Friday, July 2, 2010

Please! Dear gods above and below!

Why aren't Democrats learning? Ezra Klein, staff writer for the Washington Post, explains why Congressional Democrats continue to make concessions on legislation in the name of bipartisanship when they get no Republican votes in return.

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

Vice President Biden spoke at an event in his home town earlier, hoping to help raise some money for Chris Coons' (D) Senate campaign. Biden raised an interesting point about the chamber he served in for several decades.

VP Joe Biden on Monday accused Senate GOPers of holding their top members' votes hostage in exchange for ranking committee posts, assailing the GOP as sitting "on the sidelines" while the economy nearly collapsed.

"I know at least 7 [GOP] senators, who I will not name, but were made to make a commitment under threat of losing their chairmanships, if they did not support the leadership on every procedural vote," Biden said at a fundraiser Monday night.

"Every single thing we did, from the important to the not so important, required for the first time in modern American history, majority votes required 60 votes. All the sudden a majority became 60 instead of 50," the VP added, according to a pool report of the event.

The RNC said something about this being "a scurrilous accusation," though the party didn't exactly deny it, either.

Is it really so far-fetched? Back in October, when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was weighing how to vote on health care reform, word went out that the ranking member post on Senate Commerce Committee was up for grabs, and if Snowe wanted it, she had to toe the party line. One unnamed GOP senator on the committee told a reporter, "A vote for healthcare would be something that would weigh on our minds when it came time to vote" on which senator got the slot.

Two months later, Snowe filibustered a motion to proceed, filibustered to prevent a vote, and opposed the legislation -- and never could explain why.

Indeed, there are widespread rumors that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) shifted away from cooperation on reform and towards belligerence immediately after his Republican colleagues made it clear that his future committee assignments were in jeopardy if he worked with Dems to pass a reform bill.

It often goes overlooked, but it's worth remembering that the Senate Republican caucus, unlike Senate Democrats, have mechanisms in place to enforce party unity and discipline. When Democrats break party ranks on key bills, there are no consequences. Those who let GOP leaders down, however, know in advance that enticements like committee positions are very much on the line.

But this need not be considered criticism, though Biden almost certainly meant as such. Matt Yglesias explained that it's entirely "sensible" for a political party to "demand that its members support the party leadership on procedural votes."

Had the Democratic caucus adopted such a rule, the White House, the leadership, and the members themselves would have been spared an awful lot of headaches and the country would be in much better shape. After all, every member of the caucus puts some value on his or her ability to secure chairmanships of committees and subcommittees, so such a rule could very plausibly have swiftly led to the creation of a norm against filibustering your own party's initiatives. Vote "no" on final passage if you like, but vote with the leadership on process.

We should be so lucky.

President Obama hosted a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin yesterday, and appeared to be in campaign mode. Apparently annoyed by 18 months of Republican nonsense, the president even chided the opposition party a bit.

"Before I was even inaugurated, there were leaders on the other side of the aisle who got together and they made the calculation that 'if Obama fails, then we win,'" the president said. "That was the basic theory. They figured if we just keep on saying no to everything and nothing gets done, then somehow people will forget who got us into this mess in the first place and we'll get more votes in November." He proceeded to highlight recent history, and the ways in which Republicans have managed to be wrong about practically everything.

"[W]e've tried the other side's theories," he added. "We know what their ideas are. We know where they led us. So now we've got a choice. We can return to what we know did not work, or we build a stronger future. We can go backwards, or we can go forward. And I don't know about you, but I want to move forward in this country."

Roll Call reports today that presidential remarks like these hurt Republicans' feelings.

President Barack Obama has been pleading with Capitol Hill Republicans to work in a bipartisan way on key measures such as climate change legislation and immigration reform, but many of his most likely GOP allies say the president has lost all credibility since he bashes them every time he hits the campaign trail. [...]

House Republicans whom the White House has previously looked to for bipartisan help say comments like these are the reason Obama's vows to work together fall on deaf ears on the Hill.

"A day doesn't go by where we don't hear one thing and see another. The outstretched hand by the left with the clenched clock across the face by the right.... It just seems to be their method of doing things," Budget ranking member Paul Ryan said. [...]

"This administration's got a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde approach to governing. One day they want Republican support, the next they are out blasting us," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said.

Take a moment to consider exactly what congressional Republicans are saying here. They can root for his failure; they can oppose every proposal; they can stoke the fires of hate and paranoia; they can engage in truly scandalous legislative obstruction on a scale unseen in American history; they can even lie uncontrollably throughout key policy debates.

But if Obama hits the campaign trail and has some unkind words for the party that's desperate to destroy his presidency, then Republicans believe it's his fault there isn't more bipartisan cooperation.

This is painfully silly. The White House has made repeated good-faith efforts to work constructively with Republicans, and they're not interested. It's hard to blame Obama for calling the GOP out once in a while.

Ezra Klein: Someone should have told Barney Frank how powerful he was

Barney Frank combines stand-up comedy with a denunciation of the Republican record on Fannie, Freddie and subprime lending.

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Click on image to play video.

The interview House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) did with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this week turned out to be a pretty big deal. His remarks comparing the global financial crisis to "an ant" continue to be the subject of debate, as do his comments about raising the Social Security retirement age in order to pay for the wars in the Middle East.

But I'm also glad to see interest in another quote linger. In reference to Democrats, Boehner said, "They're snuffing out the America that I grew up in."

Nostalgia for the 1950s and 1960s isn't uncommon, but it's worth considering exactly what Boehner wants to go back to.

Michael Tomasky, for example, had a great item yesterday noting some of the policies that were common during Boehner's youth.

In the America John Boehner grew up in, the top marginal tax rate on wealthy earners was 90%. It had gone up there during the war, and five, 10, 15 years after armistice, no sizable group, Democrat or Republican, felt any strong urge to lower it.

In the America John Boehner grew up in, private-sector union membership was around or above 30%. Today's figure is 7%. The right to form a union was broadly accepted. Outside of a few small turbulent pockets, there was no such thing as today's union-busting law firms hired by management to go into workplaces and intimidate workers.

Is this the American Boehner wants to return to? I imagine Democrats would be happy to talk about it.

For that matter, America in the 1950s and 1960s was also heavily regulated -- airlines didn't even set their own prices -- and there weren't many complaints about "big government"' or "excessive spending" when a Republican president (Eisenhower) launched one of the biggest domestic infrastructure projects in history (the interstate highway system). Is this the American Boehner wants to return to?

What's more, politically, the Republican Party was very moderate -- indeed, it had plenty of northern liberals -- and, when it came to congressional votes, partisanship was a historic low. The GOP establishment was aware of right-wing nuts who wanted to eliminate Social Security and the rest of the New Deal reforms, but Republicans considered them bizarre kooks, better left ignored, or as the Republican president of the era labeled them, "stupid." Is this the American Boehner wants to return to?

Socially, America in the 1950s and 1960s was a repressive place for African Americans, Jews, and gays, and by any reasonable standard, women were second-class citizens is every aspect of American life. Is this the American Boehner wants to return to?

That's not really a rhetorical question. If the would-be Speaker wants to argue publicly that Democrats are trying "snuff out" the America that he grew up in, the public should know exactly what it is about that era he wants to fight to protect, or more to the point, bring back.

  • from the comments:

    Please! Dear gods above and below, have some reporter ask him these astute questions to his face!

    Posted by: sduffys on July 2, 2010 at 8:04 AM
Ezra Klein: Economy lost 125,000 jobs and 652,000 workers in June


A brutal unemployment report this month. Payrolls dropped by 125,000. In another one of those unwanted lessons in how we calculate unemployment data, the unemployment rate dropped from 9.7 percent to 9.5 percent -- but not because people got hired. Instead, 652,000 people gave up and stopped looking for work. And that number might be higher than it looks, as the natural monthly growth in the labor force is about 100,000 -- so to see a 652,000-person drop might mean something like 752,000 current workers left as 100,000 new workers entered.

It's true that when the National Bureau of Economic Research dates the end of the recession, it will probably have ended months ago. And it's true that the financial crisis has been over some time. But we really do remain in a jobs crisis. The fact that things are getting better most months, though worse in some months, obscures both how bad the situation is and how rapid our improvement has to be to really make a dent in it. But in the Senate, Republicans and Ben Nelson are objecting to using emergency legislative powers to pass further unemployment benefits, and there seems to be no appetite to try to intervene in this crisis in any further way.

The Washington Post's Frank Ahrens had an interesting item yesterday, noting a "raft of bad economic data" that was released yesterday -- before this morning's awful jobs report. Ahrens noted, for example, the "terrible home sales number," which coincided with "weak construction spending" and an unexpected drop in U.S. manufacturing activity.

The big takeaway? It's becoming apparent that this recovery, which began in March 2009, was based almost fully on government stimulus. The private sector has failed to kick in because it doesn't trust the future. Without private sector money in this economy, we can do one of two things: deflate and contract, and we know where that leads -- deep recession and possibly depression; or approve billions in new stimulus, which will only explode our already massive public debt and budget deficits, which was dragging states down one after the other.

Glad I'm not making the decisions.

Well, the decision really doesn't sound that difficult. It's similar to the decision we faced early last year.

In the wake of Republican policy failures, Democrats inherited two related problems: a deep recession and huge deficit. Addressing both wasn't an option -- dealing with one problem necessarily made the other worse. The Democratic majority decided economic growth and job creation was more important than the deficit, which was clearly the right call. At that point, they had to choose between competing options:

1. Pass a massive, ambitious economic stimulus.

2. Pass a trimmed down economic stimulus that could overcome a Republican filibuster.

3. Do nothing.

4. Pass a five-year spending freeze proposed by confused congressional Republicans at the time.

Left with limited options, Democrats went with Door #2. We would have been better off with Door #1, but we can all be very thankful Doors #3 and #4 were rejected. Indeed, it's genuinely pathetic to hear Republicans this morning boasting that the stimulus "didn't work." It did work -- the Recovery Act prevented a catastrophic depression -- and their alternative at the time permanently undermines their credibility on the subject.

But as the stimulus comes to an end, the economy is slowing badly (which largely helps prove that the stimulus kept us afloat for over a year), and we're left with another choice -- a very similar choice to the one we faced 17 months ago. Look at Ahrens' take again: we can either let the economy fall backwards or we can add to our debt.

That this is even considered a tough call strikes me as rather bizarre.

Indeed, as this debate heats up -- and I sincerely hope it does -- pay careful attention to the fact that conservative lawmakers don't have a competing vision to improve the economy. By their own admission, strengthening the recovery isn't the goal; lowering the deficit they created is the goal. They're not only offering the wrong answer; they're asking the wrong question.

The economy appears to be slowing. The threat of another recession is real. It's not too late to get the recovery back on track, but it's gut-check time for U.S. leaders.

Are they up to the challenge?

Steven D: What Did FDR Really Do for America?
Sometimes its worth taking a moment to remember what America was like the day before FDR's inauguration in 1933. All those Tea Party people who want austerity, to eliminate Social Security, medicare, unemployment benefits, etc., and who think that all sort of jobs are out there and that unemployed Americans laid off in near record numbers are lazy and undeserving leeches, need a history lesson.

And guess what? David Glenn Cox is here to give it to them:

Let's look at Roosevelt's predecessor, Herbert Hoover. Hoover was strongly against any direct aid to the poor, fearing that the poor would become demoralized. The Republican Congress, likewise, was against any national scheme to aid the poor. The United States was the only industrial power with no system of social security. No system of national unemployment. No minimum wage law, no national labor laws of any kind. No aid for the elderly or the disabled. Looking back at that America it is like looking into almost medieval proportions. [...]

Before the New Deal, the elderly were the poorest demographic in the country. When you got too old to work, you lived on your savings, and if you didn't have savings you starved or lived on charity or with your children. America was mainly rural then with most people living on farms, so those elderly worked until the day they died. Healthcare existed only for the rich and hospitals were a cash affair except for the "charity ward". If you were sick or injured you went home and you either got better or you died. There was no public health service. Hypothermia was the second leading cause of death for the elderly and pneumonia was the first. In Detroit in 1932 two people an hour died of starvation; in Toledo unemployment was at 70%.

People forget what that world was like. I honestly believe that some of them think we'd all be rich and jobs would be sprouting like mushrooms in a rain forest if only that Bad Old Government would just die a well deserved death. The truth is, we have the lowest taxes in a generation, the highest unemployment in a generation and (this will really surprise you I'm sure) the highest corporate cash on hand since 1952.

You see, corporations being awash in money does not mean they will go out and suddenly start massive hiring and solve all our economic woes. Why? Demand, that other part of the phrase "supply and demand." A generation or more of Americans have been told that supply side economics will bring us all prosperity, but it isn't true. Over the last three decades we have seen little if any real growth in wages among anyone who is not in the top 5% of earnings.

The rich got obscenely rich until the discrepancy between the wealth held by the upper 1% of Americans and everyone else has grown to its greatest level since -- well since Hoover was alive. That's what "supply side" economics (tax cuts, deregulation, relaxation or eradication of labor and worker safety laws) has brought us.

Why? Because feeding the supply side of the economic engine is not sustainable unless you also feed the demand side of the equation. Under republican policies we rejected any efforts to increase demand and promote jobs. We relied solely on the "free market: just like our ancestors back in the Gilded Age of Financial panics and depressions. What do you know. The free market doesn't always magically create demand.

To create demand you need good, well paying jobs. And corporations view labor not as an asset, not as an essential part of their collective effort to produce and innovate (as they do, by law, in Germany), but as a liability. In Germany, labor plays a significant role in the corporation's success:

go to the link for the rest of the post.

Going There

The New York Times Magazine will publish a big feature on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) this weekend, which I suspect will spark some interesting discussion. For now, let's take note of the quote that's likely to get the most attention.

"Everything I'm doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo is completely opposite of where the Tea Party movement's at," Graham said.... On four occasions, Graham met with Tea Party groups. The first, in his Senate office, was "very, very contentious," he recalled. During a later meeting, in Charleston, Graham said he challenged them: " 'What do you want to do? You take back your country -- and do what with it?' ... Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent."

In a previous conversation, Graham told me: "The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out." Now he said, in a tone of casual lament: "We don't have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats." Chortling, he added, "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

As a matter of policy, I don't agree with Graham about much of anything, but all of these observations are entirely sound. The reason I put "movement" in quotes every time I write about the Tea Partiers is that it's a contingent with no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no meaningful connection to reality. Its passionate members, while probably well meaning, appear to have no idea what they're talking about. Genuine political movements -- civil rights, women's suffrage, labor unions -- have, as Graham put it, a "coherent vision." The Tea Party has Hitler signs and a cable news network, but that's not much of a substitute.

Indeed, there's already some evidence the "movement" may be "in danger of breaking apart before it ever really comes together."

But Graham's remarks, while defensible, are likely to cause all manner of trouble for him. He's already been condemned by right-wing South Carolinians, and that was just for talking to Democrats about possible compromises on public policy. For Graham to trash the confused Tea Party crowd -- to the New York Times, no less -- will likely make his life in Republican politics considerably more difficult.

As for Graham's observation that Reagan "would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today," it's hard to overstate how true this is. I'm reminded of something Rachel Maddow told viewers last week:

"He signed a bill that gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants. He grew the size of the federal government and the budget, added a whole new cabinet level agency and added tens of thousands of government workers to the federal payroll.

"He tripled the deficit. He bailed out and expanded social security with a big fat tax increase. He raised corporate taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars. He raised taxes on gasoline.

"He, in fact, signed into law the largest tax increase in history. He supported federal handgun controls. He called for a world without nuclear weapons.

"He was Ronald Reagan."

It's an ongoing area of interest for me, so I'm glad Graham brought it up. Indeed, in addition to Rachel's observations, I'd also note that as governor, Reagan increased spending, raised taxes, helped create the nation's first state-based emissions standards, signed an abortion-rights bill, and expanded the nation's largest state-based Medicaid program (socialized medicine).

Then, as president, Reagan raised taxes in seven out of the eight years in office, approved "amnesty" for immigrants who entered the country illegally, and met with our most hated enemy without preconditions.

Reagan "would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today"? Reagan would have a hard time not getting laughed off the Republican stage today.

Think Progress: Sen. Bennett: ‘I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas.’
Last month, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) came in a distant third behind two other GOP candidates vying for the three-term senator’s seat at the Utah Republican Party’s nominating convention in Salt Lake City. His defeat was heralded as a Tea Party victory and prompted Utah’s other GOP U.S. senator, Orrin Hatch, to say tea partiers “don’t have an open mind” and “won’t listen.” Yesterday, Bennett had some harsh words for his party and its future:

As I look out at the political landscape now, I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas,” Bennett told The Ripon Society.

“Indeed, if you raise specific ideas and solutions, as I’ve tried to do on health care with [Oregon Democratic Sen.] Ron Wyden, you are attacked with the same vigor as we’ve seen in American politics all the way back to slavery and polygamy; you are attacked as being a wimp, insufficiently pure, and unreliable.”

Bennett predicted that the GOP would win back control of the House in this year’s midterm elections, but added, “The concern I have is that ideology and a demand for absolute party purity endangers our ability to govern once we get into office.”

Think Progress: Presidential scholars: Bush is the worst president of the modern era, bottom five of all time.
Since 1982, the Siena Research Institute has polled presidential scholars on whom they view to be best and worst presidents in American history, based on a variety of issues from “integrity” to economic stewardship. This year’s poll of 238 scholars found that President Franklin Roosevelt was once again ranked on top, joined by Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and Teddy Roosevelt to complete the top five. However, President George W. Bush did not fare well since the last poll was conducted in 2002. He dropped 16 places to 39th, making him the worst president since Warren Harding died in office in 1923, and one of the bottom five of all time, according to the experts:

Today, just one year after leaving office, the former president has
found himself in the bottom five at 39th rated especially poorly in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence. Rounding out the bottom five are four presidents that have held that dubious distinction each time the survey has been conducted: Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin Pierce.

Bush was rated second from the bottom on “intelligence,” “foreign policy
accomplishments,” and “handling of U.S. economy.” This despite promises from Bush supporters that “history will be very kind” to the former president, as his Attorney General John Ashcroft put it. Bush’s father’s legacy “held constant” in this year’s poll, with George H.W. Bush coming in at 22nd. President Reagan “dropped two places from 16th overall in 2002 to 18th today.” President Obama was ranked 15th. (HT: Taegan Goddard)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's the deal here?

Human Events magazine has a major business sending out emails about different advertisers products. This one just came in.

Dear Fellow Conservative:

Civil War buffs, Southern partisans, and everyone who is tired of liberals vilifying America's greatest heroes -- must have this book on their bookshelf. It shatters the stereotypes and exposes the truth about the South, slavery, and states' rights.

Get your guide to the Civil War now -- it's FREE.


Thomas S. Winter
Editor in Chief, Human Events

I thought the Southern right had sort of thrown in the towel on slavery. But I may have misjudged that. In any case, always a big market for treason.

The Senate was almost allowed to vote up or down on extended unemployment benefits, but Democrats came one vote short of ending a Republican filibuster.

The Senate failed once again late Wednesday to advance a plan to restore jobless benefits for people out of work more than six months, leaving millions of unemployed workers in limbo until after the July 4 recess.

The measure fell one vote shy of the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he was prepared to provide that vote, but that Democrats had rejected his request to pay for at least half of the $34 billion measure with unspent funds from last year's stimulus package.

Voinovich's offer wasn't exactly constructive -- he was prepared to let the Senate vote, just so long as Democrats agreed to spend less on economic recovery. The fact that such an offer is both foolish and counter-productive seemed to elude the Ohio senator.

The final vote was 58 to 38 -- yes, in our Senate, 38 trumps 58 -- but it was actually a 59-vote majority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch from yea to nea for procedural reasons.

To their credit, two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, finally agreed to end the filibuster on jobless aid. Democrats, then, only needed one more vote, and hoped Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) or Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) would come through. They refused.

The good news, if you could call it that, is that Democrats will likely get a 60th vote once the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) vacancy is filled. But with the caucus still one vote short, the leadership had no choice but to adjourn last night. The Senate will reconvene a week from Monday, on July 12.

In the meantime, as of tomorrow, 1.3 million jobless Americans will have lost their benefits. By the time Byrd's replacement is named, the total will be 2 million.

When was the last time Congress allowed benefits to expire with unemployment rates this high? It's simply never happened.

Boehner's bungle is Democrats' gain
Rachel Maddow reports on efforts by Democrats to politically exploit impolitic, and frankly dumb, statments by House Minority Leader John Boehner.

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

Ezra Klein: Is Eric Cantor a policy wonk?

I've always been a bit puzzled by Eric Cantor. The word on him, as this Politico story says, is that he's "a serious wonk," which makes him a counterpoint to John Boehner, "a backslapper who loves golf and socializes with his friends."

But I've never seen much evidence that Cantor is a serious wonk. His policy positions range from "whatever the rest of the caucus is supporting," which makes sense given that he's part of the House leadership, to sort of wacky ideas, like his bailout alternative in which the federal government would insure all mortgages. At the health-care summit, there were plenty of Republicans -- Paul Ryan, Lamar Alexander, and Tom Coburn, among them -- who made compelling presentations. Cantor, as you can see in the clip atop this post, was the guy who brought props.

What Cantor does seem to be is an excellent fundraiser and messager, and in the one point of tension that Politico actually does identify between Boehner and Cantor, it was Boehner who sided with policy and Cantor who went for fundraising and messaging.

At issue was the structure of "America Speaking Out," the group that was supposed to craft the Republican Party's renewal agenda. "Cantor wanted the program run out of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which would have allowed party leaders to capture names and then hit those people up for cash and campaign help." Boehner wanted it run out of the Hill, where he could use congressional policy staff to work on the ideas and then sell the proposal as a serious policy effort. Boehner won, it seems. But Cantor's position was not the one you'd expect from a serious policy wonk. When's the last time you've heard of the DCCC or the DNC coming up with a smart policy idea?

But maybe I'm missing something on Cantor and my readers can enlighten me. Is he known for mastery of a particular issue? Does he have some really smart policy initiatives that he's promoting in the House? What's the deal here?

There’s been quite a lot of discussion of this whacky video Alabama Republican Rick Barber is running. If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty damn entertaining, though I think they should have had the singer cry (they do close-ups of his watery eyes several times, but the waterworks never quite materialize):

There are images of slaves, concentration camps, and the like that flash after Barber gets an Abe Lincoln impersonator to agree that taxes are the same as slavery. Barber has been criticized, not inappropriately, for this. The general consensus seems to be that he’s too angry, that he should try to sound more like David Brooks giving a seminar at the Aspen Institute. In interviews, however, he seems, as Ruth Marcus (not my favorite, but I like that she interviewed this nut), puts it “affably extreme”.

In today’s political world, when someone says something cray, it’s treated as a “gaffe” or an example of insufficient civility. But the truth is that some candidates, especially Tea Baggers, really do believe in very crazy things. Barber and Rand Paul aren’t just mistake-prone or uncivil or angry, they’re something far worse: candidates with insane, irrational political views.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are little more than figurative jokes these days, but the LA Times tells me that today's questioning of Elena Kagan was literally a joke:

Perhaps no amount of cramming could have readied her for the question asked of her by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma: Can the government, he wondered, pass a law forcing Americans to eat fruits and vegetables?

To Kagan, at first blush, the question must have seemed absurd, maybe even a joke. "It sounds like a dumb law," she replied off the cuff. Then, realizing Coburn was serious, she segued into sort of the windy, contextual, cautious analysis that she has employed to answer most of the questions asked of her over the last two days.

But she had fallen into Coburn's trap by answering more like the law professor she is than by simply responding like most people would. She never just said: "Of course it can't."

Within hours, a video detailing the exchange was atop the Drudge Report website, hundreds of thousands had viewed it on YouTube, and conservatives were having a field day. Her equivocation fit ideally with the narrative Republicans are trying to fashion during these hearings — a story of a federal government out of control and a Congress running amok.

We are truly ruled by idiots. At least, we will be if Republicans win control of Congress in November. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Angle not so sharp outside media bubble

Rachel Maddow reviews some of the answers by Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle in her first interview outside the right wing media bubble.

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


Conservatives hoping to complain about President Obama's response to the BP oil spill disaster tend to have trouble with specifics. The right is certain they want the president to do more, but struggle when asked to elaborate in detail.

In recent weeks, one of the more common complaints has to do with the Jones Act. Liz Cheney, assorted Fox News personalities (Beck, Ingraham, Carlson), Sarah Palin, John McCain, Dick Armey, the Heritage Foundation, and random House Republicans have all said if Obama were serious about the federal response, he would have waived the maritime law.

In keeping with recent trends, the argument has already been debunked, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from repeating it. McClatchy is the latest to try to set the record straight.

That statute, established in 1920, requires that all goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged, U.S.-built and U.S.-owned ships crewed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Critics say that's needlessly excluded foreign-flagged vessels that could have helped. [...]

Armey and the other Republican critics are wrong. Maritime law experts, government officials and independent researchers say that the claim is false. The Jones Act isn't an impediment at all, they say, and it hasn't blocked anything.

"Totally not true," said Mark Ruge, counsel to the Maritime Cabotage Task Force, a coalition of U.S. shipbuilders, operators and labor unions. "It is simply an urban myth that the Jones Act is the problem."

In a news briefing last week, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said he'd received "no requests for Jones Act waivers" from foreign vessels or countries. "If the vessels are operating outside state waters, which is three miles and beyond, they don't require a waiver," he said.

There are currently 24 foreign vessels from nine foreign countries in the Gulf, helping with the response effort. How many needed a waiver to participate? None. How many vessels have been turned away because of the Jones Act? None. In fact, just this week, a dozen more offers of foreign assistance have been accepted. The Jones Act had no bearing on any of this.

But the right just keeps lying, suggesting Obama refuses to waive the law due to union pressure. Michael Sacco, the president of the 80,000-member Seafarers International Union, told McClatchy that claims of organized-labor interference in the cleanup efforts were "ridiculous."

Something to keep in mind the next time we hear the argument, which if recent history is any guide, will be made once again any minute now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What they really believe

No really. Citizens United is just like Brown vs Board of Education because it went back to the first constitutional principles which were, evidently, that slaves and corporations should be equal under the law. Or something. I can't believe you people don't see that.
"[Marshall] was right on Brown v. Board of Education. It's akin in my view to the Citizen's United case. The court sat down and we went back to first principles--What does the Constitution say? Everybody should be equal protection of the laws," Sessions told me after a Senate vote last night.

"Is it treating people equally to say you can go to this school because of the color of your skin and you can't?" Sessions asked rhetorically. "We've now honestly concluded and fairly concluded that it violates the equal protection clause."

How is that like Citizens United? "I think this Court, when they said 'Wait a minute! If you're talking about a precedent that says the government can deny the right to publish pamphlets, then we've got get rid of this one outlier case Austin -- 100 years of precedent -- and go back to what the Constitution [says].' I don't think that's activism."

The House and Senate are reconvening the conference committee to drop the language that offended Scott Brown. CNBC has the likely compromise:

The conferees will propose ending the Treasury Department’s authority to require banks to accept additional TARP funds. While this authority would sunset over time rather than end immediately, budget rules say that this would result in a savings of something like $10 billion to $11 billion.

Additional FDIC premiums also are being considered to bring in $3.5 billion, bringing the total closer to the $19 billion the lawmakers sought to raise with the bank tax. Republicans are expected to accept this deal. The biggest banks would be subject to the higher FDIC fees, but not hedge funds, since they are not part of the FDIC system. On the other hand, smaller banks — exempted from the fee under the current bill — that operate under the FDIC system would likely find themselves footing the bill.

So rather than a bank tax, which Scott Brown worried would take capital out of the banking system, we're going to drop part of the TARP program that was ... putting capital into the banking system. And rather than making big banks and big hedge funds foot the bill, FDIC fees will be hiked so that small banks have to pay in but hedge funds don't.

Think Progress: Kyl Denies That The Roberts Supreme Court Is On The Side Of ‘Big Business’: It’s A ‘Fradulent Claim’

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday to discuss Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination. Kyl complained that during the hearing, Democrats attempted to paint the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts as “coming down on the side of big business“:

HH: With Chief Justice Roberts, was any review of those documents held by a — for example, the senior minority member of the Judiciary Committee?

JK: No. No, not to my knowledge, no.

HH: How did the first day go?

JK: Pretty much as expected. Republicans raised appropriate questions. It was respectful. She noted that all of her meetings with Senators have been courteous. Democrats primarily not only applauded her for having a wonderful background and being a great person, but also took the opportunity to slam what they call the Roberts Court and its activism in coming down on the side of big business repeatedly at the expense of the little guy. All a fraudulent claim, but that’s what they’re arguing.

Of course, the Senate Democrats’ arguments were far from “fraudulent.” The Roberts court has been one of the most pro-corporate in history. A recent study from the Constitutional Accountability Center documented how the court “has a decidedly probusiness tilt.” Demonstrating this bent, the court last week strengthened corporations’ power to force their customers and employees into biased, privatized courts whenever a dispute arises between them.

And, the court’s far-right voting bloc famously upended precedent to defend corporations’ supposed right to spend unlimited sums on elections in Citizens United. Today, in a piece on Roberts’ dramatic impact on the court, the New York Times said that decision “showed great solicitude to the interests of corporations.”

digby: Family Values

According to Sharon Angle, God wants fathers to rape their daughters. Or at least he wants daughters to bear their fathers' children. That's what they call family values in her neck of the woods:

MANDERS: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?

ANGLE: Not in my book.

MANDERS: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

ANGLE: You know, I’m a Christian, and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.

The truth is that she is being more consistent than most allegedly "pro-life" people. If you genuinely think that abortion is murder then you can't justify "killing" the blastocyst or fetus just because of the way it was conceived.

On the other hand, Angle seems to see conception by rape and incest as something God purposefully directed and so the results of which are something the birthing vessel must embrace. That's a very disturbing point of view no matter where you come out on the issue.

Harry Reid, on the other hand, must be thanking the Good Lord every night for "interceding" and providing him with Sharon Angle as an opponent. He must feel that God definitely intends for him to win re-election.

Marshall: "I Was Speaking Broadly"

In her interview tonight with Jon Ralston, Sharron Angle did her best to walk back her suggestion that people may need to resort to "second amendment remedies" against Obama's tyranny and the need to "take out Harry Reid."

Boehner fails politics 101

Rachel Maddow lists the political missteps by House Minority Leader John Boehner in a single interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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

JedL (DK): Dave Weigel's new TV gig

Dave Weigel is still in the market for his main job -- reporting on the conservative movement -- but when it comes to television, he's now signed with MSNBC as a contributor.

Keith Olbermann announced Weigel's new gig yesterday on Countdown during a segment on Weigel's interview with teabagger congressional candidate Rick Barber about Barber's new ad. from accusing President Obama of enslaving American citizens. As Weigel explains, people like Barber -- fringey though they may be -- actually believe it's reasonable to equate taxation with the institution of slavery.

Savvy folks at his old place of employment will miss Weigel, but the fools on that ship there will continue to be oblivious to the value he brings to our political discourse.

I'm not sure I could name a single policy question on which David Frum has seriously changed his mind in the last few years. He's still in favor of the Bush concept of the war on terror, he's still a neocon in foreign policy, he wants the right to prosper, he likes small government and individual liberty and balanced budgets. He voted for McCain. He has not had the Iraq epiphany I have had, along with a re-think of America's global reach. He has not been as radical a critic of the Christianist forces within "conservatism" as I have; and he's no real libertarian. But he is not allowed to be a part of the conservative hive of blogads, cutting him off from some of the financial support that could actually stimulate a debate on the right (if the right-wing blogosphere were in any way interested in a debate about anything).

Yes, David has questioned the rigidly closed minds and abstract extremism of the Tea Party tendency. He is appalled that any serious political movement could actually regard Sarah Palin as a potential president. And he has criticized the GOP tactics of total obstructionism - because he thinks it will enable liberalism. That's it, so far as I can see. A career of thinking and writing on the right, a time in the Bush White House, the man who wrote one of the more embarrassing hagiographies of Bush, is no longer a conservative. Because he will not obey the dictates of the fringe crackpots, he is to be punished. Go read John Hawkins' post defending the purge mentality, exposing the core truth of what I wrote the other day:

For the current right, "liberal" simply means "the other side." Since their side is defined in almost suffocatingly orthodox terms, any critic of any aspect of today's Palinite conservatism is a "liberal."

And they punish the dissenters not just by criticism, but by organized financial pressure. I told you it would get worse before it gets better.

Frum responds to John Hawkins:

Hawkins does not argue that these statements are false – that e.g. Glenn Beck is not a crank. His point is that regardless of truth, these criticisms should not occur. Or anyway, that no conservative should engage in them. Our job is to fall into line and not notice that Beck is in fact a crank or that Palin is not well-informed or that the Tea Party has saddled the Republicans with awful and probably doomed candidates like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul.

Hawkins’ attitude here reminds me of an ancient definition of a political party: “It doesn’t matter what damn lie we tell, so long as we all tell the same damn lie.”

Sullivan: The Out Of Touch MSM, Ctd

Alex Pareene outs an LA Times political blogger as a former member of the Bush communications team - a fact not disclosed by the paper:

nearly everything Malcolm and Orr write is critical of the Obama administration, disdainful of Democrats, and supportive of Republicans. They print poll results that are good for Republicans, but not ones that look like good news for Democrats.

There's nothing wrong with the Times hiring conservatives to blog for them. If the Times wants a conservative blog, they can go ahead and launch a conservative blog. The point is to actually identify it as such. Right now the Times seems to be catering their online product specifically for Drudge and the right-wing blogosphere while pretending it's still objective in the traditional old newspaper sense of the word. ... (Of course, if it was ever revealed that either Malcolm or Orr had ever said anything mean about Matt Drudge in private, I'm sure they'd both be looking for work by the end of the week.)

DougJ: Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » So wrong but so right

If I could turn this Michael Gerson idiocy into a post category I would:

The Grown-Up Party, in my experience, is more like a seminar at the Aspen Institute—presentation by David Broder, responses from E.J. Dionne Jr. and David Brooks—on the electoral implications of the energy debate.

Supporting torture is fine, as long as it’s done politely at the Aspen Institute. But FSM forbid anyone should make a joke about Matt Drudge in a private email.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Off the cliff

Marshall: Idaho GOP: Can We Secede?
The Idaho GOP just came out with a new platform. Main planks? Idaho should withhold taxes from the federal government, take away people's right to vote for senators and nullify all federal laws Idahoans don't like.
Barbara Morrill (DK): Can gay people be citizens of the United States?

Can gay people be citizens of the United States? According to Virginia's Attorney General, apparently not:

In March, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) told the state’s colleges and universities to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, arguing that schools have no legal authority to adopt such statements. On Friday, Cuccinelli appeared at Boys State, where a high school student asked him, “How is that not a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment?” Cuccinelli responded by suggesting that the amendment was not designed to protect gay men and women:

“State universities are not free to create any specially protected classes other than those dictated by the General Assembly,” Cuccinelli said. “Your question is, why is that not a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Frankly, the category of sexual orientation would never have been contemplated by the people who wrote and voted for and passed the 14th Amendment,” he said.

Here's what those people wrote, voted for and passed:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

All persons ... no mention of excluding those you didn't like or thought were "icky." It's pretty damn clear.

Marshall: Lucy
Susan Collins (R-ME) pulls back support for Finance Reform bill.
Marshall: Too True

TPM Reader RW on Feingold and the Lucys ...

Coincidence that [Collins] plays Lucy hours after Feingold declares he won't vote for financial reform? I think not. We can only hold their feet to the fire when we are united. A very selfish act from Russ, who totally misread the situation and what would happen? What are the odds that we will have the tougher bill Feingold wants in the next Congress? Exactly zero. This is real politics, not third-grade Model U.N. Feingold's decision makes it more likely we will face another meltdown because we won't have this majority next time around.
Chris in Paris (AmBlog): RBS warns customers of 'cliff-edge' in banking and economy

From my perspective, it's hard to argue against this warning. Besides shifting the banking problems to the taxpayers, little has changed.

The credit team at RBS in London are getting very bearish and warning clients to "get ready for the cliff-edge," where prices of stocks and commodities will "collapse."

RBS credit chief Andrew Roberts said the edge is just around the corner for the European banking industry and the economies of Europe and the US.

"Surely risks associated with us being wrong are low, i.e. rates stay where they are," Roberts wrote in a research note.

"But risks associated with us being right are 10 percent returns in (10-year US Treasurys) and at the same time that equities/commodities will collapse far beyond what even some equity bears anticipate."

As a result Roberts is advising investors to get into maximum long-duration bonds in safe-haven markets.
Chris in Paris (AmBlog): Report: Some governments may not be able to withstand another banking crash

As necessary as the bank bailouts were, maintaining the exclusive lifestyle of bankers was hardly necessary. If anything, propping up those least in need was rewarding bad behavior setting up this potentially difficult next phase of the economic cycle. In the case of the US, Obama has differed little from the Bush administration in its handling of the banks. Giving the banks a free ride by pushing out global regulation is indeed owned by Obama and the rest of the G20 leaders who failed badly on this issue, again. The Independent:

The BIS has previously said that the ultimate calamity - payments systems freezing and cash machines running out of money - was only narrowly avoided when the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. A deeper economic slump was averted by nationalising other banks and making loans amounting to $10trn (£6,620bn).

But the BIS report implies that governments may not be able to repeat such a bailout in the event of a second crisis, which some commentators fear could be triggered by another economic shock.

Despite the warnings, the G20 nations significantly eased the pressure on banks this week by delaying the introduction of tougher rules on the amount of capital they must hold to deal with potential crises. The new regulations were planned for the end of this year but are not now due until 2012. Countries will also be given far more leeway inhow the rules must be applied. Critics say this amounts to a watering down of the reforms needed to stave off the sort of disaster the BIS fears.

The BIS also warned that the "fragility" of public and private balance sheets in the UK,France, Germany, Spain and the US "severely limits the scope for fiscal policy intervention if another bailout is needed". It added: "The side effects of the financial and macro-economic supportmeasures, combined with the unresolved vulnerabilities of the financial sector,threaten to short-circuit the recovery; the reforms necessary to improve the resilience of the financial system [have] yet to be completed.
John Cole: And While the Rest of the World Pursues Austerity Measures

You have this:

Leverage is back on Wall Street—and this time it’s the bankers who have it.

Firms are adding jobs for the first time in two years, rebuilding businesses cut during the financial crisis and offering guaranteed payouts to lure top bankers. In New York, 6,800 financial-industry positions were added from the end of February through May, the largest three-month increase since 2008, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are among banks that are hiring to replenish their ranks, while Nomura Holdings Inc. and Jefferies Group Inc. have been recruiting talent from larger firms in a bid to increase their standing on Wall Street.

I think it is time to break out the foam fingers again, everyone! USA! USA!

And while everyone else is in the poor house, and the banksters are writing themselves fat checks, I think it is time to revisit this gem:

We are Wall Street. It’s our job to make money. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable. I didn’t hear America complaining when the market was roaring to 14,000 and everyone’s 401k doubled every 3 years. Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I’ve never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas.

Well now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat. God knows there has to be one for everything. Well, here we are.

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’t retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We’re going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I’ll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.

What exactly do we have to do to make these assholes go Galt?

The added irony in all this is that financial regulation will now probably die with Robert Byrd, with an assist from Russ Feingold, who has a sad. Because the next financial regulation bill, after Democrats lose a bunch of seats in the House and Senate because the blue dogs have torpedoed all job growth bills and the public is sick of Democratic dithering, well, that will be so much more progressive.


House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) chatted yesterday with the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and apparently felt pretty good about himself.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, the Ohio Republican with his eye on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's gavel, said the tide is turning the GOP's way.

"The American people have written off the Democrats," Boehner said Monday in an interview with Tribune-Review editors and reporters. "They're willing to look at us again."

Well, "writing off" Dems seems more than a little excessive. More Americans consider themselves Democrats than Republicans; more Americans have a favorable opinion of Democrats than Republicans; more Americans trust Democrats to handle the biggest issues of the day than Republicans; and if one excludes Rasmussen, the generic congressional ballot looks pretty competitive for Democrats, too.

Boehner said the protests are emblematic of deep voter anger against Washington's leaders.

"They're snuffing out the America that I grew up in," Boehner said. "Right now, we've got more Americans engaged in their government than at any time in our history. There's a political rebellion brewing, and I don't think we've seen anything like it since 1776."

For a lawmaker who intends to be Speaker of the House, this is pretty irresponsible language. "Snuffing out"? Seriously?

The health care law passed in March "pushed most Americans over the edge," Boehner said.

Well, no, not really. Public attitudes towards the health care law have improved in recent months, and opposition has fallen. The Affordable Care Act may have pushing most Republican members of Congress over the edge, but not "most Americans."

Boehner proceeded to threaten to repeal health care reform, voiced his opposition to Wall Street reform, defended offshore coastal oil drilling and said Obama overreacted to the BP spill crisis, and voiced support for increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement -- in order to get enough money to pay for the wars in the Middle East.

Quite an interview, to be sure.

mistermix: Taibbi on Logan

The whole thing is spot-on, here’s a taste:

As to this whole “unspoken agreement” business: the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she’s like pretty much every other “reputable” journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she’s supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you’re covering! Jesus, is this concept that fucking hard? On the campaign trail, I watch reporters nod solemnly as they hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars candidates X and Y and Z collect from the likes of Citigroup and Raytheon and Archer Daniels Midland, and it blows my mind that they never seem to connect the dots and grasp where all that money is going. The answer, you idiots, is that it’s buying advertising! People like George Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama, and General McChrystal for that matter, they can afford to buy their own P.R. — and they do, in ways both honest and dishonest, visible and invisible.

They don’t need your help, and you’re giving it to them anyway, because you just want to be part of the club so so badly. Disgustingly, that’s really what it comes down to. Most of these reporters just want to be inside the ropeline so badly, they want to be able to say they had that beer with Hillary Clinton in a bowling alley in Scranton or whatever, that it colors their whole worldview. God forbid some important person think you’re not playing for the right team!

This is via a tweet and re-tweet from a couple of local reporters who aren’t interested in being a part of some slimy little club, unlike Ms Logan.
Neiwert (C&L): 'Over the Cliff,' the WaPo's centrists, and the fallacy of the middle


John's already pointed out the recent inclusion of our book, Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane in a summer roundup of political books titled "Flame-throwing political books from the right and the left".

Naturally, we're grateful for the attention from the post. Books editor Stephen Levingston, who wrote the piece, was also kind enough to invite us to contribute an op-ed in support of the book, "10 fictitious Tea Party beliefs", a little while back. (Notably, Levingston also contributed one of the more notable nuggets of information we included in the book last year when examining the correlation of racist attitudes to anti-health-care activism.)

But I was frankly taken aback by the way it was all framed, notably this:

Yes, it could be a long, hot summer. But when does a swat from the left cancel out a snipe from the right? When do we reach a state of political imbecility where only the noise exists -- and all thought and reason have drained away? You judge. Here are the titles.

We're grateful that ours was the first title that followed. And the list included some other interesting contributions to the debate, including Markos Moulitsas' forthcoming American Taliban. But I was even more struck by the right-wing titles to which, apparently, we were being held up as the right-wing equivalent of the "flame-throwing" season:

THE BLUEPRINT: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency

THE NEXT AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: The Populist Revolt Against the Liberal Elite

THE POST-AMERICAN PRESIDENCY: The Obama Administration's War on America

TO SAVE AMERICA: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine

THE MANCHURIAN PRESIDENT: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists

Excuse me, am I imagining things, or is the serious, factual, fully documented and completely transparent effort that we put into this book being equated, journalistically speaking, with a pile of conspiracist lunacy?

Maybe it's just me, but the entire right-wing list seems actually to prove the point of our title: these people are nuts, plain and simple.

They not only push beliefs that are provably untrue, they are clearly indulging in the kind of insurrectionist extremism that ultimately produces the kind of violent acts Over the Cliff details in abundance.

Instead of hand-wringing about whether both sides are just getting too extreme, it might be worth pointing out that it's actually only one side of the debate that's throwing flames and engaging in real extremism -- and the other side is being painted as extreme for simply pointing out that fact.

I don't know if this kind of false equivalency is actually Levingston's sentiments or just those of his editors, but it has become an all-too-common feature of the WaPo's approach to news: treat people who tell lies and people who tell the truth as merely opposing sides of an opinionated debate.

It's the fake culture of centrism that exists in newsrooms around the country. It's a product of a classic logical fallacy that is commonly adopted by journalists eager to escape accusations of "liberal media bias" -- namely, the argumentum ad temperantium:

a logical fallacy which asserts that any given compromise between two positions must be correct.

An individual demonstrating the false compromise fallacy implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground is always correct. This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy allows any position to be invalidated, even those that have been reached by previous applications of the same method; all one must do is present yet another, radically opposed position, and the middle-ground compromise will be forced closer to that position. In politics, this is part of the basis behind Overton Window Theory.

The ultimate expression of the fallacy is the following scenario: Person A claims that 2 plus 2 equals 4. Person B claims that 2 plus 2 equals 6. Person C, being a devoted centrist, concludes that 2 plus 2 must therefore equal 5.

Of course, sometimes debates occur in genuine gray areas where the facts and conclusions are murky and complex. But sometimes -- indeed, more often than not -- the actual facts can be gathered and appropriately assessed. That's what journalists, in fact, are supposed to do.

It would be good if sometimes WaPo editors remembered that sometimes, 2 plus 2 does not really equal 5.

Greg Sargent: Don't write off Karl Rove's group just yet!

The other day, American Crossroads, the much-ballyhooed right-wing group that counts Karl Rove among its top advisers, revealed that it had raised a whopping $200 in its first fundraising sweep. Understandably, this prompted a bit of mockery among Dems, since the group had vowed to raise untold millions to sway the midterms.

But Rove's group is now up with a new ad attacking Harry Reid that seems pretty hard hitting, and raises at least the possibility that Rove's group could be a factor. The ad seizes on Reid's recent gaffe on the Senate floor, in which he said that the news that 36,000 jobs had been lost was "really good":

The group says it's spending $120,000 to air the spot in Nevada -- the only state it's spending money in, at least for now. I'm not sure how this squares with the earlier news that it only raised $200, but I've got a call into the group, and if I get an answer, I'll update you.

Either way, it looks like it's premature to write off Rove's group as a factor, and it is now trying to raise millions of dollars from business interests to influence the outcome of the midterms. The specter of Rove makes it more imperative for Dems to pass legislation already to bring some transparency to corporate spending on our elections.

UPDATE, 11:26 a.m.: As readers remind me, Rove's group raised over $1 million to get started, so they have cash on hand for ad buys. While their fundraising has been anemic since then, it's perhaps premature to write them off.

UPDATE, 12:04 p.m.: A Dem aide responds:

"This is the number one reason Republicans oppose the bipartisan DISCLOSE Act -- they wouldn't be able to have a secret corporate slush fund to run attack ads against people fighting to reform Washington. This is also a very good reason why the Senate should act fast and pass this bill."