Fund a/k/a the IMF is not exactly a radical, extremist left wing organization. It is deeply embedded in the current global economic and financial establishment (and responsible in part for the mess we are in now).

Yet even the Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand lovers at the IMF are scared by the financial services monsters they helped enable, those large multinational financial institutions that the twin gospels of "globalization" and "de-regulation" birthed. Even the IMF is now warning that financial reform to eliminate the systemic risk that still exists in our global financial system, and which if not dealt with son may lead to the next financial collapse, one that this time we may not be able to prevent from turning into a global Great Depression:

Time is running out for governments to overhaul regulation of global banks that have become bigger and more powerful since the start of the financial meltdown three years ago, the International Monetary Fund warned today.

In its half-yearly health check on the financial sector, the Washington-based fund said there was an urgent need for international co-operation to tackle the systemic risks posed by banks deemed "too big to fail".

"The future financial regulatory reform agenda is still a work in progress, but will need to move forward with at least the main ingredients soon", the IMF said in its Global Financial Stability Review. "The window of opportunity for dealing with too-important-to-fail institutions may be closing and should not be squandered, all the more so because some of these institutions have become bigger and more dominant than before the crisis erupted.

"Policymakers need to give serious thought about what makes these institutions systemically important and how risks to the financial system can be mitigated."

These aren't a group of Marxist-Socialist-Fascists making these warnings. This is the premier international organization created after WWII to re-establish the wrecked economies of war torn countries and spread capitalism around the globe. It is also an organization that is less diverse and more mainstream than any other international organization. And by mainstream I mean the IMF has always followed the c=dominant thinking of the leading economists of the day. This is "who they are:

The bulk of IMF analysis has always been mainstream and centrist, viewed from the perspective of the dominant strain of Anglo-Saxon economics. The leading universities of North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia have been the main training grounds for much of its professional staff. Martha Finnemore, a political scientist who has studied a number of large organizations, has even claimed that the Pentagon displays more intellectual diversity than the IMF. [...]

These are the people that Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz once referred to as outdated in their thinking and patronizing in their approach to transformation of the global economy:

The mathematical models the IMF uses are frequently flawed or out-of-date. Critics accuse the institution of taking a cookie-cutter approach to economics, and they're right. Country teams have been known to compose draft reports before visiting. I heard stories of one unfortunate incident when team members copied large parts of the text for one country's report and transferred them wholesale to another. They might have gotten away with it, except the "search and replace" function on the word processor didn't work properly, leaving the original country's name in a few places. Oops.

It's not fair to say that IMF economists don't care about the citizens of developing nations. But the older men who staff the fund--and they are overwhelmingly older men--act as if they are shouldering Rudyard Kipling's white man's burden. IMF experts believe they are brighter, more educated, and less politically motivated than the economists in the countries they visit.

So these are not hot headed communists seeking to destroy our freedoms. Far from it. If they had their preference they would all be still be worshiping at the twin altars of Milton Friedman and the "Free Market" to solve all of our current economic problems. Unfortunately for them, even they now realize that government has a role to play in harmonizing and stabilizing the financial markets, and that bigger is not always better in the world of finance, even if that was the ultimate result of the policies they promoted and in which they put their trust and faith.

When even the IMF turns against the Mega Banks and Wall Street Gangsters (Hello there Goldman Sachs!) who are fighting tooth and nail to derail financial reform with their "friends" in both parties (but especially the Republicans led by Mitch McConnell) it behooves us, especially those indoctrinated in the faith that unfettered free markets solve all problems, to take their warnings seriously.

Twenty years ago these were the people who supported the policies of globalization, the free flow of capital around the world and financial de-regulation by governments inn order to allow the financial markets to expand exponentially. These were the people who supported the growth of large, integrated financial institutions that could do everything from selling stocks and bonds, to investment banking, to commercial and residential loans, to providing insurance.

The IMF staff may never come right out and say that they were wrong, but in effect that is what this most recent report urging immediate reform and re-regulation of the multinational megalithic financial institutions represents: an admission that what they thought they knew about macroeconomic was seriously flawed. It's time that those on the right who still believe reasonable regulation of banks and Wall Street is an infringement on "their freedoms" reach the same conclusion.

President Obama nominated Lael Brainard to be an Under Secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, and Senate confirmation was expected to be pretty easy. Her background and qualifications are impeccable, and Brainard was likely to get bipartisan support. Given the importance of having competent Treasury Department officials in place during a global economic crisis, it made sense to have the Senate move quickly on the nomination.

That didn't happen. Brainard was nominated in March 2009. Last night, 13 months after receiving the nomination, the Senate voted to end obstructionist tactics and allow senators to vote up or down on Brainard's nomination. The cloture vote was 84 to 10.

With such broad bipartisan support, why did it take more than a year for the Senate to bring Brainard's nomination to the floor? Because Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had a hold on the nomination.

It's hard to overstate how ridiculous this is.

Brainard, who is set up for a cloture vote today at 5:30pm ET, has been nominated to serve in a position critical to engaging China and representing U.S. interests at the G-20, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

Brainard, a highly qualified expert in international economics, is a devoted public servant who has spent most of her career serving the American people. She previously served with distinction as: Deputy National Economic Advisor for President Bill Clinton; Vice President and Founding Director of the Brookings Institution's Global Economy and Development Program; Associate Professor of Applied Economics at MIT Sloan School; a White House Fellow; and a National Science Foundation Fellow.

Brainard is supported by: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, U.S. Council on International Business, Business Council for International Understanding, Council of the Americas, Coalition of Services Industries, Emergency Committee for American Trade, National Foreign Trade Council, National Association of Manufacturers.

And why did Kyl block a vote for more than a year? Because the far-right Republican isn't satisfied with -- get this -- administration enforcement of prohibitions on internet gambling. Seriously.

As former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker recently put it, "How can we run a government in the middle of a financial crisis without doing the ordinary, garden-variety administrative work of filling the relevant agencies?"

Senate Republicans are acting like children playing with matches. Jon Kyl isn't some random backbencher, he's the #2 Republican in the chamber. Presumably, he's in a position to realize the adverse consequences -- for the government, for the administration, for the entire country -- of his indefensible obstructionism.

A mature, functioning democracy simply can't operate this way and expect to thrive.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Not people like themselves

QOTD, David in Nashville:
I think what we're actually seeing here is a sharp increase in distrust of government from those who only trust government when it's seen as controlled by and for people like themselves. Big government is OK if it helps "us," and not "them"; if "they" control it, though, it stands to reason that they'll use it to help the "wrong" people at "our" expense."
Sully: Quote For The Day

19 Apr 2010 11:56 am


"The leader can guess the psychological wants and needs of those susceptible to his propaganda because he resembles them psychologically, and is distinguished from them by a capacity to express without inhibitions what is latent in them, rather than by any intrinsic superiority. The leaders are generally oral character types, with a compulsion to speak incessantly and to befool the others. The famous spell they exercise over their followers seems largely to depend on their orality: language itself, devoid of its rational significance, functions in a magical way and furthers those archaic regressions which reduce individuals to members of crowds.

Since this very quality of uninhibited but largely associative speech presupposes at least a temporary lack of ego control, it may well indicate weakness rather than strength. The fascist agitators' boasting of strength is indeed frequently accompanied by hints at such weakness, particularly when begging for monetary contributions - hints which, to be sure, are skillfully merged with the idea of strength itself. In order successfully to meet the unconscious dispositions of his audience, the agitator so to speak simply turns his own unconscious outward.

His particular character syndrome makes it possible for him to do exactly this, and experience has taught him consciously to exploit this faculty, to make rational use of his irrationality, similarly to the actor, or a certain type of journalist who knows how to sell their innervations and sensitivity. Without knowing it, he is thus able to speak and act in accord with psychological theory for the simple reason that the psychological theory is true. All he has to do in order to make the psychology of his audience click, is shrewdly to exploit his own psychology," - Theodor Adorno.

DougJ: I’m afraid of Americans

I have a question for all you Brits and whatnot out there. As I understand it, the Tories are not that crazy, they’re about like the Blue Dogs if the Blue Dogs had all gone to Eton and drank claret at lunch. Given the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, is there a fear that the insanity of American conservatism will eventually seep into UK conservatism? Or am I wrong that it’s not already crazy?

This article about a “Tory madrasa” got me thinking:

The YBF chief executive, Donal Blaney, who runs the courses on media training and policy, has called for environmental protesters who trespass to be “shot down” by the police and that Britain should have a US-style liberal firearms policy. In an article on his own website, entitled Scrap the NHS, not just targets, he wrote: “Would it not now be better to say that the NHS – in its current incarnation – is finished?”

Blaney has described the YBF as “a Conservative madrasa” that radicalises young Tories. Programmes have included trips to meet neo-conservative groups in the US and to a shooting range in Virginia to fire submachine guns and assault rifles.

Also too, Ross Douthat taunted Tories today for not being sufficiently conservative, before praising David Cameron by comparing him to Nixon and George W. Bush.

DougJ: Principled opposition to Obama’s policies

That’s all this is (via Dave Weigel and Atrios):

[Tancredo] said Americans have reached the point where “we’re going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country.”

As for Obama, Tancredo said, “If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don’t we just send him back?”

Of course, recent Democratic Congressmen talked about sending Bush back to whatever country MoveOn claimed he was from, too. So you’re all hypocrites for criticizing Tancredo.

Rayfield (TPM): Former Rep. Tancredo: Send Obama Back To Kenya!

A Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina over the weekend took some of the Tea Party's violent rhetoric to new levels, with speakers attacking everything from President Obama's citizenship to Sen. Lindsey Graham's sexuality.

The event was hosted by the Upcountry Conservative Coalition, a local South Carolina conservative group that describes its mission statement as:

We the People...are coalescing to reclaim our God given rights by restoring our Constitutional Republic.

The event took place at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, and featured former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) as its keynote speaker. Tancredo, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said that Americans are "going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country."

He added, referring to President Obama: "If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don't we just send him back?"

Pastor Stan Craig, of the Choice Hills Baptist Church, was particularly angry about the state of Washington, saying he "was trained to defend the liberties of this nation." He declared that he was prepared to "suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do."


Dan Gonzales, who Chairs the Constitution Party in Florida, asserted that "this is the end of America right here," and if the Tea Partiers "don't get to work we're going to be fighting in the streets."

He was not particularly kind to the Republican party either, claiming they were owned by the Rockefeller family.


Another speaker, who claimed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is gay, noted:

I'm a tolerant person. I don't care about your private life, Lindsey, but as our U.S. Senator I need to figure out why you're trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure you being gay isn't it.

I like to think I can take a joke, and appreciate political commentary intended as humor, but this item from Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wasn't amusing. The headline read, "Time to repeal the 19th Amendment?"

People and candidates for public office should be judged on the basis of their ideas, stance on the issues, character, experience and integrity, not on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability.

Therefore, we must repeal the 19th Amendment. Yes, the one granting suffrage to women. Because? Well, women are biased..... Men are consistent. Women are fickle and biased.

To "prove" his point, Mitchell, head of Nevada's largest newspaper, pointed to poll results showing women voters in the state preferring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) over former state Sen. Sue Lowden (R) by a narrow margin, but preferring Reid over real estate agent Danny Tarkanian by a wide margin. This is evidence of "bias." (That women voters might perceive Lowden as more qualified than Tarkanian doesn't seem to enter the equation at all.)

Mitchell also pointed to recent Gallup data that showed, nationwide, women tend to prefer Democrats, while men tend to prefer Republicans. This, apparently, substantiates the argument that ... well, actually, I have no idea.

If there's a clever insight here, it's hiding well.

In a follow-up piece, Thomas described his published argument as "a bit of free hyperbole." He proceeded to compare himself to Larry Summers, and insisted that there really are important gender-based differences between men and women. Thomas was especially dismissive of those who found his "repeal the 19th Amendment" argument offensive, accusing them of failing to consider "any merits or demerits of facts in evidence or syllogism used" in his piece. It's their fault, apparently, not his, that they were insulted.

Remember, this guy runs a major newspaper.

The mind reels.

  • Atrios adds - Obviously the first reason to react to this is that the guy is a sexist and racist asshole, but the second reason is that he's obviously completely fucking stupid.

Think Progress: Extreme Tea Parties now making AFP nervous; group distances itself from Oklahoma militia effort.

Last week, the AP reported that Oklahoma Tea Party leaders — part of an umbrella group called the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance — are working with right-wing Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature to create a new “volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.” A couple of GOP state senators have even met with Tea Partiers to plan legislation for a state-authorized militia. Now Americans for Prosperity, one of the astroturf groups driving the Tea Parties nationwide, has realized that the movement it promoted is now getting out of hand. The Oklahoma Watchdog reports that the group is withdrawing from the Constitutional Alliance:

[Stuart Jolly, director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity] told this website that Gerhart was “dragging us down with him” and that the reputation of AFP, with over 20,000 members statewide and over 1 million nationwide, was being tarnished by the connection to OCA and the Sooner Tea Party. He also said in a story on April 18 in The Oklahoman that “It seems like the guys on the far right are really starting to take us down a road that they really shouldn’t. It should be more of an educational thing and how things works and how you actually get things accomplished. I’m not sure discussing militias and saying we’re going to take over the GOP is any way to accomplish any goal.”

A certain former half-term governor appears to be drifting even further away from the American mainstream. Over the weekend, appearing at an evangelical Christian women's conference in Louisville, Sarah Palin rejected the very idea of separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of American democracy.

She asked for the women -- who greeted her with an enthusiastic standing ovation -- to provide a "prayer shield" to strengthen her against what she said was "deception" in the media.

She denounced this week's Wisconsin federal court ruling that government observance of a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional -- which the crowd joined in booing. She asserted that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that "God should be separated from the state."

Palin added that she was outraged when President Obama said that "America isn't a Christian nation."

The amusing aspect of this is the notion that the United States would return to its roots with support for National Day of Prayer observances. That's backwards -- Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. I'll look forward to the conservative explanation of how the Founding Fathers were godless socialists.

I also can't wait to hear how right-wing voices who want smaller government believe it's appropriate for the federal government to issue decrees encouraging private American citizens to engage in worship.

But far less amusing is the fact that Palin and others of her radical ilk reject any notion that "God should be separated from the state." It's the 21st century, for crying out loud. There are some countries that endorse Palin's worldview and intermix God and government -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under Taliban rule come to mind -- but they're generally not countries the United States tries to emulate.

The separation of church and state has long been a concept that all Americans could embrace, and has served as a model for nations around the world to follow. For Palin to publicly denounce this bedrock American principle suggests she might actually be getting worse.

Postscript: As for Palin's outrage over the president acknowledging that we're not "a Christian nation," Obama's entirely correct.

Update: Greg Sargent obtained a transcript, and it's worse than I thought. Palin not only thinks the Founding Fathers opposed church-state separation -- in other words, she thinks those who came up with the idea opposed the idea -- she also suggests religious people necessarily reject the constitutional principle. This is just astounding.

If anyone this conspicuously unintelligent has ever sought national office, I can't think of who he/she is.