Friday, August 20, 2010

Crazy August

Dennis G.: Stupid American Month


Every August something happens that reminds me just how stupid America has become. This month is full of fresh reminders of our dwindling National intelligence.

It has traditionally become the month to celebrate how stupid America has become. It is the month when stupidity in America goes on full display with a vengence.

It is the month where we learned about shark attacks and Gary Condit while George Bush ignored a security warning titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US.” It is the month where wingnutopia talking points for invading Iraq was manufactured and tested. It is the month that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began running ads about John Kerry while the rest of wingnutopia went crazy about the flip-flop meme. It was the month of Katrina. It was the month when Karl Rove convinced most of the media that he had “the math”. It was the month when the Palin traveling carnival of hucksters was introduced to America. It was the month of death panels. It was the month the Tea Party sprang forth from well fertilized astroturf. Now it is the month to worry about secret moooslims building things or terrorist cell groups of anchor babies. And always it is a month where the dumbest mother fuckers in America try to drive our National discourse with fear, ignorance and hatred.

The funny (and tragic) thing is that this shit works over and over again because we live in a pretty stupid Country or at the very least we live in a Nation of people who fear to tell the idiots to shut the fuck up. Worse, a lot of folks who should know better take leave of their senses in August and voice support for the latest fad of idiocy (and yes, Howard, I’m looking at you).

So, why not officially make August Stupid American Month. It already is the month when we are asked to care about every crazy conspiracy theory, every half-baked idea and every bit of idiotic drivel falling from the lips of fools who walk among us. Perhaps if we officially recognize all this crazy talk as the babbling of the stupid then the Country could get the crazy shit out of our collective system.

Of course, OTOH, the clowns from crazy town could just take over and make every month Stupid American Month. And perhaps, they already have.


Apel (Daily Dish) : In Defense of Talk Radio Listeners, Ctd

A reader writes:

I share Conor's belief that by having civil, reasonable dialogs, we can try to resolve or at least clarify our disagreements. My main beef with Talk Radio is that its stars pointedly do not share this belief. They thrive on endless conflict and illusions of persecution. It is more entertaining for them to pretend that the Left is not motivated by a desire to make the country better, but a desire to destroy it and enslave much of the population, so that's what they say. I listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin regularly, and all three promote some version of this canard, Levin being by far the worst offender.

Beyond refusing to seriously consider the other side's concerns and proposals, these stars also never have guests who disagree with them or challenge their assertions. They almost never have guests who are not reliable, mainstream conservatives. All that we get are occasional liberal callers. For whatever reason, these people tend to be more stupid and ill-informed than most liberals I know, so the stars usually trounce them in debate. Limbaugh can be persuasive when engaging in this ritual, but Hannity simply cuts people off if they turn out to be smart and have some point he cannot counter, and Levin dispatches liberal callers with a storm of invective.

The upshot is that their listeners don't have an accurate picture of their opponents, and don't know what the Left actually thinks and stands for. It's in this atmosphere that we get a bunch of talk about "socialism" and "government takeover," and demands to cut taxes without specifics on what spending to cut.
mistermix: Not Rocket Surgery

I know we’re all sick of the Death to America Ground Zero Mosque, but for the love of Allah, why can’t all Democrats do as well as Al Franken did when talking about it?

The pattern is simple: First, know the facts. Unlike Dean and Reed, Franken points out that it’s a community center that can’t be seen from ground zero. Second, call it what it is and link it to a pattern:

On a more serious note, he also added: “They (Republicans) do this every two years. They try to find a wedge issue, and they try to work it.”

Contrast Franken’s words to the typical piss-pants Democratic response. First, they treat the nontoversy as a very serious issue, worthy of a few Oprahs and a 20/20. Because it’s so serious, they’re afraid to face it head-on, so they run away or give evasive statements. Then, after the noise machine has been working long enough for the first polls to appear, the ignorant, fleeting opinions reflected in those polls cause the weaker links in the Democratic chain to issue statements that essentially agree with Republicans. Once that happens, the issue is far more legitimate in the eyes of the media, so what was once a nothingburger is now a topic for experts to discuss for hundreds of hours of cable TV.

I guess the Democratic leadership thinks this is a desired outcome, because they do it all the fucking time.

  • from the comments:


    A lot of people, Franken being one of them, simply don’t recognize the fact that you can’t out-wingnut a wingnut. Ever.

    A group of Democrats who defied their party to oppose a landmark climate bill last year is facing attacks by political challengers from an unexpected direction: Cap and trade is being used against them, despite the fact that they voted no.

    Harry Truman was right about at least two things. One of those things was Richard Nixon. The other was that if you give people a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who tries to act like a Republican, the former will usually win.


    El Cid

    AP story quotes right wing wondering if MSNBC covered Iraq combat troop departure too much, you know, because they’re awfully liberally biased, while ignoring Fox’s mere 10 minutes of coverage, maybe because they just luuuv the troops too much.

    Washington Moonie Money-losing Times’ columnist notes that Obama is a “cultural Muslim” who turns his back on America.

    Christian Science Monitor shares with other media that they too hate America and want Israel to be cast into the sea and want Iran to take over the Middle East with the nuclear weapons they’ll surely have next Tuesday.

Marshall: Bad Seed

Franklin Graham explains that President Obama was born a Muslim since he is from the "seed of Islam" despite having possibly now "renounced Muhammad."

"The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother," says Graham. This is sort of like the seed of being the self-appointed national preacher passes from father to son. The so-called "seed of Grahamism."

It was just a few months ago that Rupert Murdoch was asked whether it's appropriate for Fox News to play an active role in supporting the so-called Tea Party "movement."

The News Corp. CEO replied, "I don't think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party."


Media Matters' video on this seems pretty effective:

Note the tag line: "Fox is not news. It's a 24/7 political organization."

Media conglomerates don't often give $1 million to a political party to help influence statewide campaigns. It's encouraging, then, that News Corp's seven-figure check to the Republican Governors Association is generating some discussion.

The contribution from Mr. Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and other news outlets, is one of the biggest ever given by a media organization, campaign finance experts said.

Democrats seized on the donation as evidence of the News Corporation's conservative leanings, with Media Matters for America, a liberal group that has tangled often with the company, calling it "an appendage of the Republican Party."

But News Corporation executives said the political priorities at the Republican Governors Association and its emphasis on low taxes and economic growth dovetailed with the company's own concerns. "News Corp. has always believed in the power of free markets, and organizations like the R.G.A., which have a pro-business agenda, support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy," said Jack Horner, a company spokesman.

What a terrific response. News Corp is facing questions about the propriety of a media conglomerate giving Republicans a cool million, and as a defense, the corporation effectively replies, "But we really like Republicans."

We know. That's why the check was written. The point isn't whether News Corp and Republicans have a shared worldview; the point is whether the financial support is appropriate.

At a minimum, it's breaking new ground: "Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, said seven-figure donations from anyone to '527' associations were unusual, but a $1 million donation from a news organization was particularly rare." A Politico report added that the contribution "isn't business as usual -- in either size or style."

What's more, Amanda Terkel noted that News Corp's own "Standards of Business Conduct" may prohibit exactly the kind of financial support the company is providing the Republican Governors Association, but like the media company's journalistic principles, it appears these standards may be malleable.

In an op-ed this week, I made the case that Republicans are pursuing a strategy this year that breaks with a traditional model. After a couple of humiliating election cycles, the GOP could have moved away from the far-right and positioned itself as a more mainstream party, but instead, it moved even further to the right. If it's rewarded, the strategy will only encourage more political radicalism.

The New York Times editorial board raises a related point this morning: Republicans sure have nominated a bunch of weirdos.

For months, it has been clear that Republican Congressional candidates would benefit from independent voters' dissatisfaction with President Obama. With the Republican field now largely in place, all voters might want to take a close look at who those candidates are.

The party has nominated so many at the far right of the spectrum, as well as some other unusual choices -- Linda McMahon, the candidate for the United States Senate in Connecticut made millions running the sex-and-violence spectacle known as World Wrestling Entertainment -- that the Republican brand is barely recognizable.

That point about the GOP "brand" is especially interesting. For years, Republicans really had presented themselves to voters as responsible, dependable grown-ups, unlikely to do anything radical. That "brand" has deteriorated to the point of comedy.

The editorial picked a handful of key statewide candidates -- the piece obviously could have been much longer -- but they're real doozies. The first is Ken Buck, the GOP's Senate candidate in Colorado, who wants to eliminate several cabinet agencies, repeal the 17th Amendment, and ignore church-state separation. The Times then notes Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, whose work you're probably familiar with.

The editorial also highlights Mike Lee, the GOP's Senate candidate in Utah, who has problems with the 14th and 17th Amendments, and wants to lower the liability costs for oil companies that cause extensive environmental damage.

Space concerns no doubt prevented the editorial from including more names, but if we're talking about Republicans running statewide who are very far to the right, it's only fair to also note Colorado's Dan Maes, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, Florida's Marco Rubio, and Minnesota's Tom Emmer.

The NYT's editorial concluded, "These new Republican candidates are out of touch with mainstream American values of tolerance and pretty much everything else. They need to be challenged head-on." That makes sense, of course, but I also think it matters who's doing the challenging. In 2008, more than a few Republicans broke ranks and threw their support to Barack Obama. In 2010, are there still GOP leaders willing to stand up and say their party has fallen off the rails?

The Media We Have

The following parody of Bai is spot on.
Ezra Klein:
Where Obama went wrong (Bizarro earth remix)

Democrats in Washington are divided and somewhat puzzled over President Obama’s fading popularity. They reject, of course, the Republican view that the president is basically a showy communicator whose preference for speeches rather than action has alienated voters. But that’s about as far as the consensus goes.

In conversations over the past few weeks, some of the party’s leading strategists told me that it all comes down to accomplishments, or -- here’s that ubiquitous word again -- “deliverables.” The president, who ran such a brilliant campaign, they argue, has utterly failed to live up to the promise of his election. They cited perceived missed opportunities like the president’s decision to expand S-CHIP rather than pursuing health-care reform and suggested that he hadn’t done enough to re-regulate the financial sector in the aftermath of one of the worst financial crises in the nation's history.

But when I put the same question to Michael Knowing, the former White House chief of staff who led Obama’s transition team, I heard what sounded like a deeper and more persuasive explanation. You might call it the “communications box” theory.

Like other Democrats, Knowing, who now runs the liberal Center for American Prospects and is arguably the most influential Washington Democrat not currently in government, assumes that many of the president’s struggles were unavoidable. Stubborn joblessness and anemic growth have thus far overwhelmed the president's persuasive powers and defined the administration.

But to whatever extent Obama controlled the fate of his young presidency, Knowing believes that his most consequential decisions on domestic policy stemmed from one overarching conviction: that the president’s most important job was to govern in a post-partisan, consensus-oriented manner, which required him to largely give up on his large legislative promises.

“By focusing on his larger image, which was understandable, they necessarily gave up big legislative accomplishments,” Knowing said, referring to White House advisers. “They cast him as a builder of consensus, not a driver of consensus. They were kind of locked into their campaign rhetoric, even as the country hungered for action.”

This was not a given. All presidents have broad thematic priorities, but they have laws they want to pass, too. Ronald Reagan saw a major transformation of the American tax code as a larger goal. Bill Clinton publicly hammered away at his ideas remaking the American health-care system.

Unlike his recent predecessors, however, Obama was defined more by his unlikely campaign victories than his legislative accomplishments, and he seemed determined, above all else, to deliver on the thematic promises he made to voters. He chose a vice president and a chief of staff who contributed to his post-partisan image, and he filled his most senior posts (aside from those occupied by longtime advisers) with campaign aides.

“That strategy was built on the no-economic-stall option,” Knowing said. “In other words, the idea was that you didn’t have to get the unemployment rate to a certain number, but you had to respond to the American people's hunger for a less contentious political sphere, and people would appreciate that, and it would be palpable, and it would lead to the sort of Republican cooperation needed to pass major bills.”

The problem, as Mr. Knowing says, is that “we’re all still waiting for that.”

(Source, context. And just to clear up any confusion: Yes, this is a parody. It's easy to imagine an Obama administration that did exactly what a lot of its critics suggested and is now being hammered for not pursuing a more ambitious legislative agenda.)

Jonathan Bernstein: Oy Bai

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist. He blogs at A plain blog about politics.

Just last month, Matt Bai "discovered" that the source of Barack Obama's troubles was that the Democrats weren't specific enough in their campaign proposals during the 2006 and 2008 campaigns. He's back again today with yet another explanation for Obama's sagging approval ratings; now, it seems that Americans have soured on Obama because he's too much of a legislator. It was nonsense then, and it's nonsense now. It's not complicated at all: Obama's approval ratings have fallen because the economy stinks. End of story. Anything else is on the margins...and it's certainly possible that everything else is pushing his ratings up, not down.

The sad part is that there are at least two interesting stories Bai could have told. One is a story of what Democratic insiders believe is going on. It sounds as if he actually got a fair amount of that...he hears "the party's leading strategists" tell him that the president has a problem with framing issues properly, and really that's what John Podesta is telling him, too. Unfortunately, because the story is written as Bai's search for a hidden "real" explanation, he basically dismisses what those strategists have to say, and perhaps much of what Podesta has to say. But those things are actually interesting, and important. Do leading Democrats believe that the president has veered too far to the left? Do they believe that all or at least most of the party's troubles are basically just a reflection of the economy? Or do they in fact believe that message, and not substance, is the problem? What these insiders believe is going on can be terribly important -- not because they are well-positioned to actually know the true explanation, but because they're likely to act on whatever it is that they believe, and those actions will have consequences.

The second story Bai could have told is one about how the president is actually apportioning his time and effort between legislating and other activities. Obama has been criticized for placing a very low priority on filling vacancies at the Fed, and more generally for being slow to nominate people to executive branch positions, but we haven't seen all that much reporting about the process. Now, that would have required a different set of interviews for Bai, but it certainly is possible that he could have shed some light on this story. Is Obama in fact, as a former legislator, prone to overlooking other aspects of the presidency? I don't know the answer to that, but it's an important question -- even though outside of perhaps the Fed positions, it's not likely to be a question that will explain much about his current approval levels. Still, an answer to this question could help us understand quite a bit about the Obama administration, since many things are important even if they don't affect approval ratings and elections.

Instead, unfortunately, Bai gives us fantasy. We're told that former governors Clinton and Reagan didn't have this legislator's problem that's dragging Obama down, but of course Clinton and Reagan were if anything less popular in the second August of their presidencies than Obama is. We're told that his legislator's focus prevented him from entering into "White House partnerships with Republican governors or even with conservative foundations or industry groups," but not told about the fate of Charlie Crist, who was booted out of his party for daring to work with the president. And in a truly breathtaking flight from reality...well, let me give you the paragraph:

Think of it this way: if your singular goal is to pass bills, and Democratic lawmakers are in a frenzy this week over A.I.G.’s bonuses or Goldman Sachs’s investments, then you might feel forced to castigate big business, too.

Huh? So the problem for Barack Obama is that if only he wasn't foolishly allowing himself to be held hostage by crazed Dem members of Congress, he'd be free to embrace AIG and Goldman? And that would make him more popular? You know, I don't really think that the president's rhetoric can change very much, but even I am fairly sure that had Obama heroically stood with AIG, Goldman, and big business, he'd be a good 5-10 points lower in the polls, not to mention that various liberal senators and governors might suddenly be feeling the urge to take their summer vacations this year in Iowa and New Hampshire.

All told, it's a disaster of a piece, especially since it appears to be a waste of some potentially interesting interviews.

You know...this isn't only Matt Bai's fault. It's also a mistake by the Times. The category of reported analysis piece was, if I have the history correct, basically invented in reaction to the advent of TV, and especially 24-hour cable news networks -- no longer would readers really count on their morning newspaper to tell them the basics of what had happened the previous day, and so newspapers tried to find things to do that TV news wasn't giving their viewers. The first problem is that the sorts of things that make someone a good traditional reporter aren't necessarily the things that make that person a good analyst. The second is that Bai and the Times aren't living in a world dominated by Walter Cronkite or the old CNN Headline News Network; they're living in a news environment that has Matt Yglesias and Jonathan Chait constantly pointing out the connection between the economy and presidential success, and also political scientists such as Brendan Nyhan and John Sides and Seth Masket and, well, me, all of whom have carefully explained the relationships between the economy, presidential approval, and elections. There's still room for reported analysis -- in fact, done well it's as important as ever -- but it's no longer a scarce resource, and I think in practice that means that to be worthwhile, it has to be engaged with the larger conversation. New York Times columnists Paul Krugman and Ross Douthat have done that with their opinions, by addressing counterarguments in their (highly recommended) NYT blogs. I don't know, but I think it must help them to know that whatever they write they'll have to be prepared to defend.

Bai? He just seems to stumble from one evidence-free theory to the next, apparently never stopping to consider the critiques he leaves in his wake. Just a mess.

Stopping by the L.A. Times' website this morning, I noticed a bizarre headline: "Obama now blames poor job numbers on congressional inaction. Wait! His party runs Congress." The emphasis was in the original.

This seemed pretty dumb on its face, so, naturally, I click on the link. It turned out to be another bizarre Andrew Malcolm tirade, with inane policy insights. Did you know, for example, that "employers are holding back on hiring" because of "the certainty of new taxes after Nov. 2"? Probably not, since no one who knows what they're talking about would present such nonsense as fact, especially when writing for a major newspaper.

But then we get to the heart of the matter.

According to the president, he's been "adamant" with Congress for months now about a new jobs bill to help small businesses. Obama says this really good bill is stalled in the Senate, where so much administration legislation has been crammed through so effectively by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid's been so good at it, in fact, that he's now running for his political life in a reelection campaign back in Nevada where Obama's legislation is not so popular.

Reid's up against a conservative Republican. So, That means that Harry Reid must be a Democrat, just like Obama, and just like 59% of the Senate's votes.

The very same party that has controlled both houses of Congress since the 2006 election and really controlled them both since the 2008 hopey-changey balloting.

So, facing the growing grim possibility of a GOP surge on Nov. 2, is this maybe the start of buddy-bickering within the Democratic huddle? Vulnerable people pointing the proverbial political finger of blame at someone else? That's ridiculous, of course.

I just have the hardest time understanding why the L.A. Times would publish such lazy drivel. Obama and Reid want a bill to boost small business incentives; Republicans don't. This might be "the start of buddy-bickering within the Democratic huddle"? Given that Dems agree on the policy, what does that even mean?

And if the Democratic majority wants to pass a bill, and Republicans refuse to allow an up-or-down vote, why is it "ridiculous" to blame the GOP for its obstructionism?

The point of the childish item seems to be that Democrats control Congress, so they should be able to pass what they want. That might be true, if the Senate operated by majority rule, as it used to before modern abuses became commonplace. But Malcolm's little rant acts as if filibusters don't even exist.

To be sure, Malcolm is a partisan activist. I get it. His work is intended to reflect Republican press releases, so items like these serve their intended purpose.

But shouldn't the L.A. Times, as a major news outlet, feel some qualms about paying to publish deliberately misleading nonsense?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Lies, distortions, jingoism, xenophobia"

Who is Pam Geller? Chris Hayes profiles the woman behind the Cordoba House controversy.

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

John Cole: Careful With That Axe, Eugene

Eugene Robinson offers up some blunt talk:

Lies, distortions, jingoism, xenophobia—another day, another campaign issue that Republicans can use to bash President Obama and the Democrats. First it was illegal immigration. Now it’s the so-called Ground Zero mosque, which is not at all what its opponents claim.

First, it’s not at Ground Zero. The site in question is two blocks north of the former World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan; an existing mosque is just a few hundred feet more distant from the site of the collapsed towers. Second, while the planned building would indeed house a place of worship, it is designed to be more of a community center along the lines of a YMCA. Plans include a fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, bookstore, performing arts center and food court. Kebabs do not threaten our way of life.

As a commenter pithily noted the other day, calling this a mosque is like calling a casino in Las Vegas a cathedral because it has a wedding chapel.

I don't expect much from Tim Pawlenty. He has a presidential campaign to prepare, and a right-wing base to pander to, so it's inevitable that much of his rhetoric will be cheap and silly.

But this is ridiculous, even for Pawlenty.

Add Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) to the list politicians with selective memory about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's global outreach on behalf of the United States.

Pawlenty, a presidential hopeful for 2012, appeared on Fox News' "Hannity" last night to decry Obama's support for the Islamic cultural center proposed by Rauf's Cordoba House at a site two blocks from Ground Zero. He also criticized the State Department for sending Rauf on a diplomatic mission to the Middle East, saying that was "disgusting" and "dangerous."

"To have him be the leader not just of this mosque but to hire him through the State Department and send him around the world on our behalf is ridiculous," Pawlenty told Sean Hannity. "It is quite quite dangerous, quite concerning."

Now, Pawlenty doesn't know anything about national security, diplomacy, or foreign policy, so it stands to reason that he'd be confused about this. But he should at least try to keep up with current events before talking nonsense on national television.

As Adam Serwer reported last week, the State Department has "a long-term relationship" with Rauf -- which includes the Bush administration also sending him to the Middle East to assist with the U.S. diplomatic agenda in the region.

Was that "quite, quite dangerous," too?

For that matter, the FBI partnered with Rauf in 2003 on counter-terrorism efforts. Indeed, the FBI considered him an ally and one of New York's most respected Muslim voices.

Was that "ridiculous," too?

It's ironic -- every time Pawlenty takes steps to seem more credible, he ends up looking more foolish.

This week, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R), hoping to make the case against the proposed Park51 community center, compared Muslim Americans to Nazis. On MSNBC yesterday, Pat Buchanan -- yes Pat Buchanan -- said Gingrich went too far.

Buchanan said Gingrich is just being a "political opportunist," hoping to keep up with former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in advance of the 2012 presidential primaries.

"How do you get more attention than Sarah Palin, who's very good at this, is to go two steps further," Buchanan said. "I mean, I think bringing the Nazis into the argument is always absurd in American politics because there is no valid comparison there."

As much as I appreciate Buchanan's criticism, I can't help but notice how odd it is to hear him to say "bringing the Nazis into the argument is always absurd in American politics." A year ago, it was none other than Pat Buchanan who compared non-existent "death panels" as part of health care reform to "Hitler's Third Reich, marrying Social Darwinism to Aryan racial supremacy." He's also offered some bizarre commentary on Hitler's intentions during World War II.

With that in mind, when Buchanan thinks Gingrich has gone too far with Nazi rhetoric, you know ol' Newt has pushed the envelope.

Either you support the First Amendment or you don't Chris Hayes points out the inappropriateness of applying the word "support" to everything allowed by the First Amendment when it's the First Amendment itself that warrants support.

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

Shortly before the House broke for its August recess, Republicans killed a bill that seemed like one of the year's most obvious no-brainers.

The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would pay health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. The legislation was fully paid for, closing a tax loophole for American companies that try to hide their headquarters at P.O. box in the Caymans.

The GOP trashed the bill, calling the money a "slush fund." It needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and came up short -- nearly every Democrat voted for it, and nearly every Republican voted against it.

Yesterday, some of the heroes and their families who need this bill to pass expressed their deep disappointment -- by blaming President Obama for legislation that Republicans opposed.

Ailing 9/11 responders slammed President Obama on Tuesday for sounding off on the Ground Zero mosque while keeping silent on a $7.2 billion health care bill.

"Why have you failed us? We thought you would be our champion" in pushing the legislation, John Feal wrote to Obama.

So, let me get this straight. Obama supports the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Congressional Democrats support the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. If passed, the president would gladly sign the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law. Republicans not only trashed the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, but blocked it from passing.

But Obama has "failed" 9/11 responders?

I'm reminded of that episode of "The West Wing," in the third season, when Donna tells Josh about some voters' concerns about Bartlett. "They think the President is going to privatize Social Security," Donna said. "He's not going to ... that's the other guys!" Josh replied.

Obama's right about health care for 9/11 first responders. It's "the other guys" who are the problem.

Indeed, for all the recent attention about converting a closed-down Burlington Coat Factory into a local community center, many of the same politicians who claim to have endless passion in defense of Ground Zero had (a) no qualms about voting against the 9/11 health care bill; or (b) no criticism for those who did.

The disconnect matters.

mistermix: Least Surprising News of the Day

Remember the site that some of you visited to test your Internet speed? Well, the results are in. The average advertised broadband speed is 6.7 mbps. The average real speed is about 4 mbps, which is a McEstimated 6% or 600% of the advertised speed, depending on how many martinis you had last night.

Even though the FCC can’t regulate ISPs because any regulation will destroy the magic free market fairy dust, cute kittens and shiny ponies that power our Internet revolution, they’ve proposed a labeling standard that would show how well an ISP lives up to its broadband claims.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Unamiguously True

McEstimate: Any figure given by the Business and Economics editor of the Atlantic or an equally reliable source (Bill Kristol, Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, an anonymous tea party organizer, your dog, your neighbor’s toddler, your own personal peyote-induced vision that you had while vomiting tequila and bile through your nose onto yourself at sunrise at Burning Man) in which it is just generally acknowledged that the actual number most probably is either higher or lower by a factor of ten.

For example, I might state: “The last time I had my IQ checked, it was 1300, but that is just a McEstimate.”

See also:

Within an order of megantude—close enough to be published.

Ezra Klein:
Paul Ryan's plan would end Medicare as we know it
"The Democrats' political machine has attacked my contribution to this debate," wrote Paul Ryan, "making the false claim that the only solution put forward to save Medicare would 'end Medicare as we know it.'"

This is a baffling line of argument. There's nothing false about the claim that Ryan's plan would end Medicare as we know it. In fact, it's unambiguously true. Currently, Medicare is a government-run insurer that pays the health-care costs of all senior citizens. Under Ryan's plan, senior citizens would be given vouchers that they could use toward private insurance. Poor seniors would get more-generous vouchers, and rich seniors would get less-generous vouchers. The way Ryan saves money is by holding the growth of the vouchers beneath the growth of health-care costs, so as care costs more and more, the vouchers cover less and less.

This might be a good reform or it might be a bad reform, but it's undoubtedly a wholesale transformation of Medicare. Ryan should argue that this is a good thing, rather than try to obscure what he's attempting to do.

Tapper: President Obama on Senate Republicans: 'Obstruct More? Is That Even Possible?'

ABC News' David Kerley and Karen Travers report:

President Obama kicked off a three-day, five state campaign fundraising swing in Milwaukee this afternoon, stumping for Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett.

While he did the usual cheerleading of the local candidate, Obama once again turned his attention to Republicans in Washington.

Republicans driving the car into the ditch, wrong economic policies for the nation, need to move forward not backward – all of that was included in the president’s remarks but he also had some fresh material courtesy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In an interview with the New York Times McConnell said charges that he blocked the president’s agenda are okay by him because of the results.

“I am amused with their comments about obstructionism,” McConnell said to the Times. “I wish we had been able to obstruct more. They were able to get the health care bill through. They were able to get the stimulus through. They were able to get the financial reform through. These were all major pieces of legislation, and if I would have had enough votes to stop them, I would have.”

Today Obama used McConnell’s comment to paint the Republican Party in general as the party of “no.”

“Obstruct more? Is that even possible?,” he said.

Obama said the Republicans have a twist on his campaign slogan, “Yes We Can.”

“These guys slogan is ‘No we can’t,’” the president said. “Clean energy? No we can’t. Health care? No we can’t. Wall Street reform? no we can’t.”

The event raised around $325,000 for Barrett’s campaign and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Obama now heads to Los Angeles for a fundraiser at the home of John Wells, the executive producer of "E.R." and "The West Wing.”

The event is expected to bring in around $1 million and feature some Hollywood star power like Jeffrey Jacob "J. J." Abrams, co-creator of "Lost" is expected, as is producer/screenwriter Judd Apatow and director James L. Brooks.

-David Kerley and Karen Travers

John Cole: Peter Beinart Is Shrill

And right:

Remember when George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies used to say that the “war on terror” was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me? Remember when Karen Hughes paid millions to produce glitzy videos of Muslim Americans testifying about how free they were to practice their religion in the USA? Remember Bush’s second inaugural, when he said “America’s ideal of freedom” is “sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran?”

Once upon a time, Republicans were so confident that the vast majority of Muslims preferred freedom to jihad that they believed the U.S. could install democracy in Iraq within months. Now, confronted with a group of Muslim Americans who want to build a cultural center that includes Jews and Christians on the board (how many churches and synagogues do that?), GOP leaders call them terrorists because they don’t share Benjamin Netanyahu’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once upon a time, the “war on terror” was supposed to bring American values to Saudi Arabia. Now Newt Gingrich says we shouldn’t build a mosque in Lower Manhattan until the Saudis build churches and synagogues in Mecca—which is to say, we’re bringing Saudi values to the United States. I wonder how David Petraeus feels about all this. There he is, slogging away in the Hindu Kush, desperately trying to be culturally sensitive, watching GIs get killed because Afghans believe the U.S. is waging a war on Islam, and back home, the super-patriots on Fox News have… declared war on Islam.

So please, no more talk about those idealistic neoconservatives who are willing to expend blood and treasure so Afghans and Iraqis can live free. People in Basra and Kandahar had better hope that America’s counterinsurgency warriors create a society in which they can practice their religion free of intimidation and insult. Because it’s now clear they can’t do so on the lower tip of the island of Manhattan.

Not sure how the president is furiously backtracking, as Beinart asserts, but that is a minor quibble over an excellent and deserved rant.

McMorris-Santoro (TPM): Tea Partiers Say Net Neutrality Hurts Freedom

The tea party, a movement whose success on the grassroots level is in many ways attributable to the power of free and open Internet communications, is joining the growing conservative crusade against the FCC's plan to enforce net neutrality on internet service providers. According to one tea partier involved in the effort, the movement is opposing net neutrality because "it's an affront to free speech and free markets."

The push toward an Internet regulated by corporations rather than government seems to be a new part of the tea party agenda, with fears mounting that the Obama administration's push for net neutrality is, essentially, the next cap-and-trade, government health care takeover or any of the myriad other socialist plots of the past year and a half.

As The Hill's Sara Jerome reports, "35 Tea Party groups" across the country have joined a coalition of conservative groups calling on the FCC "not to boost its authority over broadband providers through a controversial process known as reclassification." The coalition recently sent a letter to the FCC calling on the government agency to keep its hand off the Internet.

One of the groups who signed the letter was the Fountain Hills Tea Party in Arizona. Like many, many grassroots tea party groups across the country, Fountain Hills has a Ning social networking site, as well as a more traditional homepage, both key to communicating with members. Supporters of net neutrality often suggest that it's smaller sites like these that would suffer the most under the tiered Internet plan ISPs are expected to establish if no government rules require them to treat all Internet traffic equally.

Much like the Netroots movement, the tea party's communication and information dissemination is fueled by online tools. In addition to Ning, tea partiers are avid tweeters, skypers, YouTubers and Facebookers. Yet their seeming embrace of an Internet divvied up and defined by corporate deals puts them at odds with their Internet-savvy colleagues on the left, who have clamored for net neutrality for years.

Peter Bordow, a leader of the Fountain Hills Tea Party, told me that he's not completely ready to make a firm judgment on net neutrality yet, but he leans toward opposing it. He has some experience with the issue, having provided Internet services to customers in the past. (The letter to the FCC is signed by Jeff Cohen, another leader of Fountain Hills. But Bordow told me that his group "did not, as an organization, sign any position or opinion letter of any kind regarding net neutrality.")

"To be completely honest, I have seen and heard fairly compelling arguments on both sides of this issue," he said Friday. "As a former ISP owner, and strong believer in the free market, I tend to oppose legislation that gives appointed bureaucrats the power to tell (and enforce) how companies design and deliver their services to their customers."

In an email, Bordow broke down his concerns as a web-friendly tea partier when it comes to net neutrality:

It is possible (and may in fact even be predictable) that this ability to selectively throttle traffic could be used to "unfairly" limit certain traffic (Internet destinations) to users. I just don't think it is the Government's responsibility (or within their enumerated powers) to legislate powers to appointed bureaucrats to decide "what is fair".

History shows us again and again that whenever the power to decide "what is fair" is given to Government officials and/or appointed bureaucrats, there is far more propensity and opportunity for abuse of this power. It is only when free citizens and the free market are able to flex their collective purchasing muscle that we can be sure that this power is not abused.

So there you have it: on balance, tea partiers would rather leave companies in charge of the Internet because, as Bordow says, that's safer than another government bureaucracy. Indeed, Jamie Radtke, a leader of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation and another signatory on the letter, told The Hill's Jerome that the Obama administration push for net neutrality was the same kind of government encroachment the tea party movement opposes on fronts like health care and direct intervention in the economy. Radtke said to expect the tea party to become a vocal part of the opposition to net neutrality rules as the debate continues to heat up.

"I think the clearest thing is it's an affront to free speech and free markets," Radtke told the paper. "There are so many assaults on individual liberties -- the EPA, net neutrality, cap-and-trade, card-check; the list goes on -- that sometimes the Tea Party doesn't know where to start its battles."

What John and friends said ....

John Cole: Paging Pauline Kael

When I was a Republican, I always felt like I had a feel for the political climate. Right now, though, I’m just baffled. For the life of me, I can not figure out why anyone would be voting for the GOP in the fall. But the Dems will probably get hammered, and it just strikes me as inexplicable.

On the other hand, a sick part of me wants the Republicans to win so our idiot nation, from the never happy poutrage left to the idiot independents to the wingnutty mouthbreathers, can get what they want, and get it hard.

from the comments:

  1. tim

    “When I was a Republican…”

    Again, an excellent reminder of why your credibility must always be viewed with skepticism.

    Secondly, the Dems will likely be hammered this fall because the American people are a truly stupid lot. I mean, the dems are turncoats and corporatist hacks it’s true, but the republicans contain a whole other level of evil.

    After eight years of JC’s Bush and all the destruction wrought thereby, the fact that the republicans even have a chance to retake power tells us all we need to know about the average American voter: shit for brains.

  2. 7


    It is incredible that Americans will want to dunk their heads in the latrine once more, but maybe it’s not as bad when your head is empty.

  3. 8


    I have to admit, as I watch the news every night and the endless stream of ads being run by various right wing groups, a spiteful part of me wishes I could just vote straight Republican and then flee to some safe haven where I could watch from a distance as the U.S. falls to pieces. I really don’t understand what it will take to make people realize just how completely insane the American right has become. It’s very difficult to not succumb to some level of nihilism and hopelessness anymore.

  4. 9

    demo woman

    For me the last straw into melancholy has been the Cordoba House. At what price victory..The Bill of Rights …yeah let’s trash it..The Constitution..well Saudi doesn’t have that and common decency well we don’t believe in political correctness.. Yeah, I feel your pain.
    When the Democratic Party and The President won, all that was left of the Grand Old Party were splinters of wing nuts. The MSM appearing Fair and Balanced wanted to give them a voice and now it’s the only voice. I’m sick, sad, disillusioned and frustrated.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday - Scary Muslim Edition

Marshall (TPM): Getting Some Facts On The Table

Over the weekend, in the numerous articles written in response to President Obama's comments on the mosque furor, you'll notice that a frequent refrain is to the purported opposition to the Cordoba House project (aka the 'Ground Zero Mosque') from families of 9/11 victims. And as evidence of this opposition you'll frequently see quotes from a woman named Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot aboard the plane flown into the Pentagon on 9/11.

Always in such cases it's important to recognize that unlike most of us who experienced 9/11 as a national or communal tragedy, she suffered it as a personal one. That's real. I respect that grief. And I believe in giving people stricken by overwhelming loss a wide berth in assessing the lessons they draw from the tragedies that affected them.

That is not the same, however, as turning a blind eye when lazy journalists present her as representing or even being representative of the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. The most cursory googling shows that she's been advocating a string of right-wing positions going back over the last decade. Indeed, she's the cofounder with Liz Cheney of Keeping America Safe.

Also very worth noting is that none of the 9/11 Families groups who actually seem to be membership organizations made up of families of the victims seem to have taken positions on the mosque issue at all. I looked at the websites of several such organizations. And they each contain 'about' pages with some information about the organization, its membership and in most cases boards of directors. The website of Burlingame's group, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America, contains no such information. But it's statement of purpose does give some sense of viewpoint: "The war against sharia is a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity."

Marshall (TPM): Embracing the Holy War

A few weeks back I asked whether we weren't seeing a perceptible rise in Islamophobia, paradoxically many years after the 9/11 attacks. And if we are, why? There are many potential and probable reasons. But of all the emails I received, the couple that struck me most were the ones that pointed to George W. Bush. Yes, him, George W. Bush. Whatever his other errors and shortcomings, with the exception of a few very poorly chosen words at the outset (calling the War Against Terror a "crusade"), Bush was quite consistent in arguing that America was not in a war against Islam. And that put a real brake on the forces of xenophobia, extremist religion and religious hatred, almost all of which were in his own party.

For those of us who believe his policies in the Middle East were close to catastrophic, this fact may seem of somewhat trivial importance. But in the US I think it was actually a pretty big deal. Conservatives' ability to play on xenophobic fears about President Obama's race and Islamic ancestry has clearly played into the politics. But as TPM Reader CB wrote last month ...

His being President and the nominal head of the GOP basically kept a lid on many of the fanatical Islamophobes and the few who did rear their ugly heads (Tancredo, Bachmann and others) were essentially kept away from the Party and to some degree the media (by being told to keep their mouths basically shut on the issue or just being ignored by the media because they were viewed as merely the fringe).

Which brings me to a very interesting piece in Politico today. In this piece by Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman argue that the GOP's harsh turn against Islam represents an effort to repudiate the former president's legacy on this front and embrace the 'Clash of Civilizations' worldview or what might more properly be termed a Holy War between America and Islam.

Easley (Politicsusa): 40 Religious Leaders Denounce Sarah Palin and Fox’s Hate Speech

Forty different Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders and scholars came together to release a statement condemning the hate language of Fox News, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich as it relates to the so called Ground Zero mosque, “Fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric only undermine treasured values at the heart of diverse faith traditions and our nation’s highest ideals.”

The statement released by Faith In The Public Life condemned the religious bigotry of Gingrich, Palin, and Fox News, “As Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders and scholars committed to religious freedom and inter-religious cooperation, we are deeply troubled by the xenophobia and religious bigotry that has characterized some of the opposition to a proposed Islamic center and mosque near where the World Trade Center towers once stood.”

It continued, “Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, is the most recent prominent opponent to cast this debate in a way that demonizes all Muslims and exploits fear to divide Americans.”It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way,” Gingrich said in a statement. Sarah Palin called plans for the center a “provocation.” Fox News has aired a steady stream of irresponsible commentary and biased coverage that reduces what should be a civil debate into starkly combative terms.”

Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President of the National Council of Churches said, “We are deeply saddened by those who denigrate a religion which in so many ways is a religion of compassion and peace by associating all Muslims with violent extremism. That’s like equating all Christians to Timothy McVeigh’s actions. This center will reflect not only the best of Islam, but the enduring hope that Christians, Jews and Muslims can together find common ground in addressing the most urgent challenges of our time.”

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby said, “It’s simply wrong for Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin to malign all Muslims by comparing this cultural center and mosque with a radical ideology that led to the horrific attacks of 9-11. We fail to honor those killed by terrorists when we betray the bedrock principle of religious freedom that has guided our democracy for centuries.”

The statement concluded by calling for an end to the fear mongering and hate filled rhetoric, “Mr. Gingrich, Ms. Palin and other prominent voices privileged to have the ear of the media would make a more lasting contribution to our nation if they stopped issuing inflammatory statements and instead helped inspire a civil dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims committed to a future guided by the principles of compassion, justice and peace. Fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric only undermine treasured values at the heart of diverse faith traditions and our nation’s highest ideals.”

I wish more people of all faiths would stand up and denounce the divisive hate filled tactics employed on a daily basis by Gingrich, Palin, and Fox News. Gingrich and Palin are trying to create a wave of hate to ride to the presidency, and Fox News has found that peddling paranoia and hate is very, very profitable. Playing upon religious tensions is bad enough, but to intentionally create disunity for political gain, with no regard for the consequences to our nation is almost criminal.

The politics of division and hate are the tactics that political movements always resort to when they are out of ideas and they possess no other means to motivate and inspire their supporters. Palin and Gingrich’s willingness to take us down this path is a reflective of their own personal ambitions combined with a complete lack of interest in actually solving our nation’s problems. A plea to our lesser emotions is easy, and sometimes effective, but by doing so, both Palin and Gingrich are demonstrating why neither one of them will ever be capable of inspiring the birth of a better America.


For months, the Republican message has been vague but focused -- the economy matters more than everything else. The GOP doesn't necessarily have an economic agenda, or credible ideas on how to improve the economy, or even an explanation as to why they want to go back to the some policies that got us in this mess in the first place, but the focus is still there.

That may be changing. Republicans have seized on a plan to convert a shut-down clothing store into a community center in lower Manhattan, believing the plan can help pit Americans against each other and give the GOP a boost in the midterm elections. President Obama's spirited defense on Friday of the First Amendment and the American tradition of religious liberty has made Republicans even more anxious to embrace demagoguery for electoral gain.

Time's Mark Halperin published a letter to the Republican Party, acknowledging the "political potency" of the issue, and taking note of the fact that the president's support for American principles puts him at odds with public opinion. Halperin concludes, however, that it would be in America's interests for Republicans to show restraint.

Yes, Republicans, you can take advantage of this heated circumstance, backed by the families of the 9/11 victims, in their most emotional return to the public stage since 2001.

But please don't do it. There are a handful of good reasons to oppose allowing the Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero, particularly the family opposition and the availability of other, less raw locations. But what is happening now -- the misinformation about the center and its supporters; the open declarations of war on Islam on talk radio, the Internet and other forums; the painful divisions propelled by all the overheated rhetoric -- is not worth whatever political gain your party might achieve.

It isn't clear how the battle over the proposed center should or will end. But two things are profoundly clear: Republicans have a strong chance to win the midterm elections without picking a fight over President Obama's measured words. And a national political fight conducted on the terms we have seen in the past few days will lead to a chain reaction at home and abroad that will have one winner -- the very extreme and violent jihadists we all can claim as our true enemy.

As I said, Republicans, this is your moment. As a famous New Yorker once urged in a very different context: Do the right thing.

This is excellent, thoughtful advice. It asks Republicans to look past the short-term gratification that demagoguery offers, and consider what's best for the country and our broader interests.

What Halperin wants, in other words, is for Republicans to demonstrate some decency and respect for American values. I would very much like to think this is still possible, but the party has offered no credible reason to believe it has the necessary strength of character.

I would genuinely love to be proven wrong, but waiting for GOP integrity invariably leads to crushing disappointment.

Anne Laurie (BJ): Just Be Like Us!

Want a CW-approved solution to the Great Not-Actually-Ground-Zero, Not-Actually-A-Mosque ‘Controversy’? Our Media Village Idiots are here to serve! Shorter Ross “Doubt That” Douthat:

History demonstrates that Real Americans™ will not accept those peculiar Muslim people as suitable neighbors until they stop flaunting their foreign-ness and accept the Velveeta-on-Wonder-Bread banquet of my gated-community fantasies. And who can blame us?

You think I’m exaggerating? Judge for yourself:

... During the great waves of 19th-century immigration, the insistence that new arrivals adapt to Anglo-Saxon culture — and the threat of discrimination if they didn’t — was crucial to their swift assimilation. The post-1920s immigration restrictions were draconian in many ways, but they created time for persistent ethnic divisions to melt into a general unhyphenated Americanism.

The same was true in religion. The steady pressure to conform to American norms, exerted through fair means and foul, eventually persuaded the Mormons to abandon polygamy, smoothing their assimilation into the American mainstream. Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.

So it is today with Islam…

It’s a sad, sad thing that Douthat was born out of his place and time—which, from his columns, would have been among the upper-middle-class Protestant grandees of William McKinley’s administration. But I can’t find enough pity in in my heart to think it acceptable for Douthat and the fReichtards, Talibangelicals, and Banana Republicans he cheerleads to drag the rest of us back to their dreams of a vicious and deservedly bygone era.

  • from the comments:


    I went to a wedding in Alabama when I was 17 and this old man asked me if we Catholics still cut up the babies nuns deliver after group sex with priests and used the flesh as the host and blood as the win at Mass.

    I said only if the babies are girls.

At a certain level, it's still hard to fathom why the Cordoba House is so controversial. A Burlington Coat Factory store closed down; a local religious leader wants to build a community center at the location. This isn't especially interesting.

At least, it shouldn't be.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) argued today on Fox News that his party, without a policy agenda or substantive ideas about the future, intends to pit Americans against each other over this issue during the campaign season.

"This is not about freedom of religion," Cornyn said. "I do think it's unwise to build a mosque in the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack."

First, saying it's "not about freedom of religion" doesn't make it so. When the right organizes to prevent a Muslim American from converting a clothing store into a community center, solely because Muslims will pray there, it's quite obviously about freedom of religion.

Second, Cornyn helps pinpoint the basis for conservative opposition: he believes it's "unwise" to "build a mosque in the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack."

No wonder Republicans are so upset -- they have no idea what they're talking about. If someone proposed building a house of worship for a specific faith group "in the site where" 9/11 occurred, I'd oppose it, too.

And while one would hope John Cornyn, never the sharpest crayon in the box, would understand the basics before going on television to talk about a divisive issue, now is as good a time as any to help him understand current events. Let's make this easy for him: no one is talking about building a mosque at Ground Zero. The proposal calls for converting an old Burlington Coat Factory into a community center, a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero.

I'm sure the conservative senator will want to apologize for his mistake, so the public isn't left with the wrong idea. In fact, Cornyn, who'll no doubt be embarrassed by his confusion, should probably let his Republican allies know. Once the right understands that there's no plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero, the whole dispute should fade away.


Think Progress: Former Bush Adviser Mark McKinnon Rips GOP’s Stance On Mosque: ‘We’re Reinforcing Al Qaeda’s Message’

On Morning Joe earlier today, a pair of leading Republicans — host Joe Scarborough and former Bush strategist Mark McKinnon — blasted the GOP for its xenophobic and unconstitutional stance against American Muslims’ right to build a new Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has claimed that the new Islamic center project “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.” Referencing that quote, Scarborough expressed angry disdain at Gingrich’s intolerance. “I don’t know where to begin,” Scarborough said. “To suggest that someone trying to build a tolerance center for moderate Muslims in New York is the equivalent of killing six million Jews is stunning to me.”

McKinnon then chimed in, arguing that the debate surrounding the Cordoba House project is contrary to his party’s principles. “We may get our membership [by the GOP] revoked,” McKinnon joked. “Screw ‘em,” Scarborough responded. McKinnon then said that the GOP’s stance is “reinforcing al Qaeda’s message”:

McKINNON: Usually Republicans are forthright in defending the Constitution. And here we are, reinforcing al Qaeda’s message that we’re at war with Muslims. So we’ve got this issue; then we’ve got the 14th Amendment issue, where Republicans are saying you’re not welcome here, when we were the architects of the 14th Amendment. So, I see a bad pattern where we’re headed as a Republican Party.

McKinnon said he believed President Obama has “done the right thing in stepping forward at this time on this issue.” He added, “Tolerance means tolerating things you don’t like, especially when you don’t like them. … I respect the President for making this move.” Watch it:

Writing in the Washington Post today, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson — using Bush-era terminology — reinforced McKinnon’s view. “Those who want a president to assert that any mosque would defile the neighborhood near Ground Zero are asking him to undermine the war on terrorism. A war on Islam would make a war on terrorism impossible,” Gerson writes.

This morning, Scarborough remarked that when he first entered Congress in 1994, he was deemed to be some “crazy,” “right wing nut job” for his ideological views. He explained that, while he still holds “the same views,” he is “feeling further and further distant from the people who are running my party.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Potpourri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sure hope not.

John Cole:
The Blind Leading the Stupid

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

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

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

I’m dying over here.

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

There they go again...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

This is why we made the manic progressive tag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a good question.