Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crazy Town: "Everything is a fake moon landing"

The ultimate putdown, from "Billy Madison"

Atrios: Lindsey's Game
Rather predictably, our idiotic beltway conventional wisdom peddlers have decided that Huckleberry Graham is now the Johnny Mac/Joe Lieberman Mavericky Last Honest Man. The fact that he hasn't actually achieved anything (by design, most likely) won't impact this narrative whatsoever.

Ah, Washington, where Lindsey Graham is a hero and Dana Milbank is funny.
Marshall (TPM): Bring on da' Crazy!

When Jillian Rayfield and Evan McMorris-Santoro took a good look it turned out that the Arizona legislature had passed a lot of other pretty crazy laws of late beside the much-discussed immigration bill. And we got some emails over the course of the day from readers telling us about more pieces of crackpot legislation in their states. But we want to know more.

If you know of a particularly ridiculous, outrageous or just plain silly law your state legislature has passed or which is currently under serious consideration, let us know about it. Send us word at the comments email address at the upper right of the site.

fyi, LGF used to be a reliable right wing fever swamp blog. No more.
Johnson (Little Green Footballs): Science According to Fox News

Oh, for Pete’s sake.

In the “Science and Technology” section of Fox News today, a ridiculous hoax lifted from British tabloid The Sun, reported as straight news: Has Noah’s Ark Been Found on Turkish Mountaintop?

A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say wooden remains they have discovered on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey are the remains of Noah’s Ark.

The group claims that carbon dating proves the relics are 4,800 years old, meaning they date to around the same time the ark was said to be afloat. Mt. Ararat has long been suspected as the final resting place of the craft by evangelicals and literalists hoping to validate biblical stories.

Yeung Wing-Cheung, from the Noah’s Ark Ministries International research team that made the discovery, said: “It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it.”

And if you want to completely despair about the intelligence of the average American Fox News consumer, just take a look at the comments for this ludicrous article.


I love the big bang theory…hahaha. How about you blow up a fire cracker and see if it makes a clock. Big bangs make a mess! And also, it takes more faith to believe in evolution than God. My Great Great Grand Daddy was an ape swinging in a tree, and now we’ve evolved, and I have a PHD. Whatever, knuckleheads.



Liberal agnostics or atheists wouldn’t believe in the Bible even they received a personal visit from God Himself. It is really sad that they have such a hard time accepting such a good, merciful and loving God. You guys need to reconsider where you stand.




Marshall (TPM): Chip'em, Danno

Under the radar in this country there's been a rising tide of fear on the right that the government is going to force people to be implanted with microchips. It was actually a B-list conspiracy theory tied to the Health Care Reform bill. But at least some conservatives seem to be warming to these oft-maligned little nuggets of silicon.

One of them is Dr. Pat Bertroche, who's running to challenge Democrat Leonard Boswell in Iowa's 3rd Congressional district. He believes we should microchip illegal immigrants to make sure we can keep track of them.

Speaking today at a candidate forum in Tama County, Dr. Bertroche said: "I think we should catch 'em, we should document 'em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going. I actually support micro-chipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I micro-chip an illegal?"

I mean, who can argue with that, right?

More seriously, I'm not completely sure this is even how the microchips we put in dogs and cats even works, is it? My dog Simon actually has one of these microchips implanted in the scruff behind his neck. But as far as I can remember the reason you put one of these in is so if your pet gets lost and someone finds him or her, they can be scanned and identified and brought back to you. I don't think it's like a dog LoJack or something. It's not like a transponder that you can track someone with. But maybe there's a vet out there who can set me straight on how all this works.

And if you think that's chilling, try this one out for size. Dr. Bertroche ain't no foot doctor. He's a psychiatrist.

digby: Watering Pots

Here's a shocking development ...

Senate Republicans offered counter-proposals on financial regulation reform on Tuesday that seek to water down portions of a massive Democratic bill that has been under development for months.
The Democrats should stand tough and walk away from this one if they have to. I'll be very interested to see if they have the nerve.

There is precedent for letting the Republicans roll around in their own manure while the Democrats come out smelling like roses. They ought to give it a try.

Update: I'm hearing that smart people think forcing the Republicans to continuously vote no on financial reform and refusing to accept their "shitty deal" makes the Democrats look weak.

If this is true then the Democrats should just abdicate their 59 seat majority and let the Republicans write all the legislation from the beginning. This is all just a supreme waste of time.

The good news is that both parties would be able to say they voted for a Republican financial reform bill, so that's good. We wouldn't want the Democrats to have any advantage in what may be shaping up to be a mid-term slaughter. That wouldn't be fair.

DougJ: Whistling Dixie

This picture was taken in Portland, Maine.

I like the conclusion to the article accompanying the picture:

Jeremy Haskell was out walking his black Labrador retriever, Jeter, when he encountered the rally.

He said he is a lifelong Mainer and hunter but doesn’t have a need to flaunt a gun in public.

“I just don’t get it,” said Haskell.

It’s not about the right to bear arms, is it?

Update. Another article about this:

The flying of a large Confederate flag at a gun rights rally at Back Cove startled onlookers Sunday, even causing an African-American teenager to refuse to leave his vehicle out of fear, witnesses said.

Thank God we now live in a post-racial world.

Think Progress: Florida councilman mocks Muslim commission nominee, tells him to publicly ‘say a prayer to your God.’

Last week, ThinkProgress reported on a Jacksonville, FL council member’s controversial questioning of city Human Rights Commission nominee Parvez Ahmed. Council member Clay Yarborough (R) grilled Ahmed on same-sex marriage, God, Islam, and public prayer, even though the topics had nothing to do with the position he was being considered for. Yesterday, ending three weeks of debate, the council voted 13-6 to approve Ahmed. However, even on this last day, a member of the council mocked Ahmed for being Muslim:

As discussion on the nomination began, [Councilman Don] Redman called Ahmed, who is Muslim, to the podium and asked him to “say a prayer to your God.”

The comment elicited an audible, negative reaction from the audience and Ahmed refused to comply, saying it had no relevance to his nomination to the commission. At the same time, Chief Deputy General Counsel Cindy Laquidara rushed to the podium to reign in Redman, asking to speak with him privately before he continued.

Instead, Redman changed his approach, asking Ahmed if he was offended by Redman’s opening prayer, in which he referenced Jesus. Ahmed again questioned the relevance of the question, but he said Christian prayers did not bother him. “People do have the right to pray according to their faith and according to their beliefs,” he said.

Redman wasn’t convinced. He insisted that Ahmed, despite his answer, would be offended by prayers to Jesus and that is why he shouldn’t serve on Human Rights Commission.

Redman joined Yarborough and voted against Ahmed.

John Cole: They Open Their Mouths and the Lies Fall Out

It just never stops:

I just love me some “self-correcting blogosphere”:

Did HHS sweep score under the rug? No

And Ben Smith finishes the nonsense off for good:

The Chief Medicare Actuary, Richard Foster, called “completely inaccurate” a report that the Department of Health and Human Services buried a report on health care in the days before a crucial vote.

I’m sure the wingnuts will all have corrections on their blogs in no time.

  • from the comments:

    kommrade reproductive vigor

    I’m sure the wingnuts will all have corrections on their blogs in no time.

    True. At no time will they post a correction.


    Comrade Luke

    Did you read the comments at the end of these articles? They don’t believe the reporting.

    Everything is a fake moon landing to these people.

It's fairly common for policymakers who want to ban all abortions, but can't get away with that legally, to make it as difficult as possible for women to exercise their reproductive rights. But Oklahoma is taking this approach to truly outrageous levels.

The Oklahoma Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor's vetoes of two abortion measures, one of which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma's law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

This really is remarkable. For all the overheated talk from the right of late about government interfering with medicine, patients' decisions, and doctors' treatments, conservatives in Oklahoma have now made this the law in their state.

The thinking among these conservatives is that the image of a regular ultrasound may not be clear enough. Women seeking to terminate their pregnancy -- still a legal right in this country, by the way -- will, in Oklahoma, be required to get a vaginal probe to get a "clearer" picture. Medical professionals conducting the procedure will, whether they want to or not, be legally required to describe fetus characteristics.

"You're going to force someone to undergo an invasive medical procedure," state Sen. Andrew Rice (D) noted. "You have to invasively put an instrument inside the woman. This could be your 15-year-old daughter who was raped."

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry (D) agreed and vetoed the bill, saying "it would be unconscionable to subject rape and incest victims to such treatment" because it would victimize a victim a second time. "State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will."

This basic concept was rejected by Republican majorities in both chambers of Oklahoma's legislature, which overrode the veto yesterday.

Nothing says "limited government" like state-mandated, involuntary, invasive procedures, right?

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed suit, arguing that the new state law violates physicians' freedom of speech and women's right to privacy. Stay tuned.

Game Changer

Kos predicts:

Arizona Latinos have gone, literally overnight, from being perhaps the most pro-GOP in the nation, to joining California as the most anti-GOP ones in the nation...Within a decade, Arizona will be as reliably Democratic as California is today. And when that day arrives, we'll be able to trace it all to last Friday's passage of SB 1070.

Kurtz (TPM): McCain Hurtin' In Arizona
John McCain's approval rating has plummeted into deep negative territory in the latest poll out of Arizona. I mean really bad.
mistermix: Dead To Her
...let’s talk about my Mother. She’s 74 years old, brown (US citizen from Mexican parents), and tough as nails. She spends her winters in a small town near Tucson, a few miles from where she grew up.

Since the Arizona immigration law passed, I’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen the first time she’s pulled over and asked for her papers. The results of my thought experiment aren’t pretty. To say that she’ll be unintimidated by the local cops is a gross understatement. My concern is for the officer who pulls her over, as well as the police department and town that she’ll sue. Life gets a little dull for the retired, and the family joke is that Mom has a titanium grudge carrier, so I expect she’ll do her part to bankrupt her local municipality, and enjoy doing it.

Mom’s a proud Goldwater Republican. She was happy with Reagan, voted for Bush II in 2000 (but not in ‘04), and has long been active in the local Republican party. But I can say with absolute certainty that she will not vote for a Republican, for any office, ever again. She’s the proudest person I know—proud of her family, her achievements in life, and her Mexican heritage. And, whatever else this new law is, it is profoundly disrespectful. I don’t know if this law will kill the Republican party in Arizona, but I can assure you that they’re already dead to her.

In response to Arizona's draconian new immigration measure, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) called for a boycott of his home state. Last night on Fox News, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was asked if there's anything wrong with Grijalva's position. He replied:

"Well, it looks like the case is that, that he's trying to scare the businesses out of Arizona, or he's trying to get the businesses to change their position and press the legislature to reverse the law that was just signed by the governor the other day.

"I'm wondering if we look at the map of Congressman Grijalva's congressional district if we haven't already ceded that component of Arizona to Mexico judging by the voice that comes out of him, he's advocating for Mexico rather than the United States and against the rule of law, which is one of the central pillars of American exceptionalism." [emphasis added]

King could have been more direct and just called Grijalva a traitor.

And speaking of right-wing Iowans who hate immigrants, Pat Bertroche, a Republican congressional hopeful in Iowa's 3rd district, has his own unique approach to immigration.

"I think we should catch 'em, we should document 'em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going...I actually support microchipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I microchip an illegal? That's not a popular thing to say, but it's a lot cheaper than building a fence they can tunnel under."

I could have sworn far-right Republicans were against involuntary microchip implanation.

BarbinMD (dKos): Travel Alert

Official travel warnings normally run along the lines of don't go sailing off of Somalia or don't pack your bikini for that trip to Saudi Arabia ... now we have this:

The Mexican government warned its citizens Tuesday to use extreme caution if visiting Arizona because of a tough new law that requires all immigrants and visitors to carry U.S.-issued documents or risk arrest.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that this is the first time a foreign government has warned its citizens against visiting a state in our country.

Sully: Trying To Keep The Customers Satisfied

Hard to beat the glibertarian position on Arizona:

A reader says he’s suprised to see me support the Arizona bill. Well, I really don’t — that is, I don’t know if I’d have voted for it if I were in Arizona. I’m mostly reacting to the fact that — as demonstrated by Linda Greenhouse — the opposition displays that special combination of self-righteous outrage and bone-deep ignorance that really sets me off.

Just because someone to his left opposes something outrageous, Glenn Reynolds supports it. Kinda. But not really. Well, yes. It's pretty easy to push Reynolds around.

Marshall: Ahhh, Good Times

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says he supports deporting American citizens whose parents are illegal immigrants.

You can see the video here.

You may be thinking of the old Duncan Hunter. But this is actually his son, who the old guy passed his seat to under congressional primogeniture rules.

  • Steve Benen adds:

    Let's be real clear about this. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that those "born ... in the United States" are "citizens of the United States." It also says that no state can "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

    For that matter, the Supreme Court ruled in 1898 that a baby born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrants was legally a U.S. citizen, even though federal law at the time denied citizenship to people from China. The court said birth in the United States constituted "a sufficient and complete right to citizenship."

    What this Republican congressman is saying, then, is that he supports a policy wherein the U.S. government deports U.S. citizens based on their parents' immigration status.

    Even for the GOP, this is pretty nutty. Indeed, if American officials were planning to deport American citizens, where would the children be expected to go?

Steve Benen:

I rarely myself in agreement with Michael Gerson, but his column on immigration policy today noted a sentiment that I can strongly endorse: "The Arizona law -- like others before it -- does have one virtue. It sorts Republicans according to their political and moral seriousness."

It does, indeed. At this point, the serious GOP contingent is quite small, but it's slowly growing. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) criticized Arizona's awful new immigration law yesterday, and was soon followed by former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and California gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman. Florida's Marco Rubio also doesn't care for the odious Arizona measure, and even former Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado believes it goes too far.

But all of those Republicans have one thing in common: none of them currently hold public office. How about actual GOP officeholders?

Amanda Terkel has been keeping track of Republican lawmakers who've stated their public position on Arizona's effort, and so far, only two GOP members -- Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- have been willing to criticize the state law.


Here's a thought: what about a non-binding resolution expressing a sense of Congress that the Arizona law is a legally-dubious travesty? Why not get every member of both chambers on the record?

Republicans tend to love pushing these kinds of resolutions, hoping to put Democrats on the spot. Perhaps Dems might be in the mood to turn the tables.

Sully: The Tea Party Agenda

Balko is uneasy:

I’d have no problem if the Tea Parties were merely silent on issues like foreign policy, law enforcement, and the war on terror—that is, if people who disagree on those particular issues had come together for the purpose of rallying against government debt, bailouts, spending, and so on. But it’s increasingly looking like the right’s favored big government policies are a fairly important part of the agenda of a fairly large portion of the Tea Party crowd. Advocating for more police power, more foreign policy imperialism, and more power for the federal government to detain, torture, and abrogate basic civil liberties sort of misses the entire message of the original Tea Party.

It also makes a mockery of the media narrative that these are gathering of anti-government extremists. Seems like in may parts of the country they’re as pro-government as the current administration, just pro-their kind of government.

I couldn't agree more. And how many tea-partiers favor the Arizona law? Almost all of them, you betcha.

Worse, on the fiscal front, they're total frauds. They have yet to propose any serious cuts in entitlements and want far more money poured into the military-imperial complex. In rallies, the largely white members in their fifties and older seem determined to get every penny of social security and Medicare. They are a kind of boomer revolt - but on the other side of that civil conflict, and no longer a silent majority. In fact, they're now the minority that won't shut up.

More and more, this feels to me like an essentially cultural revolt against what America is becoming: a multi-racial, multi-faith, gay-inclusive, women-friendly, majority-minority country. The "tea-party" analogy is not about restricting government as much as it is a form of almost pathological nostalgia. That's why there's much more lashing out than constructive proposals. And yes, a bi-racial president completes the picture. And no, that doesn't mean they're all racists. Discomfort with social and cultural change is not racism. But it can express itself that way.

What Ezra & Matt said . . .

Ezra Klein: Retconning, death panels, and bailouts
"Retconning" is, well, a nerd term for "the deliberate changing of previously established facts in a work of serial fiction." Say you want to change Captain America's creation myth to accommodate the plot of a new storyline: Rather than rail at the heavens about how your new plot won't work, you just go and do it. You rewrite the past so that it fits your needs in the present.

There's a similar dynamic on the right. A politician will make a hyperbolic, absurd claim that will catch fire but prove totally false upon examination. Shame, right? Not to worry! Members of the conservative expert class will quickly construct new arguments based on different parts of the bill that have no relationship to the original argument but save the claim, or at least allow members of the right-wing media to say it's still a live charge.

The paradigmatic example of this is Sarah Palin's allegation that the health-care bill included "death panels." Palin clarified that she was referring Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.” But that section had nothing to do with death panels. It had to do voluntary visits with a doctor to talk about end-of-life care, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, a conservative Republican, turned out to be an key advocate. Not to worry! Soon enough, Cato's Michael Cannon explained that Palin was at least partly right, as the death panel "is right there in the legislation now before Congress, and it is called the Independent Medicare Advisory Council."

The words "Independent Medicare Advisory Council," of course, didn't appear in either Palin's original post or in her footnoted follow-up. In fact, the bill Palin was referring to was the House bill, and IMAC was only in the Senate bill. And we're seeing the same thing happen with Mitch McConnell's claim that the Dodd bill ensures "endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks."

At the center of McConnell's claim was the $50 billion orderly liquidation fund. But tapping that fund would wipe out the bank's shareholders, fire its management and liquidate the institution. Oops.

But not to worry. McConnell's actual argument might have died a quick death, but his high-polling claim hasn't. "Yes, it's a Bailout Bill," writes AEI's Phillip Swagel. The bill gives "the government discretion to bail out creditors," which "makes the Dodd proposal a permanent bailout authority." And again: "The Dodd proposal is a bailout bill, plain and simple."

Before we get to the bill's treatment of creditors, let's look back at what McConnell was saying. The word "creditor" never appears in his speech. He talks about "Wall Street banks" and the $50 billion orderly liquidation fund, which would destroy any bank that tapped it. So whatever the validity of this claim, it is not the claim that originally supported the “bailout” charge.

Now we're told the issue is creditors. Swagel says that the bill "gives the government discretion to bail out creditors" and that it should instead rely on bankruptcy proceedings, where "a judge would divide up a failing firm’s resources among its creditors and leave no possibility of a bailout without a vote of Congress."

So does the bill bail out creditors? Not really. Let's say McConnell Bank -- a systematically important bank that was based on a lot of bad information -- goes bankrupt. The rules for this are in Section 210 of the bill. Most creditors are limited to "the amount that the claimant would have received if the FDIC had not been appointed receiver with respect to the covered financial company and the company was liquidated under chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or any State insolvency law."

Most creditors, in other words, will get what they would've gotten under bankruptcy -- or less. There are exceptions. One exception is for cases where paying off creditors is "necessary to minimize losses to the FDIC." The other is where paying the FDIC determines that paying off the creditor will "maximize the asset value of the company or maximize the present value of the proceeds (or minimize the amount of any loss) from disposing of the assets of the company." Another is when creditors survive in the bridge company that gets sold off.

In other words, in cases where it'll save the country money to pay a creditor above and beyond what bankruptcy would demand, the FDIC can do it. An example would be that McConnell bank has a bunch of branches across the country, all of which it pays rent on. McConnell bank isn't worth anything if it doesn't have any more branches, so the FDIC pays the rent until McConnell bank can be sold off to another company. But -- and this is important -- it can't use taxpayer money to do it.

The money it can use comes from out of the orderly liquidation fund, which the banks pay for, or borrowing against the existing assets of the failed bank, which selling those assets pays for. So either it's a tax on the banks or an estate sale of the failed bank's stuff that goes to pay out the creditors. Some taxpayer-funded bailout.

Now, there's regulator discretion here, and there's no doubt that it can be abused. This is a tough policy issue: Removing regulator discretion to pay off necessary creditors could lead to total chaos that would require Congress to vote for an actual bailout and create a Lehman-like situation that damages the economy. We can have that debate, and maybe there's a better policy.

Unfortunately, the debate we're actually having, as you can see in the title of Swagel's piece, is whether this is "a bailout bill." Is anyone really under the impression that a bailout is when the banks put up money for the FDIC to take over one of their number, and the FDIC then wipes out the shareholders and management and operates the bank -- including paying some, but not all, creditors -- until the institution can be sold off? I doubt it.

But it's important for conservative politicians to be able to say that the bill is a "bailout bill" and that requires conservative elites to have some argument in their back pocket that lets them say there's some truth to the claim, even if that truth has nothing to do with whatever the claim was originally describing. Fans of comic books will recognize this instantly: It's retconning, and sometimes it's the only way to make a new idea work under an old title.

Yglesias: Freedom’s Just Another Word for I’m An Orthodox Conservative With Orthodox Conservative Views

I was joking on Twitter yesterday morning that since the Tea Party is so upset about intrusive government, they’ll definitely be outraged about the horrible anti-immigrant bill in Arizona. Hardy har har. But it reminded me of something more serious that I wrote recently, for a forum cosponsored by Demos and TDS. The centerpiece is this John Schwarz essay that details the role of freedom-rhetoric in conservative thought and politics and proposes the need for progressives to reclaim a left-liberal conception of freedom for our own purposes.

I think there’s a lot to be said for what Schwarz is proposing, but that fundamentally what he wants to do is have a positive liberty versus negative liberty debate and that’s not really what conservative freedom-rhetoric is about:

Consider that the proponents of right-wing “freedom” are not even slightly inclined to back elements of a libertarian agenda that conflict with conservative identity politics. When John Boehner says “most importantly, let’s allow freedom to flourish” he’s not suggesting we should open our borders to more immigrants or drop the vestigial Selective Service system or allow gay couples to marry or let Latin American countries sell us more sugar or reduce military expenditures. Indeed, the very same critics who castigate Obama for limiting Americans’ freedom also accuse him of being insufficiently eager to torture people, unduly hesitant to detain suspects without trial, and too eager to take the side of black professors subject to police harassment for the crime of trying to enter their own home.

Which is just to say that Boehner is a conservative. He sides with the military, with law enforcement, with the business establishment, and with the dominant ethno-cultural group in the country. In the United States of America, people who adhere to these values like to talk about “freedom” but this has nothing in particular to do with any real ideas about human liberty.

Back in September of 1960, the leading lights of the nascent conservative movement met in Sharon, Connecticut to found Young Americans for Freedom and they proclaimed that “foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force.” A naive person might read that and conclude that William F Buckley, Jr was a strong proponent of federal anti-lynching legislation and other civil rights laws since, clearly, it was African-Americans in the Jim Crow South who were most subject to “restrictions of arbitrary force” and general lack of freedom. In the real world, a couple of lines down the Sharon Statement is talking about state’s rights, “the genius of the Constitution – the division of powers – is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government.” In 1962, YAF gave its Freedom Award to none other than Strom Thurmond, and in 1964 they helped organize the GOP nomination victory of Barry Goldwater, spearheading the party’s turn away from its historic support of liberty for black people. Somewhat similarly, the far-right parties in the Netherlands and Austria are both called “Freedom Party.”

This isn’t to say that talk about freedom is a mask for racism, but rather than talk about “freedom” is just talk about conservatism. Conservatives side with business over unions and environmentalists, with police and prosecutors over criminal defendants, with nationalists against cosmopolitans, with majoritarian ethnic and religious groups against annoying weirdos, and with the military against peaceniks. Ideas about freedom and small government are totally irrelevant to the actual political agenda and the Tea Party is no different from any other conservative movement in this regard.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Imaginary Abuses & Blistering Stupidity

Conservatism undermined by emboldened fringe
April 26: Sam Tanenhaus, author of "The Death of Conservatism" talks with Rachel Maddow about the encroachment of fringe wack-a-do groups like the John Birch Society on leaderless mainstream conservatism.

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Racist roots of Arizona law
April 26: Rachel Maddow exposes the origins of Arizona's new immigration law in the racist Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, isn't known for writing provocative opinion pieces. But the new, odious immigration measure in Arizona appears to have genuinely outraged Greenhouse. Good for her.

...I'm not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into.

What would Arizona's revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made "any lawful contact" and about whom they have "reasonable suspicion" that "the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?" Wasn't the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?

Greenhouse's question about Goldwater's reaction to such madness also reminds me that there's another group of small-government-minded folks who claim to be concerned by authoritarian tactics. Reader B.H. emailed this poignant observation last night:

Just a question I haven't heard anybody ask: Shouldn't the tea party crowd be having a cow over this new immigration bill that Arizona just passed? Doesn't that sound like big government tyranny to them? Giving the police the power to demand "papers" from someone just on their own suspicion?

Any chatter from the tea party folk to this effect? I haven't seen any.

Nor have I. It's almost as if the right-wing crowd is only offended by government abuses when they're imaginary.

Credit where credit is due: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough criticized Arizona's new immigration law this morning, and did so in a compelling, persuasive way.

As the former Republican congressman put it, "...It does offend me when one out of every three citizens in the state of Arizona are Hispanics, and you have now put a target on the back of one out of three citizens, who, if they're walking their dog around a neighborhood, if they're walking their child to school, and they're an American citizen, or a legal, legal immigrant -- to now put a target on their back, and make them think that every time they walk out of their door they may have to prove something. I will tell you, that is un-American. It is unacceptable and it is un-American."

I'm not sure if I've ever agreed so strongly with Joe Scarborough.

Atrios added, "I'm not usually one to highlight right wingers saying reasonable things, but I think on this issue it's a positive sign that even Joe Scarborough isn't on board with the Arizona horror show."

Of course, Scarborough is no longer in Congress, and need not worry about offending the Republican Party's far-right base or donors. What I'd really like to see is some current GOP officials speak out this forcefully on the issue. Thus far, according to research from ThinkProgress, only one sitting Republican member of Congress -- Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American lawmaker in Miami -- has been willing to speak out strongly against the Arizona measure.

Here's hoping he's not the only one.

John Cole: Today’s Main Event

Goldman comes to town:

The CEO of Goldman Sachs and other executives from the Wall Street powerhouse are coming before Congress 10 days after the government accused the firm of fraud. The Senate panel hearing their testimony Tuesday alleges that Goldman used a strategy that allowed it profit from the housing meltdown and reap billions at the expense of clients.

Goldman executives misled investors in complex mortgage securities that turned toxic, investigators for the Senate subcommittee say. They point to a trove of some 2 million e-mails and other Goldman documents obtained in an 18-month investigation. Excerpts from the documents were released Monday, a day before the hearing bringing CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the others before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Blankfein says in his prepared testimony that Goldman didn’t bet against its clients and can’t survive without their trust.

Also appearing Tuesday: Fabrice Tourre, a Goldman trading executive who, federal regulators say, marketed an investment designed to lose value. Tourre who famously called himself in a January 2007 e-mail “The fabulous Fab … standing in the middle of all these complex, ... exotic trades he created.”

I saw this initially on my FB feed, and it teased: “Goldman Sachs executives will come before Congress today, 10 days after the government accused the firm of fraud. What questions would you like to hear answered?”

My immediate response was “firing squad or lethal injection,” so I think it is safe to say that I am now to the point I can no longer even think about Goldman rationally.

A couple of weeks ago, members of the Senate Republican leadership traveled to New York for a private, behind-closed-doors chat with hedge fund managers, bankers, and Wall Street elites. By all appearances, the message wasn't especially subtle: the GOP would fight against new safeguards, and Wall Street should reward Republicans with campaign contributions.

I guess it's working.

Republicans may lose the fight over Wall Street regulations, but the fight has helped their campaign accounts.

For the first time since 2004, the biggest Wall Street firms are now giving most of their campaign donations to Republicans.

Last year, J.P. Morgan's PAC gave most of its donations to Dems. This year, most of its donations are going to Republicans.

Last year, Morgan Stanley gave most of its donations to Dems. This year, 80% of its donations are going to Republicans.

Goldman Sachs has been a reliable Democratic supporter, until this year, with most of its PAC money going to the GOP.

Yesterday, after Republicans blocked a debate on Wall Street reform, the RNC issued a press release that said Democrats "stand with" Wall Street, adding that Senate Dems failed "in their attempt to move forward with bailout for their Wall Street fat cat friends."

Given reality, it's hard to overstate how blisteringly stupid this is. The RNC must seriously believe we're all idiots.

BarbinMD (dKos): Republicans block, reject, derail ...

Yesterday the Republican Party had a clear choice ... respect the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the American people or to kowtow to Wall Street. And from coast-to-coast, headlines reflected that choice loud and clear:

Yesterday the Party of No confirmed that the only time they'll say yes is to Wall Street. And now everyone knows it.

The Media We Have.

Atrios: First, Assume Away Morning Joe
Everybody in media world agrees. MSNBC is to the left, Fox is to the right, and CNN tries to be down the middle. They all also agree to pretend Morning Joe doesn't exist, even if they're regular guests.
Here's Rachel, committing journalism again.
Racist roots of Arizona law April 26: Rachel Maddow exposes the origins of Arizona's new immigration law in the racist Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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

The larger discussion about Sunday shows and fact-checking continues to percolate, and I'm delighted to see the concerns that originated with NYU professor Jay Rosen generate so much attention.

We know that ABC's "This Week" is partnering with to check its content, and Jake Tapper has defended the idea. We also know that "Meet the Press" has declined, and David Gregory has said that viewers can fact-check the program "on their own terms."

This week, Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's "Face the Nation," weighed in, taking Gregory's side.

Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' "Face the Nation," similarly described his role as "the front line on fact-checking," when a guest makes a dubious claim, he's there to ask follow-up questions.

And if an inaccurate statement slips by, Schieffer said he expects that viewers and media-monitoring groups on the left and right will call attention to it quickly, noting that "everybody's welcome to fact-check us all they want."

To be sure, the notion that the host is the first line of defense against false claims is compelling. When a guest says something that's not true, ideally the host would follow-up and make that clear to viewers. But the first line of defense often fails -- sometimes a host isn't aggressive enough; sometimes the host simply doesn't have the information at his or her fingertips to know that the guest isn't telling the truth.

That said, Schieffer's take, like Gregory's, seems to miss the point of the exercise.

About 2.3 million Americans tune in to watch "Face the Nation." Presumably, they watch to learn something about current events and public affairs. Schieffer asks questions, and we hear arguments from various political figures. If those 2.3 million Americans want to know if the arguments are accurate, why would Schieffer expect them to go figure it out on their own? If they trust "Face the Nation" and its host enough to tune in, shouldn't they also trust the program to separate fact and fiction?

I suppose it's nice, in a way, to give the audience credit for being so sophisticated, they'll not only watch the interviews, but also have the wherewithal to do independent research to verify the accuracy of the claims.

But realistically, a mainstream audience isn't well equipped to do its own analysis and fact-checking -- the public relies on professional news outlets to provide them with reliable information. Schieffer wants to give viewers the arguments, not the truth. At that point, the show itself becomes unnecessary -- we can all just read press releases and then scour the 'net to learn if the points are true.

A couple of months ago, when this discussion began in earnest, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, host of his own CNN program on the media, talked to a guest who said online sites are adequate for fact-checking the newsmakers. Kurtz responded, "Exactly. And I'm saying why leave it entirely to the blogs? Why don't television producers and correspondents do it themselves?"

That was in January. We haven't heard a good answer yet.

Postscript: In related news, some interested students have launched "Meet the Facts" to fact-check "Meet the Press." Seems like a worthy endeavor.

Booman: Clowns to the Left of Me, Nutters to the Right
Steve Benen:

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.

This is a result of the FrankLuntzification of the Republican Party. Nevermind the frothing maniacs on the radio or Fox News, the Republicans are actually operating in lockstep on the basis of focus-grouped talking points. Then the nutters throw in some Death Panel nonsense for good measure and suddenly Chuck Grassley isn't looking to cut a deal but talking about a government conspiracy to kill our grandmas.

So, yeah, there is no doubt that the only interesting political conversations going on in this country right now are between liberals and other liberals, and sometimes with centrist Democrats, too. The only factual criticism of the president is coming from the left. And there is plenty of it. A lot of it isn't fair, but much of it is. I heard David Brooks say on NPR today that the whole Crist-Rubio spectacle (and what is signifies for the modern GOP) makes him want to suck on a tailpipe. I don't blame him.


Today, a tri-partisan climate/energy bill was supposed to be unveiled after months of efforts. The package -- crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- faced an uphill climb, but the legwork had been done, and it stood a fighting chance of passage.

Late Saturday, Lindsey Graham signaled his intention to walk away. As he explained it, Democratic leaders seem more interested in tackling immigration before climate -- instead of the other way around, as he'd been led to believe -- so he's inclined to kill both efforts.

Joe Klein argued yesterday that Graham has done Democrats "a big favor." When I saw the headline, I thought Klein may have identified some other way to get the bills passed without Graham's support. But Klein was actually arguing the opposite -- Graham's doing Dems a favor because he's killing the legislation Dems want to pass.

Lindsey Graham effectively killed the Senate's looming cap-and-trade package by yanking his support from the bill -- and thereby did the Democrats a favor. I'm all in favor of combating global warming, although I think a straight-ahead carbon tax (refundable in the form of reduced payroll taxes) would do the job far more efficiently than cap-and-trade. But if I'm a Democratic strategist, I'm thinking Augustinian thoughts: Lord, make me energy independent, but not just yet.

Why? Because the public has had quite enough, thank you, of government activism this year ... and, after Wall Street reform is passed, any further attempts to pass major legislation will add to legitimate conservative arguments that the federal government is attempting to do [too] much to do any of it well.... [P]ublic skepticism about the Democratic Party is bound to increase if another humongous piece of legislation, which effectively guarantees higher energy prices, is passed this year.

I see the political landscape much differently. For one thing, I've seen no evidence to suggest Americans want policymakers to stop having so many successes. This came up a bit last year -- many pundits insisted that President Obama was doing "too much, too fast" -- but it was never borne out by the polls. I tend to think the electorate will be more impressed by Democratic successes than by relative inaction over the six months preceding the midterm elections.

Put it this way: when was the last time a party was punished by voters for successfully passing too much of its policy agenda, and fulfilling too many of its campaign promises?

For another, to characterize the climate/energy bill as "effectively guaranteeing higher energy prices" isn't entirely fair -- with various incentives and tax credits, most consumers wouldn't see a price increase, and many would actually see their energy bills drop.

But perhaps most importantly, I think Klein underestimates what the lawmaking process will be like in 2011 and 2012. He wants to see bills on climate and immigration pass -- and so do I -- but Klein seems to believe policymakers can just pick this up again in the next Congress.

That's almost certainly not the case. In the Senate, the Democratic majority is poised to shrink quite a bit, making it nearly impossible to overcome Republican filibusters. In the House, the Democratic majority may very well disappear entirely, and a GOP-led House will immediately ignore every policy request made by the administration.

It's why I think Klein has it backwards -- those who want to see progress on climate and immigration have to act quickly, because this is likely the last chance policymakers will have on either effort for quite a while.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Kurtz (TPM): 'What Is With These Guys?'
The RNC continues to send out deceptive mailers designed to look like census documents just weeks after Congress passed a law aimed at making such practices illegal and requiring certain information on the envelope to prevent recipients from being mislead. We have the mailer and the RNC's response: The law doesn't apply to us.
  • TPMMuckraker

    After her office was forwarded a copy of the mailer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the bill passed last month, noted that the mailer "does not appear to meet" the requirements of the new law -- and slammed the RNC.

    "What is with these guys?," she said. "We pass a law in record time, with unanimous bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, to reduce confusion about the real Census-- knowing that every census form that isn't returned costs taxpayers money and hurts accuracy. But there goes the RNC again, right back to trying to make a buck on the Census!"

    She added: "I don't understand why the RNC has so much trouble following the law given the level of bi-partisan support to protect the Census."

    But RNC spokesman Doug Heye told TPMmuckraker: "We simply looked at the new law, saw that it did not apply to our mailer and continued with the mail pieces." Heye did not elaborate on the RNC's view that the new law did not apply to its mailers.

Krugman: Epistemic Closure In Macroeconomics

There’s been a huge outpouring of blogospheric discussion about “epistemic closure” on the right: a complete refusal to look at evidence or arguments that don’t come from the like-minded. I don’t have much to say about all that aside from the fact that it’s obvious, and has been going on for years.

But I think it’s worth pointing out that something similar has long been true in macroeconomics. And like the political version of epistemic closure, it’s not a “both sides do it” issue. It’s a fresh-water phenomenon; salt-water macro isn’t subject to the same problem.

Here’s what I mean: ask a grad student at Princeton or MIT, “How would a new classical macro guy answer this?”, and the student can do it; classes at freshwater departments teach real business cycle theory, and good students can tell you what it says even if their professors have a different view.

But students at freshwater schools — or, alas, many of their professors — can’t return the favor. It’s been painfully obvious since the crisis broke that people at Minnesota, or even many people at Chicago, have no idea what New Keynesian economics is all about. I don’t mean they disagree, or think it’s garbage, they literally have no idea what the concepts are. And that’s why they reinvent 80-year-old fallacies when they try to discuss the subject.

It’s interesting to ask why this sort of cocooning is a feature of the right but not the left. But it’s very real, and has a dire impact on economic as well as political discourse.

Bernstein: More on that Closed Loop
I think we can add "epistemic closure" to the things that Jonah Goldberg either doesn't understand, or pretends not to understand.

In his second post on the subject (here's the first one, and Conor Friedersdorf's reaction; see also Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Chait), Goldberg fights back against the accusation that conservatives are subject to "political correctness and intellectual taboos." Moreover, he believes that "the larger 'evidence' that seems to be driving the idea that conservatives are brain dead is the fact that the GOP has become the 'Party of No.'" But that's not what Julian Sanchez was actually talking about in his post that set everyone talking. Here's Sanchez:
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!).
The accusation isn't that conservatives all reach the same conclusions about everything, nor is it that conservatives are excessively politically correct, nor is it that conservatives demand strict adherence to a set of ideas if one is to remain a conservative in good standing. It's rather about information, and what counts as evidence about the real world. Sanchez's point is that if one only gets information from a narrow set of sources that feed back into each other but do not engage beyond themselves, that one will have a closed mind (not his phrase, by the way) regardless of what one does with that information.

Evidence to contradict Sanchez can't be found by comparing how many people your side has exiled with the number of people the other side has exiled (and, you know, I can't help but point out that if your prime example of someone who has been banned for violations of political correctness is the president's current director of the National Economic Council, you might want to look for a better example. Or does Goldberg think that David Frum is likely to get a prominent position in the next Republican White House? How about Bruce Bartlett? Lawrence Wilkerson? Richard Clarke?). No, evidence to contradict Sanchez would involve...well, to start with, Jonah Goldberg could report where he gets his information? Does he always watch Fox News, or does he also turn to CNN? Does he read the New York Times? If so, does he consider news reports in the Times reasonably reliable (subject, of course, to critical thinking and additional evidence) or does he think news reports in the Times can be "dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted" (as Sanchez asserts). Does he seek out information from academic sources; does he read, for example, blogging political scientists such as those at the Monkey Cage, or Brendan Nyhan, and Plain Blog (wait, that's me!).

And then Goldberg could self-report other things (and by the way, I don't know the answer to these questions; I read him only occasionally). For example: was he one of the conservatives who was certain, in late January and in February, that health care reform was dead? How often (and I don't know the answer to this) does he find himself repeating things that have long been debunked by neutral fact-check sites such as Ah, there's a good one -- does he believe that all such sites that claim to be neutral are really just liberals in disguise?

Of course, there are hints that Goldberg would stand as an example of the thing he denies. He critiques Noah Mellman's essay, and concludes that perhaps Mellman is just upset with those who are more "consistently conservative" than Mellman. That is: there is conservatism, and if you don't agree with its official positions on the issues, then you're not a consistent conservative. Or, as Goldberg explains, "A lot of this closed-mind talk sounds like tendentious code for why conservatives should change their convictions" (his emphasis). To an outsider, this sounds suspiciously like exactly what Sanchez and others are saying, no? Conservatism, to Goldberg, is constantly under assault from people -- non-conservatives -- who want real conservatives to give up their deepest principles, their capital-C convictions. It appears difficult for him to imagine a situation in which two people are equally conservative, even though they disagree on a number of issues.

I saved the best for last. Goldberg:
And I just don't know what these people are talking about when it comes to the notion that the conservative mind is closed. In a way it smacks of the tendency of losers in foreign policy fights to insist they're the "realists" unlike the winners who are really ensorcelled by ideology or idealism. Just because your preferred position didn't win, doesn't mean the winners have some major intellectual defect or shortcoming.
Look, "realist" and "idealist" are not terms invented post-hoc by people upset that they didn't get their way in Iraq (or any other contemporary policy fight); they are long-settled ideas about international relations. Nothing about the terms implies "major intellectual defect or shortcoming." That's Goldberg's view from the apparently very narrow place he lives. The idea that these types of schools of thought, realists or idealists, could "win," after which conservatives, having settled their convictions in foreign policy, are done with that debate and can safely ridicule the losers (can safely think of them as losers) -- well, that's what we're talking about. That is what one who is closed-minded does.

Obviously, everyone has sources they trust more, sources they are somewhat suspicious of, and sources they dismiss. What Sanchez is talking about is a group of people who all agree on which sources are to be trusted -- and who have narrowed it down to a fraction of all the information out there, a fraction which is both closed and small and suspicious of any outside sources. He's actually not talking at all about ideology or issue positions; he's talking about staying in touch with reality, which as Andrew Sullivan reminds us (quoting Orwell) "needs a constant struggle."

Sanchez, Millman, and Friedersdorf are struggling. Jonah Goldberg doesn't seem to see the point of it.
flory: A little closure

I generally leave discussion of wingnut philosophical debates to Thers -- mostly because he can make them entertaining. And humor is the only safe way to enter the conservative body politic. Sort of a wingnut condom.

But Noah MIllman has a very long post about the whole 'epistemic closure' fandangle over at The American Scene, and this part really struck me:

yet the common perception of those who worry about the “closing of the conservative mind” is that something has changed – certainly since the right’s intellectual heyday of the 1970s and 1980s. (emphasis mine)

I think what struck me was how this has become received wisdom -- on both the right and the left -- that there was some kind of intellectual golden age in conservative thought in the 70s and 80s. And that got me thinking about exactly how the right's political agenda was shaped by Reagan era thought. To wit:

1. Communists are bad. I think communists figured that one out on their own. Not sure how much conservative intelligentsia contributed.

2. Relatedly -- giant shiny missile shields will protect us from scary communists. How's that one working out?

3. Tax cuts for the rich are teh bomb!

4. Deregulation uber alles!

5. Going to war with brown people living in deserts will fix.......pretty much everything.

I'm sure I'm missing a few but that's my not-conservative memory of the intellectual output of movement conservatism from the Reagan-Bush era.

Maybe the fact that this is considered their golden age is the answer to what's wrong with wingnuttia?

David Frum: Groupthink at National Review

How wonderful to return to a free country, I thought as I stepped off the plane from Beijing at Washington Dulles. No more censorship, no more official lies, no more kowtowing to high officials who gained power by their mindless repetition of party dogma…

Then alas I opened my browser and read the dump-on-Manzi comments on NRO’s The Corner. Manzi had deviated from the One Correct Way of Mark Levin Thought, and all his former colleagues had been summoned together to Denounce and Struggle Against Him.

Not one stood up to be counted in Manzi’s defense, not even colleagues whom Manzi might have had reason to regard as close personal friends. (Take a second to notice whose bylines are missing from yesterday’s discussions.)

What makes this episode all the more remarkable is that Manzi is actually a member of NR’s board of trustees – i.e., somebody who might claim a little more scope to speak his mind. But even for trustees, there are limits, and Manzi crossed them.

It’s important to understand what exactly the limit is.

Manzi could have safely disputed Levin’s claims on global warming if he had observed a couple of conditions. First, acknowledge Liberty and Tyranny as a good and important book. Second, acknowledge Levin’s “service” (i.e., leadership) of the conservative cause. Third, isolate criticisms to one particular finite point – avoid drawing any larger conclusions – and be sure to wrap any criticisms in a blanket of compliments. Just because one particular chapter happens to be slovenly, ignorant, and hysterical should not lead you to question the intellectual merit of the book as a whole.

Manzi negligently violated the rules, and the results are as you see.

The episode reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend a year ago, shortly after I published my piece on Rush Limbaugh in Newsweek. I won’t embarrass my friend by mentioning his name, but if I did, you’d certainly recognize it.

My friend: “You aren’t really mad at Rush Limbaugh you know.”

Me: “I’m not? I thought I was.”

My friend: “You’re not even mad at Fox News. You want to win elections, you know that the troops have to be mobilized, somebody has to get them fired up, and you don’t fire them up with Milton Friedman and James Q. Wilson. You are mad at the conservative intellectual elites. They’re the ones who are supposed to uphold intellectual standards, to sift actual facts from what you call ‘pretend information’. Rush Limbaugh isn’t any worse than he was 20 years ago. But 20 years ago, conservatism offered something more than Rush Limbaugh. Since then, the conservative elite has collapsed. Blame them, not talk radio.”

What happened to Manzi is a perfect illustration of this elite collapse.

Reading through the comments in the Corner, there’s no mistaking who’s in charge, who’s subservient. Two Corner contributors complained about Manzi’s “tone.” Levin is the most vituperative radio host this side of Mike Savage – but imagine anyone at The Corner complaining about Levin’s tone!

Conservatism has always had both elite and popular wings, and in the past they worked together productively. Fred Schwarz drew tens of thousands to his Christian Anti-Communist Crusade in the early 1960s, at the same time as Milton Friedman was publishing Capitalism and Freedom; F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty; and Edward Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. Nobody however demanded that Milton Friedman hail Schwarz’s pamphlets as serious contributions to conservative thought, in the way that the Cornerites demand that Manzi kiss Levin’s ring.

It’s different now, to conservatism’s present shame and future detriment.

I'm always (pleased) when Paul Krugman appears on one of the Sunday shows; he tends to say things most guests don't.

Take yesterday, for example. On ABC's "This Week," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) spoke at some length about the need for the Wall Street reform bill pending on the Hill to be "bipartisan." Soon after, the roundtable discussion focused on this, and the NYT columnist emphasized a point that often goes overlooked.

"Anyone who says we need to be bipartisan should bear in mind that for the last several weeks, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks," Krugman noted. "And basically, the argument boils down to saying that what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department. Because then people will know that they can't let their buildings burn in the first place, right? It's incredible. So anyone who says bipartisan, should say, bipartisan doesn't include the Senate minority leader."

Sure, it's a little -- but only a little -- hyperbolic to say McConnell's "institutionalized bailout" lie is "possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics," but McConnell's breathtaking dishonesty deserves to be called out in bold terms.

But Krugman's larger point is arguably more important: the conventional wisdom continues to insist the lawmaking process is somehow inadequate, and possibly even illegitimate, if proposals aren't "bipartisan." But we're also dealing with a dispute in which the leadership of a party has no qualms about blatantly, shamelessly lying.

And while it didn't come up, the same dynamic has existed in every other policy debate of the last year and a half -- health care, economic recovery, combating global warming, etc. -- in which Dems are told they must gain Republican support, and the GOP leadership demonstrates its commitment to the process by making things up.

Which is why Krugman's point is worth emphasizing, especially for establishment figures that assume Dems must be doing something wrong if Republican leaders aren't happy.

cliffweathers: NY-19: Candidate says GOP liberated Europe in WWII

This promises to be a bizarre political year, with GOP candidates not only running to the far right, but veering way off track. Earlier this week, Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden of Nevada grabbed the crazy baton from Rep. Michele Bachman when she suggested that people should barter and haggle with their doctors for health care, rather than rely on insurance. But what she said is nothing compared to what the newly minted challenger to Congressman John Hall said in her candidacy's opening days.

Kristia Cavere is the Tea Party and a Republican candidate for New York's 19th Congressional District seat held by Hall. Cavere thinks that the Democrats have co-opted Republican values and claims, among other things, that:
"The Republicans are the ones who liberated Europe in World War II."

She continued by saying that the Republicans have always initiated "every" advancement of freedom in our history.
"Unfortunately, today there are many Republicans in office who are cowards and who are bad communicators," she said. "We have the right ideas, the right principles, the right philosophy and history on our side."

Her comments appeared in the April 23 edition of the Record-Review, a newspaper that serves Pound Ridge and Bedford, NY. The newspaper has not printed an online version of the article.

Ms. Cavere is only 30, but that does not excuse her for having poor grasp of American history. The last thing I would ever want to do is to politicize something as significant as our victory in World War, or at least the European end of it, as she sees it.

Yes, this is the last argument I would ever want to have with anyone, but this is what it's starting to boil down to: defending our values against lies by the far rightwing when they attempt to discredit and demonize the Democratic Party. There is no honor or logic to making such a partisan claim, no matter what party you're affiliated with. I would be just as ashamed if someone said the Democrats won World War II because FDR and Truman were the presidents during the war-that's just wrong!

Thousands of Democrats died in the Battle of the Bulge right next to the thousands of Republicans who also gave their young lives. This is true for all the battles. It was true in World War II, it was true in Vietnam, and it's true today.


  • from Balloon Juice:

    According to her bio,

    In May 2009, Kristia received a Masters in Science degree in “Defense and Strategic Studies” from Missouri State University, which is located in Fairfax, Virginia right outside our nation’s Capitol. She graduated summa cum laude and with a 4.0 grade point average.

    I’d like to know what else she learned at MSU. Unfortunately, even though she claimed to be raising $300K, she hasn’t filed a FEC report, so we probably won’t be hearing much more from Ms. Cavere.


    “The Republicans are the ones who liberated Europe in World War II.”

    It’s the Jonah Goldberg formula:

    Liberating Europe = Fighting Fascism
    Fascism = Liberalism
    Liberalism = Democrats
    Fighting Democrats = Republicans

    Q. E. Duh.

    [Either that, or she’s claiming that Stalin was a Republican.]


    If we had promised the Germans a capital gains tax cut, the war would have been over in 1942.

Weigel: How to read New York magazine's big Palin story

Gabriel Sherman's sprawling New York magazine cover story on "Palin, Inc." is actually a fast and breezy read. It being an article about Sarah Palin, there's no policy to slow it down. We get a brief explanation of how bitter Palin was serving as governor of Alaska while journalist Kaylene Johnson got rich ("I can’t believe that woman is making so much money off my name," said Palin), especially after Palin realized that her gubernatorial duties would complicate her national book tour. So she quit, and we're off.

Read it all, but take note of these points.

- According to Sherman, Palin writes her own Facebook posts. That shouldn't be news, but Palin hired a ghostwriter to finish "Going Rogue"-- and some of her early posts, festooned with footnotes, don't sound like her. According to Sherman, said ghostwriter considered suing Palin over an article by Max Blumenthal that made hay of her collaboration with conservative reporter Robert Stacy McCain.

- Discovery Communications bought Palin's TV show as the "centerpiece of a strategy that TLC executives see as positioning the network as the anti-Bravo, whose shows like Top Chef, the Real Housewives franchise, and America’s Next Top Model are programmed to a liberal urban audience." Bodes poorly for boycotters.

- The backstory on Palin's speech to the National Tea Party Convention is as seedy as we might have guessed.

To help pay Palin’s fee, [Tea Party Nation's] Judson Phillips turned to Bill Hemrick, the founder of Upper Deck baseball cards, for a seed investment of $25,000. With Phillips, Palin struck a hard bargain. Her contract stipulated that for almost any reason she could back out and send a surrogate. “If we fart wrong, she is gonna back out on us,” Phillips declared in one planning meeting, according to a participant. “That’s how detailed this contract is.”

And I can't let this part go without comment.

Online, right-wing sites like the Drudge Report frequently plug Palin headlines, while Palin’s presence at liberal outlets like the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo routinely sparks hundreds of reader comments.

As with the tea parties, Palin benefits from an intense partisan interest in news about her. To be fair, however, many of the comments that accompany stories on Palin's newest blog posts plaintively ask the editors of those liberal web sites why they're giving her so much attention.

Neiwert (C&L): Yes, the American Right really has gone insane

A couple of weeks ago, when I was about to appear on-air with Rachel Maddow, her producer warned me that one of the questions might be: "You and John Amato have a new book coming out this spring titled Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane. Insane?"

Easy reply: A-yup.

Unfortunately, she never actually asked it. Now, of course the title is a bit of hyperbole in that it's hard to say whether one could accurately call this a clinical insanity (more on that in a bit). But what John and I and the rest of the C&L team have been observing over the past year, and have compiled into a coherent and (we hope) thought-provoking study, is simply the descent into madness of an entire political bloc. It's a verdict that, in the past couple of weeks, has been not just vindicated but manifested in news events.

Sometimes the insanity turns up anecdotally, as in this e-mail I was forwarded from a friend:

I got a call from my daughter that the whole family went out to dinner. While eating dinner my granddaughter gets a text message from one of her classmates. The text is: "It's God's responsibility to forgive Obama but it's our responsibility to arrange the meeting between God & Obama." My granddaughter is 12 years old, black and in the sixth grade at an elementary school [near Atlanta]. The classmate who sent the text is also twelve years old but white. When my daughter saw this message, she texted this 12-year-old back and asked her what she meant by arranging the meeting between God and Obama. The 12-year-old essentially said it meant to kill Obama.

Or it turns up in the Facebook page with a "joke" wishing for God to take Obama:

A recently created Facebook page reads, "Dear Lord, this year you took my favorite actor, Patrick Swayzie (sic). You took my favorite actress, Farah (sic) Fawcett. You took my favorite singer, Michael Jackson. I just wanted to let you know, my favorite president is Barack Obama. Amen."

Most often these days, it turns up at Tea Parties and related right-wing events, such as the April 19 D.C. armed march, featuring gun-nut rhetoric like that from Media Matters Action Network in the video above.

Some of this, as the Violence Policy Center recently explored in a study titled "Lessons Unlearned: The Gun Lobby and the Siren Song of Anti-Government Rhetoric" [PDF file] is being deliberately whipped up by right-wing organizations, notably the gun lobby.

And some of it is merely free-floating right-wing angst, stirred up by sources ranging from Glenn Beck to Ron Paul to FreedomWorks. I especially enjoyed this video from the April 15 Tea Party protest in D.C., compiled by the fine folks at NewLeftMedia:

I especially loved the woman who informed us that President Obama plans to ban fishing, didn't you?

The insanity also manifests itself in Republican governors' new fondness for Guy Fawkes as a model for Tea Partiers to follow. As Josh Marshall put it, "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.... Nothing shocks me anymore. But this shocks me."

Adds Steve Benen:

It's a reminder that the Republican mainstream made a right turn at scary, and have arrived right at stark raving mad.

Even for Beltway folks like Marc Ambinder are wondering: "Have Conservatives Gone Mad?" Ambinder's answer: A-yup.

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.

It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing. The obsession with ACORN, Climategate, death panels, the militarization of rhetoric, Saul Alinsky, Chicago-style politics, that TAXPAYERS will fund the bailout of banks -- these aren't meaningful or interesting or even relevant things to focus on. (The banks will fund their own bailouts.)

This disconnect from reality is occurring because the American Right is insistent on it. Indeed, one of the reasons that I'm perfectly comfortable calling the American Right "insane" -- even if you couldn't call them "insane" in the legal or clinical sense -- is that one of conservatives' outstanding characteristics is their perfervid insistence on believing things that are provably untrue, even when presented with insurmountable and indisputable evidence.

If, per Einstein, doing something repeatedly and expecting different results defines "insanity," then similarly, insisting on believing in things that are provably untrue is also a definable sign of it. Which is, in fact, what I was going to tell Maddow.

Here, just for starters, are the Top 10 Provably Untrue Things Tea Partiers Believe In:

1. The Birth-Certificate Conspiracy.

2. Death Panels.

3. Obama Is A Muslim/Socialist/Fascist.

4. Obama Is Going To Take Away Our Guns.

5. Obama Is Raising Our Taxes.

6. Fascism Is A Left-Wing Phenomenon.

7. Global Warming Is A Hoax.

8. Two Million People Were at 9/12 March.

9. 16,000 New IRS Agents.

10. The Tea Parties Are a Non-Partisan, Broad Grassroots Movement.

That really is the definition of insanity.