News Roundup for 5/31/11

Dragster school bus pops a wheelie
Sarah Palin's tour bus hits the road

-Headline of the day-
"Sarah Palin's bus tour treats reporters like paparazzi."

Sarah Palin clearly believes she's the most important person in the world -- and she wants to be sure the media treats her like it. In her big "hey, lookit me!" bus tour (which may or may not include an announcement on her presidential plans), Sarah's pretending she doesn't want anyone looking at her.

"I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media ... I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this, and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop's going to be," she told Fox News' Greta Von Susternoonie.

"When Palin says she wants news organizations to 'do a little bit of work,' what that means is she wants media outlets to simply follow her bus, wherever it might go," explains Steve Benen. "And wouldn't you know it, actual news organizations are doing just that." Because that's how bad our media sucks.

So, what's happening is that she's racing around the highways and news crews are racing around after her. "I just hope to God that one of these young producers with a camera whose bosses are making them follow Sarah Palin as a potential Republican candidate don't get in a car crash, because this is dangerous," said CBS News Producer Ryan Corsaro.

I've got a great idea; knock it off. Just let her big "hey, lookit me!" bus go careening down the highway all on its lonesome. In fifteen minutes, you'd be faxed a schedule with stops marked off with Google Maps.

I can guarantee that 100%. (CBS News)

-The goldmine-
Who stands to gain the most from a Sarah Palin presidential campaign?

Political cartoon - comedian prays Palin will run

Don't worry. There's still Shelly Bachmann. And Herman Cain. And Rick Santorum. And... (Political Wire)

-Bonus HotD-
"Recall elections approved for three more Wisconsin Republicans."

That makes six recalls approved for Republicans, zero for Democrats.

The GOP response to the news: "WAH!" (ThinkProgress)

Sarah Palin, Cultural Troll, Strings Out Her 16th Minute of Fame

Palin on motorcycle"Liberals like this? Then I don't."

I think that pretty much sums up the entirety of Sarah Palin's political philosophy. She represents the reactionary nature of modern conservatism, where -- if it weren't for the left -- she'd have no idea what she stood for. She's a policy lightweight and she's fasting in a smorgasbord of information, yet starving for attention.

At her very core, Sarah Palin is what so many rightwing people are -- a troll. And that's why the far right loves her. She is what Ann Coulter was, until Coulter became familiar and boring. These people have the attention span of goldfish and Ann Coulter, once the right's woman of the future, turned out to be the flavor of the month. Sure, she still sells books, but her days on the covers of magazines are over.

What both Palin and Coulter have learned is that the best way to a wingnut's heart is through their hatred. If you can piss liberals off, then you're all right. Policy ideas, actual logical arguments, facts and figures -- who needs them? Just say something that liberals will hate and the wingnuts will love you.

Fox Nation:

Sarah Palin's participation in the annual Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C., has fueled as much noise about a potential presidential candidacy as the thousands of motorcycle-riding veterans participating in the Rolling Thunder ride-along Sunday.

At the Pentagon parking lot where the mob of veterans and their families pre-position for the thunderous two-wheeler march down Constitution Ave, Palin, who was not expected to address the Memorial Day crowd, said she was thrilled to participate.

"I love that smell of the emissions," she said, donning sunglasses and a Harley Davidson skullcap-style, black helmet.

Not exhaust, emissions. Why? Because liberals are worried about emissions and, if liberals don't like something, then that means there should be more of it. Meanwhile, ThinkProgress points out that carbon emissions are at an all time high.

But the future isn't important. What's important is giving liberals a hard time. If Palin had been on the Titanic and liberals had been warning of icebergs, Sarah would be boring holes in lifeboats.

Luckily for everyone, Sarah Palin is on her sixteenth minute of fame. Soon, she'll join other heroes of the right like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck and Cal Thomas in the bottom of the toy box. The old cliche is true -- at least, on the right -- and familiarity does breed contempt. Whatever path Palin chooses -- doomed presidential campaign or continued Facebook trollery -- it'll be calculated to stretch out her remaining days of fame. And maybe cash in one last time.

There really isn't anyone home in Sarah Palin. At least, not Sarah Palin the public figure. She's just a reaction to what happens around her. She's a voice criticizing decisions made by others, without risking criticism herself by ever advocating an original position. She makes no arguments that are her own, she has no ideas that she didn't get second-hand, and the policies she defends have other authors. She's just a rubberband that snaps back in the opposite direction when pulled.

Fortunately -- whether she runs or not -- we're probably just about done with Sarah Palin. Unfortunately, bored wingnuts will replace her with another shiny new troll when they're done with her.



News Roundup for 5/27/11

Jefferson Davis
Gov. Rick Perry

-Headline of the day-
"Texas Gov. Perry hints at possible presidential run."

That's right, Texican president and America's leading secessionist hates the America government so much that he's willing to take the helm -- and, presumably, steer it into the nearest iceberg.

After talking to reporters about the coming 2011 legislative session -- which in Texas lasts about a half hour -- he was asked if he would consider running for president afterward. "Yes Sir," Perry said. "I'm going to think about it."

Well, everyone got their shorts in a bunch, because no one likes the GOP field as it is now, and everyone got to thinking he was definitely going to run. Not so, says Texican Press Minister Mark Miner. Mark says Perry thinks about a lot of things and that those things don't often pan out. Call Rick a dreamer.

"He thinks about a lot of issues," Miner said. "Nothing has changed. The Governor has no intention of running for President."

Still, it might be worth a shot. If Perry can't get Texas to secede from America, maybe he can become President of America and secede from Texas!

That'd work, right? (McClatchy)

-Republicans want us to get naked with Paul Ryan-
Actual quote from Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) on Paul Ryan's Medicare plan: "I said it many times. This is like skinny dipping. Somebody has to be the first one in the pool and it's real lonely when you're the only one in the pool. Paul Ryan is in the pool. We want the rest of the town to come along."

Probably not the best metaphor. (Political Wire)

-Bonus HotD-
"Poll: Americans Don’t Approve Of Ryan's Plan For Medicaid, Either."

For God's sake, put some clothes on! (ThinkProgress)

Republicans and Homegrown Terrorism

Man hold sign reading 'Abortion is MURDER'
This is terrorism, right?

[Wisconsin State Journal:]

A Marshfield man who drove to Madison to kill an abortion doctor faces federal charges after he was arrested Wednesday night when his gun went off in his motel room not far from the Planned Parenthood clinic that he planned to attack Thursday.

Ralph Lang, 63, told a Madison police officer at the Motel 6, 1754 Thierer Road, that he had a gun "to lay out abortionists because they are killing babies," according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Lang said he planned on shooting the clinic's doctor "right in the head," according to the complaint. Asked if he planned to shoot just the doctor or nurses, too, Lang replied he wished he "could line them up all in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down," the complaint said.

In fact, this is religiously-motivated terrorism. According to the report, Lang had been in Madison a week earlier -- with a gun -- "but was having 'spiritual struggles' and was not '100 percent in sync with God' so he did not shoot anyone." The Madison clinic was apparently to be the first of many, as he had "a map of the U.S. with dots in each state and the handwritten words 'some abortion centers.'" Also on the map: the words, "Blessed Virgin Mary says Hell awaits any woman having an abortion."

Yeah, this is terrorism -- good old-fashioned religious extremist terrorism. Lang was found out after accidentally firing a bullet through his motel room door. If it weren't this example of responsible gun-ownership, it seems likely that he would've been able to carry out his planned shooting spree.

According to the National Clinic Violence Survey (pdf), carried out by the Feminist Majority Foundation, nearly one quarter of abortion providers experienced "severe violence" at their clinics in 2010.

Overall, the percentage of clinics experiencing severe violence has increased to 23.5% of all abortion providers participating in the survey in 2010, compared to 20% in 2008 and 18.5% in 2005. Moreover, this marked the highest level of violence recorded since 1997 when 25.0% of all clinics experienced one or more incidents of severe violence.

The right often makes the hyperbolic claim that liberals are "in bed with terrorists." Many of the birthers believe that President Obama is a terrorist. Yet, if this clinic violence is homegrown terrorism, then the party most associated and sympathetic with terrorists is the Republican Party. If you tell people over and over that abortion is murder, this is the predictable result. If you want to make sure this is the result, you lie to people and tell them they're paying for all the "murder" with their tax dollars.

It was, after all, House Republicans who attacked Planned Parenthood funding earlier this spring, portraying the organization as an abortion provider only and completely ignoring the services it provides in the field of women's health. It was Republican Sen. Jon Kyl who claimed that abortion was "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." The reality is three percent -- none paid for with taxpayer dollars.

What would Republicans say if Democrats were telling the same lies that are told by al Qaeda? I think we all know the answer to that. Yet Republicans repeat the lies told by anti-abortion terrorists on a regular basis. Maybe it's time to ask the question of Republicans that they would no doubt ask of Democrats in a similar situation.

"Why are you siding with terrorists?"



News Roundup for 5/26/11

Stop the Imperial Walker!
OK, done

-Headline of the day-
"Dane County judge strikes down collective bargaining law."

Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans are having a real rough week. First, they found out that polls aren't going their way. Now, the big piece of legislation that started the whole thing is dead in the water.

According to the report, "a Dane County judge has struck down Gov. Scott Walker's legislation repealing most collective bargaining for public employees." Why? Because they broke open meetings laws to jam the thing through and it turns out that breaking laws is illegal -- or some liberal, judicial activism crap like that.

Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a 33 page decision (pdf) overturning the law. "The Legislature and its committees are bound to comply with the open meetings law by their own choice. Having made that choice, they cannot now shield themselves from the provisions that give the law force and effect," she wrote.

In other words, you guys wrote the law -- what the hell are you complaining about?

Anyhoo, off it goes through the appeals process. If it survives, it'll probably be just in time for Scott Walker's recall replacement to repeal it. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, did you hear about that scary Supreme Court ruling that says California has to let a bunch of people out of prison? No? Well, Uncle Mark will tell us all about it!

Doing time
Click for animation

You know, if prison were the last resort for most offenders, instead of the first, then maybe they wouldn't have all these problems.

But then, what would the private prison industry do? (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"House GOP Staffers Floated Using Taxpayer Money To Promote Paul Ryan's Budget."

Because it's all about protecting the taxpayers and reducing the deficit, right? (ThinkProgress)

The Great State of Russconsin

Russ Feingold photo with map of Wisconsin borderWelcome to Russconsin. When Sen. Russ Feingold lost to Tea Party frootloop Ron Johnson just months ago, it appeared that the Democratic Party's moment had faded -- both in Wisconsin and nationally. Republicans descended on state houses and Washington in a "wave election," sweeping out Democrats and flipping blue to red. But then something happened. Republicans either forgot or ignored the fact that polling showed they didn't so much win these contests. Polling showed Democrats had lost. Republicans were swept in as part of a massive protest vote, not as an endorsement of their ideas.

But those Republicans decided, for one reason or another, to behave as if they'd been given a mandate. Perhaps some believed that if people actually saw GOP ideas in action, they'd come to support them -- that now was their time to shine. Maybe others thought that the people really did support their policies, but that the polling was somehow missing that fact. Still others had no interest in legislative careers; elected office being a form of activism, they simply wanted the chance to do as much damage as possible to the hated government, mandate be damned.

For whatever reason, Republicans engaged in overreach almost immediately. The populace voted them in on issues of jobs and the economy; instead, the GOP began to strip people of rights, increase unemployment through cuts and layoffs, and to giveaway anything that wasn't nailed down to moneyed interests in the forms of tax cuts, subsidies, and privatization. In Wisconsin, as it did nationwide, this got old fast.

In commenting on the special election in New York's 26th congressional district earlier this week, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling had this to say; "Congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular and voters think they're doing an even worse job than the Democrats they put out of office six months ago. That was true in NY-26 and that's true nationally. Last month we found nationally that 43% of voters thought House Republicans were doing a worse job than the Democrats did while in the majority to only 36% who felt they were an improvement. Even in NY-26, which voted 13 points more Republican than the country as a whole in 2008, 38% of voters think the Republicans are doing a worse job than the Democrats to only 34% who think they're an improvement. You can talk about Jack Davis all you want but the reality is that if voters thought House Republicans were bringing the improvement they hoped for when they went to vote last November Jane Corwin would have won tonight."

Republican overreach takes its toll. Which brings us back to Russconsin.

PPP also polled the coming recall of Gov. Scott Walker and found shades of Gray Davis. If a recall election were held today, Walker would lose -- decisively. Against his general election opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Wallker would be defeated 50%-43%. Against Russ Feingold, it would be 52%-42%.

50% support a recall, while 47% don't. But this is a misleading metric, since a much smaller percentage than fifty is needed to trigger a recall. Those numbers guarantee one.

Also up for polling is the seat held by retiring serial-backbencher Sen. Herb Kohl. In that race, Feingold is again the clear frontrunner. Of all the Democrats mentioned as possible candidates Russ does the best, beating GOP frontrunner and former Governor Tommy Thompson by 10 points.

So, seven months after he was voted out of office, former Sen. Russ Feingold can have his pick of elected offices. Will it be the Governor's Mansion in Madison, will it be back to work as the junior Senator from Wisconsin, or will it be something else? The world may not be his oyster, but this state certainly is.

Just months into what was supposed to be the Republican Party's crowning moment, the whole thing is collapsing around their ears.

Welcome to Russconsin.



News Roundup for 5/25/11

Ryan with background of flames
How voters see Paul Ryan

-Headline of the day-
"NY-26 Loss shows GOP must more aggressively promote Ryan reforms."

Last night there was an election to replace the naked CraigsList guy and a commie won. It was awful. The election hinged on whether people wanted to keep Medicare or, as Rep. Paul Ryan suggests, replace it with coupons from the Sunday paper. Voters in New York's 26th congressional district chose to keep it.

And, of course, the whole election was "Medicare this" and "Medicare that," as if the whole thing were somehow the government's business. Turned out that voters hated Ryan's plan and voted to shoot the Republican, Jane Corwin, into space. It was a debacle.

Anyway, what this all shows is that the GOP absolutely must bring up Ryan's Medicare plan as much as possible and be 100% supportive of it. Republicans need to get out there and get behind Paul Ryan's Medicare message because, if there's one thing that the voter's rejection of the Ryan plan proves, it's that the Ryan plan is a winner! Think about it; otherwise why would Democrats be so afraid of it? Huh? Huh? Yeah, you can't answer that...

Remember the conservative motto: if what you're doing isn't working, you need to do more of it. (GayPatriot)

-Der Gubernator's problems multiply-
Bad Reporter's Don Asmussen has the scoop.

Huge, floating patch of Schwarzenegger love children saved in Pacific
Click for full comic

Stay tuned for further developments... (Bad Reporter)

-Bonus HotD-
"After Calling The Auto Rescue 'Tragic,' Mitt Romney Now Claims He 'Had The Idea First.'"

If Mittens is trying to out-ridiculous Herman Cain, he's on the right track. (ThinkProgress)

Paul Ryan Cooks Up Electoral Disaster

Hochul in victory
Paul Ryan's plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system is bold. It's courageous. It's serious. At least, if you ask various talking heads and pundits -- something you should probably avoid doing. It's one of the great failings of the media that they avoid calling a spade a spade at every opportunity. If some pundit were to tell the truth about the Ryan budget -- what it really does, what it really costs, how necessary it actually is -- this would be "bias." And it would be bias because it would suddenly look very, very bad. TV journalism has now reached a low formerly occupied only by "entertainment news" shows, where they report movies' press packets nearly verbatim and pretend the movie studios aren't writing their "news" for them. Journalists report what people say about a policy proposal and somehow manage to avoid telling you what's in the proposal. Dems hate it, Republicans love it. Let's watch the fight! What's the fight actually about-- who cares?

In these cases, the only people you're going to get the skinny from are those who are paid to be biased -- or, at least, paid to be unafraid to appear biased. In this case, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman fits the bill.

What I hope regular readers of this blog understand by now is that the Ryan plan is, in fact, a self-serving piece of junk. It doesn't add up -- in fact, it would probably make the deficit bigger not smaller. And far from representing some kind of sacrifice of political interests in the service of the greater good, it’s a right-wing wish-list on steroids: sharp tax cuts for corporations and the rich, savage cuts in aid to the poor, and a gratuitous privatization of Medicare. And again, it's technically incompetent along the way.

So nobility and seriousness had nothing to do with it.

And there ya go then. Ryan pulled out a piece of paper the GOP has had laying around for a while now, scratched out the words "Christmas wishlist" at the top, and replaced that title with the words "TOUGH CHOICES!"

Et voila, a "serious" policy proposal. It's serious because you say it's serious and the news media will report that you think this is tremendously serious. You can barely blame the GOP for doing this, since our media have made it so easy to get away with. Never report facts unless it's absolutely unavoidable. Report only people's opinions about those facts. This is why, when some talking head is introduced as an "analyst" -- or worse, a "strategist" -- you should change the channel. What they have to say is all but worthless.

Luckily, this doesn't always pan out the way that Republicans would hope. Yes, they can get journalists to avoid reporting that a turd sandwich is, in fact, a turd sandwich. But they can't seem to convince anyone to actually take a bite. Sometimes, an idea is so bad, so obviously awful that it's immediately clear that this isn't something you want to have for lunch. For the record, it probably does take a lot of courage to drop a turd sandwich on a table and say, "Bon appetit!" But it's not the sort of courage anyone should be congratulated for.

And when that sandwich is so obviously inedible, no amount of media cowardice will hide that fact. There it is, out in the open, in plain view. And, my God, does it ever look awful.

[Talking Points Memo:]

Republicans are going to have plenty of questions about their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program tomorrow morning after Democrats romped to an improbable victory in a special election focused almost entirely on the issue.

Democrat Kathy Hochul lead 48-43 with over 83% of the votes counted and her victory looks to be a strong one -- the Associated Press called the race within an hour of the polls closing. Corwin underperformed in key GOP counties while Hochul's margins in Democratic areas were in line with the party's high water mark in the district from 2006, a wave year that swept the Republicans out of the majority in the House and Senate. The district is normally a safe seat for Republicans and few considered it vulnerable when Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) resigned over topless photos he posted in a Craigslist personal.

By making Medicare the issue in this election, the Democrat snatched the seat away from the Republican. While there's no shortage of people telling us we shouldn't read too much into this, I'm willing to bet that few Republicans are going to be eager to stand by the Ryan plan. And that means that an awful lot of candidates are going to be spending an awful lot of time avoiding talking about their voting record. And there are going to be a lot of Democrats putting a lot of effort into making sure that discussion in unavoidable.

Republicans served up the turd sandwich. Now they'll have to eat it.



News Roundup for 5/24/11

Feingold looking contemplative
I'm just saying you should think about it, Russ

-Headline of the day-
"Poll: Come Back, Russ Feingold!"

Well that didn't take long. Just seven months after losing to rightwing halfwit Ron Johnson, Russ Feingold is now the favorite to win the seat held by the retiring Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl. According to the report, "In hypothetical contests Feingold leads Tommy Thompson 52-42, Mark Neumann 53-41, JB Van Hollen 53-38, and Jeff Fitzgerald 54-39. He wins independents by at least 9 points in all of the match ups and takes more than 90% of the Democratic vote while keeping the Republican candidates in the 80s within their own parties."

If you don't know who all those people are, don't worry. Suffice it to say that they're all jerks. Tommy Thompson is probably the one to watch, having been the longest-serving governor of the state. After that though, he kind of went south and led what might very well be the most disastrous presidential campaign of 2008. And that's why you never heard of him -- he was out almost as soon as he got in. The others have enough pro-Walker, anti-labor baggage to be sure targets in attack ads.

Here you go Russ. Just pick right up where you left off. (Weigel)

-Conservatives are just awful-
Top Palin aide Rebecca Mansour -- who looks remarkably like Danny DeVito as "The Penguin" -- loves her some of that twitter. And it's there that we begin to find out what conservatives are really like.

See, Mansour has been having a "Twitter correspondence with a web denizen whom she didn't know, but had come to trust online," according to Politico's Ben Smith. And said web denizen was looking to cash in.

"Does Politico pay for exclusives? Cause I'm looking to sell. I have 122 direct messages from Sarah Palin staffer Rebecca Mansour," the web denizen emailed Smith. Smith told him he'd buy lunch or something, but that was as far as journalistic ethics would allow him to go.

"Sorry, Ben, but it's going to take more than a happy meal and a hand shake to get me to betray someone's confidence. Only freshly printed 100 dollar bills help me get over feelings of guilt," he wrote back, "Would it violate some fake journalistic ethics and standards to get me in contact someone who does pay? I know that the thought of blogging about this is making your panties wet. The topics range from Chuck Hagel to Ricky Hollywood and everything else in between. It's a fucking blogger's gold mine."

Yeah, this guy's just a wonderful person.

Anyway, Smith wrote back that it was no deal, so web denizen took his tweets to Tucker Carlson, who totally denies paying for the dirt that Smith refused to pay for. Still, it all wound up at Carlson's Daily Caller, because he offered a better lunch or something.

So we go from jerk #1 to jerk #2 -- i.e., Mansour herself. Rebecca hates everybody. Redstate's Erick Erick is "a total douchebag" (this confirms my suspicions, by the way). Mitt Romney supporters are "wacky as hell." She was "was thinking more along the lines" of mailing journalist Joe McGinnis "a dead fish." Even Bristol Palin gets hit with comparisons to Billy Carter and Margaret Thatcher's "screw up son Mark."

Then, when confronted with the tweets, she tried to deny them. That proved to be impossible, so she begged that they not be printed. "Can I just appeal to you to leave the Bristol stuff alone?"

Finally, she sent out a statement saying it was all "personal private conversations between myself and someone who I thought was a friend."

Wow. With the way you talk about people behind their backs, you really think you have friends? (Politico, Daily Caller)

-Bonus HotD-
"Study: Whites say they face more racism than blacks."

Oh for fuck's sake... (Raw Story)

The Politics of Hate

It's the most rabid opponents of the First Amendment's separation of church and state who argue that freedom of religion isn't the same thing as freedom from religion. We can't be "protected" from exposure to religion in everyday life and it's not the government's job to keep religion lock up in churches and temples and mosques.

Which is interesting, because these same people fight for laws to free us from religions they disapprove of. It was, after all, Republicans who fought to keep Wiccan chaplains out of the armed forces, for example. And let's not even get started on protecting Americans from the evils of atheism. When the argument is made that there is no freedom from religion, what's really meant is that government can't protect you from exposure to Christianity -- every other religion is fair game.

This is the case with Oklahoma's "Save Our State" amendment, which is meant to protect that state from the evils of sharia law. Of course, saving Oklahoma from the dangers of sharia is completely unnecessary -- not only is the state in no danger of falling to Muslim fundamentalist authoritarianism, but religious-based law is already unconstitutional. as threats go, this is about as close to nonexistent as you can get without involving unicorns and fairies.

But of course, the purpose of the amendment to the state's constitution has nothing at all to do with any actual threat, it was merely a referendum on Islam itself, meant to both promote bigotry and use that bigotry to bring people to the polls. It's not about solving a problem, but of creating the appearance of one, while at the same time encouraging people to let hate and fear inform their decisions. Saudi Arabia has Muslims, Oklahoma has Muslims, therefore Oklahoma is in danger of becoming Saudi Arabia. Be terrified -- and don't forget to keep hating those Muslims.

It's at this point that I very nearly wrote, "Luckily, this is all unconstitutional." Except luck has nothing to do with it. It's unconstitutional by design. Freedom of religion means freedom of religion and, if you don't like a certain religion, tough luck. The words the right practically worship -- "freedom" and "liberty" -- are words that actually mean something. And the plain fact is that passing laws to fight a religion aren't the definitions of those words. It's the opposite of the definitions of those words.

So a federal judge blocked the amendment. Before you start yelling "states' rights!" and "tenth amendment!" I remind you that the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If you want to write something crazy into your states constitution, that's all very cute and adorable. But if it's contrary to the US Constitution, you're wasting your time. You don't get to do that.

Religious organizations agree. When states are allowed to pick and choose which religions they approve of, then you have states engaging in the "establishment of religion." They're only doing it subtractively -- rule out religions until there's only one left, but pass no law specifically establishing that state religion.

But the main purpose was to cash in on the rightwing "ground zero mosque" hysteria before that fad faded into the background. Get people freaked out about Muslims taking over, then get people to go to the polls to vote against it. It wasn't sharia that was being attacked, it was Islam.

"The BJC's brief argues that the Oklahoma amendment violates the Establishment Clause for two separate and distinct reasons," reports Baptists Today of the Baptist Joint Committee, who've written a "friend of the court" brief supporting the judge's decision. "First, 'the amendment's purpose plainly is to disapprove of the Islamic tradition.' Secondly, 'the amendment's dual specific references to Shari law -- and to no other religious tradition -- have the unambiguous effect of communicating official disapproval of Islam.'"

How is this good for America? How is encouraging Americans to hate and fear other Americans helpful to the nation? And this is the GOP's modus operandi -- whether it's gays or atheists or Wiccans or Muslims. Those Americans over there -- they're the problem. Eliminating them from public discourse will solve everything. Let's pass us some laws.

And they call themselves patriots.



News Roundup for 5/23/11

Elephant butt
Where Republican ideas come from

-Headline of the day-
"Cantor nudges Rep. Ryan to jump into 2012 White House race."

Shorter headline: "Cantor is Stupid."

At the same time that a Politico story reports that House GOP leadership ignored warnings that Paul Ryan's Medicare-slaying was politically suicidal, one of that leadership -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- thinks that Ryan would be the perfect guy to run for president.

"Paul's about real leadership," Cantor told reporter. "I think that that's what this public so desperately wants to do right now. They don't want to see individuals that just dismiss problems that we can just sweep under the rug."

Except that polling shows that the public "so desperately wants" something that's not the Ryan plan. In fact, we want pretty much the opposite of the Ryan plan. You've got to wonder where Cantor gets his information from...

Oh, wait. He's a Republican. He pulls it from out of his ass. (The Hill)

-Educate yourselves!-
The Great Patriot Herman Cain is running for president. He used to be a pizza delivery guy or something, I guess, but no the nation calls to him, begging him to run. In his formal announcement that he would answer the call and run for president, Herman told people they need to "reread the Constitution," because no one gets it anymore.

Specifically, the Hermanator wants us to read "a little section in there that talks about 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'" and another that "says 'when any form of government becomes destructive of those ideals, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.'"

Of course, that's all completely wrong. Both are from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, but so what? Details are what are dragging this country down! We've become slaves to reality and, when reality gets in your way, you just run it right over and make shit up.

It's the American way. Don't believe me? Look it up. It's right there in the Constitution. (ThinkProgress, with video)

-Headline of the day-
"Fox News executive disputes claim Roger Ailes thinks Sarah Palin 'is an idiot'."

Maybe he doesn't "think" it, but he knows it. (Raw Story)

The GOP's Self-Laid Medicare Trap

The Paul Ryan economic trainwreck budget plan is dead. While not killing it outright, Senate Republican leadership have all but abandoned it. And even if it had ever gotten to the president's desk, it would've been vetoed. The path to survival for Ryan's fantasy-economics porn looks nonexistent and the whole idea exists only as a statement of principle. And that principle isn't being widely embraced by the party.

It may be that Newt Gingrich did Democrats and liberals a tremendous favor by establishing the Ryan plan as a sacred cow. By criticizing it, Newt embarked on what was the worst political week in recent history and set the groundrules for any other Republican campaigns -- the Ryan plan is the most perfect and brilliant piece of legislation ever written and Republican candidates criticize it at their peril.

Which is why Democrats are so eager to make it a campaign issue. Let me correct that; Democrats want to make it the campaign issue. Polling shows that Ryan's plan is about as popular as a fart in an elevator, making it a perplexing hill for House Republicans to choose to die on.

But that's exactly what they've done, as Newt Gingrich so handily demonstrated. Criticize the Ryan plan and the rightwing media noise machine will tear you apart. Democrats hope that this will create two levels of losers -- Republican primary losers, who were spun out because of their unwillingness to get behind gutting Medicare, and the general election loser, who won the primary by being enthusiastic about it. If Medicare is the issue in 2012, Republicans stand no chance. And everyone but House Republicans seem to realize this.

So the main effort of early campaigning is to avoid mentioning Medicare at all. Case in point, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is formally announcing his candidacy as I write. At a Tea Party rally in New Hampshire, ThinkProgress' Igor Volsky asked Pawlenty whether he supported cuts to Medicare. Pawlenty's answer?

"Anybody else have a question besides this guy?"

A profile in courage.

As the presidential campaign goes forward, these questions will be impossible to avoid. As Democrats hammer away at the candidates, supporters will as well. Do you stand with House Republicans and ideological purity or do you stand with the majority of Americans? Put another way, the question might be "do you want to win the primary or do you want to win the general election?" Clearly, one can't be accomplished without the other and one pretty much rules out the other, yet Republicans expect some candidate out there to do both.

It's a long, long time until election day, but the way things are looking right now, it's clearly Barack Obama's race to lose. House Republicans and Tea Party purists are making sure of that.



News Roundup for 5/20/11

70s comic book Rapture
Get out your party hats!

-Headline of the day-
"The Rapture Is Not Saturday -- It's Tonight."

End times lunatic Harold Camping predicted the Rapture would come "at exactly 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011." The problem? Time zones; six o'clock where?

According to the report, "The Rapture is at 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011, where ever it's 6 p.m. first, with the 'fantastically big' world-ending event taking place on a time zone by time zone basis." This means that first on the cosmic chopping block is "the International Dateline at 180 Longitude -- roughly the between Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Nuku'alofa, Tonga."

So, what time is it there? As of this writing, Sat. May 21, 2011 9:26:07 -- you can check it here (under Samoa or Tonga). That's 9 am, so we've got a little time yet. After that, "Everyone will be weeping and wailing because they'll know in a few hours it'll come to their city," says Camping.

So if you're planning a big "end of the world" shindig for tomorrow, you can forget it -- knowing what happened in Tonga is really going to spoil the suspense. Make it a "we survived the end of the world" party and dance your heathen ass off. (The Atlantic)

-The Tale of Gingrich-
Appearing on The Colbert Report, John Lithgow gives voice to a florid, overheated press release by Newt Gingrich's campaign:

Pretty good, but I still like this version better. (YouTube)

-Bonus HotD-
"Tea Party Rally Fizzles in South Carolina."

Seriously, it was just sad. (Political Wire)


News Roundup for 5/19/11

President Obama

-Headline of the day-
"The 'death hug' strategy."

If you've been paying attention to early Obama campaigning, you've noticed something a little strange -- the president has been praising possible '12 GOP opponents. Mitt Romney got a nice thank you for laying the groundwork for healthcare reform, as did Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. And John Huntsman got a big round of applause for all the awesome work he did in the Obama administration.

You see what's happening here, right? According to the report, this "sort of political maneuver has colloquially become known as a 'death hug' for the frequency with which Obama and his allies have used it against Republicans." See, it seems the Obama administration looked out at the nutjobs who'll likely make the difference in the GOP primary and decided to use them. It's fiendish, in a fun sort of trollish way; don't paint your opponents as to far to the right, congratulate them for being so far to the left. Since "the left" has become synonymous with reality, this will leave only the frootloops. Then sit back, watch the crazies pick off the candidates you least want to run against, and win easily next November over the Bachmann/Cain ticket.

"Imagine it's 2003 and George W. Bush is praising certain Democratic presidential candidates, noting key areas of policy agreement with those candidates, and in one case, noting that one of the candidates was a member of his administration," Steve Benen explains. "Do you think this might affect the attitudes of Democratic primary voters about those candidates? I do."

Like all the nuttiness you've whipped up since Obama was elected, GOP? I hope so, because you're gonna eat it. (Political Animal)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, wanna know what it means to be American? let's ask the...

American Petroleum Institute
Click for animation

Stand up and salute! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"What Bachmann is thinking about as she considers a run for president."

Let me take a stab at that!

I'm guessing it's "..." (MinnPost.com)

GOP Playing Chicken With an Oncoming Train

Speeding trainThe US hit the debt ceiling Monday. As things stand right now, we can stretch dollars until about August -- and then we go into default. I don't think people have a good understanding of what raising the debt ceiling means. It doesn't mean we're borrowing money to spend more money, it means that we're borrowing money to cover money we've already spent. It means meeting our obligations. If we don't raise the debt ceiling, we will default on payments. Social Security checks may stop going out, paychecks to soldiers may stop being cut, grants to states will evaporate, and bond holders will find themselves in possession of nearly worthless pieces of paper.

Meanwhile, Republicans are playing on people's misconception of the debt limit. They've got everyone freaked out about spending and are counting on people equating the debt ceiling with new spending. It's a suicidal game of chicken, because one player is on rails -- it can't swerve. The GOP is playing chicken with an oncoming train.

Speaker of the House Boehner is demanding "trillions" in cuts or he says he'll let the crack-up happen. This is typical for the Orange One, whose political strategy playbook seems to consist only of a single page marked "Hostage Negotiations," with his party as the hostage takers. But, in this case, Boehner offers a Hobson's choice -- as economist Mark Thoma puts it, "Republicans are threatening to blow up the economy if they don't get budget cuts big enough to blow up the economy."

Thoma assumes that Boehner won't get his "trillions" or anything close to it. He chooses a lower number -- $600 billion over two years -- and works from there. He admits the number is a little arbitrary, but the purpose is to demonstrate the effects of spending cuts on economic recovery. Consider the $600 billion the way you would an inch on a yardstick, since all units of measure are basically arbitrary anyway.

Presently, GDP is just under $14.7 trillion, so a $300 billion change represents a 2% change in GDP. According to Okun's law, a 2% change in output corresponds to a 1% change in the unemployment rate. The labor force is presently just over 153 million, so a 1% change corresponds to around 1.5 million workers. Thus, employment would fall by 1.5 million workers in each of the two years, for a total decline of 3 million workers.

So, a $600 billion reduction in government spending over two years would raise unemployment by 1% per year, or around 3 million workers in total. We are currently down around 11 million jobs since the start of the recession, and we are not creating jobs at anywhere near the pace that is needed to reach full employment in a reasonable time period (at current rates it would be over 5 years). To stack an additional 3 million lost jobs on top of the large unemployment problem we already have would be a disaster, and I do not expect changes of this magnitude to happen despite talk of "trillions." Even a much smaller cut, say $100 billion over the next year, would still wipe out 500,00 jobs over that time period -- 2 months of job creation at present rates -- and set the recovery back considerably.

And, as everyone who bothers to be honest about things will admit, the current Republican freak-out over spending is entirely political. The vast majority of bills that would be paid by raising the debt limit were run up by Republicans -- in many cases, the same ones pulling their hair out now -- and they were more than happy to do it. It was Dick Cheney, not Joe Biden, who said, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" -- a Republican pointing to a Republican's record to justify more borrow-and-spend policies.

To put it bluntly, the Republican strategy is to shoot the hostages. Not all of them, just some of them. They plan to accept a smaller level of spending cuts and then they'll watch the economy tank. Privately, they'll clap as it goes down, because they believe Barack Obama's reelection chances will go down with it. Millions of jobs, years of recovery, a recession or worse, all because a Democrat must not be allowed to sit in the Oval Office.

If that strikes you as extremely cynical and self-serving, I have one question for you...

Have you met the Republican Party lately?



News Roundup for 5/18/11

Newt Gingrich, shown lying

-Headline of the day-
"Newt Gingrich: 'Any Ad Which Quotes What I Said On Sunday Is A Falsehood.'"

Newt's super-mad that people are taking his words and getting all crazy and pretending he said them. On Fox's Sunday Talk with People Whose Heads Look Like Onions, Newt told the host that he didn't say those things he said about Paul Ryan and Medicare and social engineering. That's flat-out untrue. And anyone who writes it down or repeats it or plays the tape is just a horrible, horrible liar who should be ashamed of themselves.

"I want to make sure every House Republican is protected from some kind of dishonest Democratic ad," he said. "So let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood."

So, if you quote verbatim what Newt clearly and inarguably said, you're telling a lie. Take a second and let the logical conclusion to that argument sink in...

Got it? You're lying, because you're quoting Gingrich word for word. Therefore, Gingrich's words are lies. I mean, if A is to B as B is to C, then A equals C, right? A) Newt speaks, B) you repeat it, C) lies are told. So A) Newt speaks = C) lies are told. Simple logic.

Thanks for clearing that up for us, Newton. (ThinkProgress, with video)

-In which I get lazy-
Been kind of a busy day, so here's a single panel comic. Don't worry, it's funny, I promise!

Click to embiggen

Ha! See? I told you... (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Obama campaign hawks 'long-form' T-shirt."

Now you can get the long-form birth certificate in short-sleeves. 25 bucks. The perfect gift for the birther in your life. (Politico)

Winning the GOP Primary in Wingnutopia

WingnutGallup reports a new poll using a somewhat misleading headline; "With Huckabee Out, No Clear GOP Front-Runner." The reason I say this is somewhat misleading is because there wasn't a clear frontrunner with Huckabee in. The GOP field this year is a mix of no-names, frootloops, and finger-in-the-wind flip-floppers. The Gingrich campaign is (perhaps prematurely) already being declared dead in the water, a victim of the candidate's mouth. Anyone who remembers Newt's days as speakers won't be surprised -- he was always one to speak before thinking, assuming that every random thought was brilliant and worthy of great attention. His current situation must seem very familiar to him.

What we do see in the Gallup poll is a sort of split between the more pragmatic primary voters who recognize their candidate has to win a general election and the true-believers, the 'baggers, and the talk radio-informed who demand nothing short of wingnut purity. In that poll, leading the pack -- albeit barely leading -- are Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. That would be the same Sarah Palin who recent polling shows would lose even to Dennis Kucinich (a "rout," in the pollster's words) in the general election. In short, be prepared for a lot of "who's the soul of the Republican Party?" articles, because the answer to that question isn't extremely clear.

And Newt's reportedly washed-up campaign? Scoring third right now.

Gallup's methodology was pretty straightforward: set up a sample "trial heat" primary ballot and see who wins. Mitt Romney gets 20%, Palin gets 18%, Gingrich gets 11% and the numbers start going single-digit after that. But there's some bad news for Palin here. Gallup also tracked enthusiasm, giving each candidate a "positive intensity score." Palin's 16 beats Romney's 14, but the highest scores are going to guaranteed losers Herman Cain (24) and Michele Bachmann (21). As a side note, Ron Paul's famously cultish following is a lot less cultish this year. He scores an 11.

Will enthusiasm make the difference? I doubt it. Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann will split the nutjobs, with any remainder going to Sarah Palin. The pragmatists, who just want to win, will back whichever candidate is perceived to be the most likely to beat President Obama. Right now, Mitt Romney seems to be their Jon Kerry -- the smart, serious, "electable" one.

But the problem for Republicans is the nutjobs. The pragmatists' candidate will be savaged by the 'baggers for having signed a bill virtually identical to the hated "Obamacare" into law. A relatively moderate Republican who's veered far to the right to get elected (one of the finger-in-the-wind flip-floppers, I mentioned earlier), Mitt will never pass the Tea Party purity test. The teabaggers, more interested in producing an ideologue than a winner, will do everything they can to tear the pragmatists' candidate down.

And there's were the Republican strategy of the last few decades fails them. There's a huge, rightwing noise machine out there that's gotten completely away from the people who fired it up. Talk radio, blogs, Fox News all create an insular alternate reality without any meaningful concern for truth. For people who rely on this for information, there is no truth -- everything is merely a matter of opinion. Polling means nothing to them, because polls are dismissed by hosts who tell them you can get a poll to say whatever you want. Science is meaningless to them, because they've become convinced that it's all a racket to rake in that sweet, sweet grant money. Even history means nothing, because you can cherrypick quotations to show that historical figures believed anything you want them to believe. Economists, mathematicians, evolutionary biologists -- all are dismissed out of hand by such minds of towering ignorance as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. The "if we elect Sarah Palin/Herman Cain/Michele Bachmann, we're going to lose!" argument will gain no traction with them, because they've convinced themselves they're the mainstream -- despite being far, far outside it. Remember, facts don't matter because facts don't exists. Opinions matter and opinions are facts.

The nutjobs, the teabaggers, the wingnuts -- all are creations of the GOP. And all will conspire against the Republican candidate most likely to win.



News Roundup for 5/17/11

The next President of the United States

-Headline of the day-
"Kucinich would beat Palin, Trump in hypothetical races: Poll."

Sure, Donald Trump dropped out, but a poll was in the field while he was still a maybe-candidate and it shows that The Donald quit while the quitting was good. Sarah Palin, a consumate quitter herself, might consider following Don's example.

A Public Policy Polling survey [pdf] put the two potential candidates up against Dennis Kucinich -- the longest of Democratic long shots -- in head-to-head matches to see how things would turn out. For Trump and Palin, the turning out was not well.

According to the report, "The outspoken anti-war liberal would rout Palin by 43 to 36 percent, and beat Trump 40 to 36 percent," with the rest undecided because they didn't know who the hell this "Dennis Kucinich" guy was.

Run Sarah, run! (Raw Story)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, we didn't get to visit with Uncle Mark last week because the internet broke. So here he is today! Yay!

And we're going to learn how well torture works.

You're welcome
Click for animation

It actually doesn't work very well... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Constituents Laugh At GOP Rep. Quayle For Denying Existence Of Billions In Special Oil Subsidies."

Dan Quayle's son Ben continues the family tradition of being idiots. (ThinkProgress)

The Bush Tax Cuts Failed. Period

It's a chart that's been making the rounds for a while now. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities graphed out the main drivers of current and projected deficits and came up with the following:


TARP, bailouts, the stimulus? Ain't crap. And the economic downturn didn't really make much of a dent. The big driver of current and future deficits are the Bush era tax cuts. Although the hole blown in the deficit by the cuts dwarfs them, it pays to point out that we fought two wars -- which Bush made sure were off-budget -- while giving people who could afford to help pay for those wars a free ride.

This isn't pie-in-the-sky liberal loopiness here. These are history, these are facts. We were told that tax cuts would help us "grow our way out of deficits." They didn't. Again, that is fact. We were told the tax cuts would give us a rollicking, healthy economy. Look around you. They failed. That is a fact. In short, every argument in favor of the cuts has failed to materialize. The Bush tax cuts are -- as a simple matter of historical fact -- a complete failure.


The Paranoid Mindset of the Rightwing Blogosphere

Blogger will be in read-only mode while we resolve some maintenance issues. Sorry for the inconvenience.

If you'd checked Google's Blogger Status on Thursday, you'd have found that message. When I found that I wasn't able to access my blogs to publish a post, the first thing I did was check Status. Google was down and it was confirmed. I would have to wait. Patiently or impatiently, I was going to have to wait.

One thing that I've learned about the internet over the years -- and have come to accept -- is that it doesn't really work. Not very well, anyway. Services are unreliable. Connections can be spotty. Machines break down and code, being written and configured by humans, can be faulty. In the early years, Blogger wasn't super reliable. But over time it's developed into a pretty solid and stable platform. This latest outage was the exception to the rule.

Others haven't learned that the internet doesn't really work. And those people went nuts. I cringed reading some comments on the Blogger Help forum. Another thing to remember when dealing with Blogger is that it's free. Pretty much the only thing Google does to make money off it is to make it easy to add Adsense ads. You get unlimited bandwidth and an infinite amount of blog posts for nothing. Let me emphasize that fact -- nothing. Yet people were "demanding" that their blogs be restored to their previous functional state, as if engineers were just sitting around waiting for someone to tell them to get on the ball. It was embarrassing. I'd imagine that many a middle finger was raised at many a monitor at Google's Blogger division this weekend.

One user who probably got that raised finger was University of Wisconsin law professor and wingnut blogger Ann Althouse. I'm not even going to try to reconstruct the series of events that she thinks happened, but rather just go ahead and tell you what actually happened: Blogspot went down. Althouse is a Blogspot blogger. The end.

When Althouse tried to post to her blog Thursday, she saw what everyone else saw -- an error message like "bX-somethingorother." But instead of checking blogger status, she went ahead and assumed there was some sort of censorship going on. Eventually, she found her way to the Blogger Help forum, where -- surrounded by thread upon thread about the service being down and complaining of bX errors (I guess she needs to work on her peripheral vision) -- she proceeded to complain that her blog had been pulled after people complained about the content.

Something like that, anyway. I may have some specifics wrong, but that's the general gist of things; blogger was down and Althouse assumed her problems were due -- not to the outage happening all around her -- but because liberals were screwing with her.

And those suspicions were "confirmed" when somebody started screwing with her on the help forum.

You ever go on an online forum? Are you familiar with the term "trolling?" Good, then we're up to speed and way ahead of a whole bunch of wingnuts, including Althouse. Apparently, someone got sick of her version of reality and began poking her with a stick. This was the worst thing ever and was evidence enough to assume that said troll was really a Google employee (did I mention that Althouse is a law professor? You'd think she'd know how this evidence stuff works in the context of logic). Google had not only used the cover of a service outage to remove her blog, they were now taunting her on the help forum. Outrageous!

The flame war was on. Conservatives are people of action and, if that action makes no damned sense or is completely unconstructive, who cares? Did we let a little thing like common sense keep us out of Iraq? No! Conservatives act when action is uncalled for, because that's the American Way. Hulk can't post to Hulk's blog! This make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!

So Althouse's readers and other wingnut bloggers flocked to the blogger help forum to -- there's no polite way to put it and be accurate -- bitch. Apparently, they truly believed this would accomplish something. If Ann's blog was being snuffed out by liberal Google, then it was time to fight to get it back. How this was supposed to work is unclear, but a lack of strategy has never stopped them before. Again, I offer Iraq as an example.

For the most part, Google itself seemed to ignore most of this. The flamewar seemed to be between the forces of Althouse and the forces of shut-the-hell-up-you-crazy-people. But Google is the home to many robots and robots do not ignore things. When a bunch of people who don't use Blogger begin fighting in a Blogger Help forum, something seems amiss.

So the flamewarriors began to get confirmation messages before they could log into their email accounts. Patterico of Patterico's Pontifications reports that he was asked to -- *gasp* -- confirm that his email account hadn't been hijacked, because a Google bot had noticed "unusual activity" from the account. Patterico is a Wordpress blogger, so posting to the Blogger Help forum would certainly qualify as "unusual."

Gah! Now Google was "locking them out" of their Gmail accounts!

It's at this point that all the stupid gets too much for me to bear. This whole thing is a glimpse into the right wing mind: paranoid, reactive, 95% emotional and 5% rational. No wonder they're so constantly freaked out about anything -- they have absolutely no crisis skills.

And I include among those crisis skills the ability to recognize what is or isn't an actual crisis.



Press Largely Ignores John Boehner's Gibberish

BoehnerWhat if the Speaker of the House gave a speech that was just all wrong? And what if the Speaker gave that speech to a bunch of people who knew it was all wrong? Throwing out crazy statement after crazy statement, to the bewilderment of his audience, lecturing those who make their living, in part, by knowing better? Would that be a scandal?

Apparently not. John Boehner did just that, giving a speech filled with economic mumbo-jumbo to a group of Wall Street executives. Relying on GOP talking points, Boehner spoke to Economic Club of New York Monday, and received "a cool reception," according to The Hill.

"The Speaker's stand drew little reaction from the banquet hall of Wall Street executives," the paper reported, "who offered polite applause at the end of Boehner's speech but sat in silence through his demands on the debt limit."

Bloomberg gets into the details of just how wrong Boehner was on the facts, reporting that Boehner "built his case on several assertions that are contradicted by market indicators and government reports." For example, "that government borrowing was crowding out private investment, the 2009 economic-stimulus package hurt job creation, and a Republican plan to privatize Medicare will give future recipients the 'same kinds of options' lawmakers have."

None of this stuff is true, Boehner's audience knew it wasn't true, and the speech flopped. For example, the idea that government borrowing "crowds out" private capital is being proven untrue before our very eyes -- if could actually happen, it would be happening now. And it's not.

Writing for the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus said Boehner's remarks were based on an "incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy." And then she gets to the heart of the real problem:

Reporters naturally tend to ignore this boilerplate. Journalistically, that makes sense. Boehner's economic comments were nothing particularly new. Indeed, they reflect what has become the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party. But that's exactly the point. We become so inured to hearing this thinking that we neglect to point out how wrong it is.

We live in a world where "House Speaker Addresses Wall Street; Statements Are Economic Gibberish" is not an allowable headline. Bloomberg's audience is the investor class, so they can get away with it -- it's often said that the business page is generally the truest news in the paper. To find them debunking economic flateartherism should surprise no one.

But for the rest of the press, the story that the man who is third in line to the presidency babbled nonsense in an economic policy speech is a non-story. There are two sides to every story, the press believes, and if one of those sides is complete fantasy, so what? The media exists to report what people say, not what's true. If John Boehner says that the problem with the economy is a shortage of unicorn milk, then John Boehner says the problem is unicorn milk. Let's get a couple of talking heads to yell at each other over it. One takes the pro-side, one takes anti-, and when it's all done you're just as poorly informed as you were before. The only real takeaway for the news consumer is that there's a profound disagreement on the influence unicorn milk holds over the economy. You haven't learned a damned thing -- and now a pollster calls to get your opinion on it.

Think of the seriously awful way the media handled the death panels lie. Are there going to be death panels? Aren't there? Who even knows? We'll just report on the controversy, get morons to shout over each other to demonstrate the controversy, and our job is done. The truth? The truth is that there's a controversy. Reporting any truth other than that would be bias. Bias would be bad -- even if that bias is in favor of truth.

So John Boehner can stand before Wall Street investors, tell them that the financial system is infested with mischievous elves, and that's not news. That's not a scandal. That's one man's opinion. It would be wrong for media outlets to make a big deal out of that, because that would be choosing sides. Objectivity means that you write down all the crazy stuff some lunatic says, then get someone else to rebut it. Who's right? Who's wrong?

Who cares?



News Roundup for 5/11/11

Faulty equation
Rightwing math

-Headline of the day-
"And the award for the most ridiculous poll sampling goes to..."

ABC News/Washington Post -- I guess. Actually, that headline belongs to the most ridiculous criticism of poll sampling, given by towering intellect, talk radio host, and rightwing blogger Ed Morrissey.

See ABC/WaPo put out a poll showing that President Obama's post-bin Laden-taking-down-of approval rating at 60%. This is impossible, because Obama is widely accepted as the worst president EVER!

So Morrissey checked out the numbers and found out that the poll didn't include enough Republicans. They just went and called 1001 whomevers and never once attempted to contact more Republicans! Just whatever yahoo answered the phone, as if just anyone's opinion mattered. Imagine that -- random sampling being all random and stuff. It's an outrage I tells ya!

Once again I find myself paraphrasing Gulley Jimson; "Numbers were invented by Arabs, who hate Republicans." (Hot Air)

-A philosophical tip-
My internet connection is still a little sketchy, so here's a comic:

Moving along... (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

-Bonus HotD-
"Gingrich Launches Campaign."

Fun fact: 36% of GOP primary voters say they would never vote for Newt Gingrich. That's second only to Donald Trump.

This should go well for him. (Talking Points Memo)

Griper Blade: Paul Ryan's "Messaging Problem"

Paul RyanThe problem with Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan doesn't lie in its obvious flaws, but in the fact that the American public have become aware of its flaws. Things are so bad that Senate GOP aren't even going to address the Medicare "reform," because the whole idea is ballot box poison. The problem there is that, without those reforms, the whole thing is just a plan to increase the deficit.

So Ryan would rather tweak the advertising than fix his product.

[The Hill:]

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that Republicans are running into a "communications challenge" in selling their 2012 budget proposal to Americans.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee who authored the 2012 budget, acknowledged the GOP faces obstacles but pushed back against the notion that it is losing a communications battle against Democrats, who have assailed Ryan's proposal to significantly reform Medicare.

"I wouldn't say we're losing the communications battle -- but we have a great communications challenge," the Wisconsin Republican said on Fox News.

No, I'd say you're losing the communications battle. Or, at least, they'd better. If Democrats can't turn this around on the GOP, then it's time to fold up shop. A new report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicare and the Uninsured finds that, if implemented as is, 44 million Americans will lose their Medicare and become uninsured. Ryan would have you believe this is "saving" Medicare. Hence his messaging problem; he's trying to sell you an obvious jalopy as a sleek sports car.

State by state, the damage would look like this:


More than half of Florida Medicare recipients would lose coverage by 2021, for example. And that's supposed to fly? But remember, the problem isn't with this lemon of a plan, the problem is your accurate perception of it. The challenge is in selling it, not in fixing it. It doesn't help when Democrats are pointing out that your plan to "destroy Medicare," as they put it, actually involves destroying Medicare.

"Hospitals would also be affected, as cuts in state payments 'are inevitable if health care spending is to be reduced,'" reports Igor Volsky for the Center for American Progress, referring to the Kaiser study. "Consequently, '[b]y 2021, hospitals would face an annual loss of Medicaid revenue of $84 billion just as the number of uninsured and the need for uncompensated care increases.'"

"Anything this big takes a while to sink in for people to understand," Ryan told Fox. "As soon as people realize just how dire our fiscal situation is, and what our drivers are -- namely, our entitlement programs -- the more they're supportive of this." But Ryan's plan cuts taxes at the top. Is it entirely accurate to say that this takes Medicare funding from 44 million Americans to fund further tax cuts for the already wealthy?

Yes. Yes it would. That would be entirely accurate.

And are entitlements the big problem with our budget deficits? No. The obvious is.

[Paul Krugman:]

Let's talk for a moment about budget reality. Contrary to what you often hear, the large deficit the federal government is running right now isn't the result of runaway spending growth. Instead, well more than half of the deficit was caused by the ongoing economic crisis, which has led to a plunge in tax receipts, required federal bailouts of financial institutions, and been met -- appropriately -- with temporary measures to stimulate growth and support employment.

Did the economic crash of 2007 put a dent in your finances? Then what a shock it must be to learn that it also affected the government. Will it drag us down forever? Of course not. And neither did the Great Depression. Dr. Ryan is proposing radical emergency surgery on a wound that should heal on its own. Crank up some taxes on the ultra-wealthy, get corporations to pay any taxes at all, end the wars, cut military spending, and there you go. Further, extend benefits for the long term unemployed to get the economy moving again and increase tax revenues. But kick 56% of Oregonian Medicare recipients off the rolls? There's no reason to do that. It's draconian and it's a complete overreaction.

So yeah, I guess that Ryan and House Republicans have a messaging problem with their plan. But that messaging problem is really a reality problem. This is a seriously awful proposal and no matter how much lipstick you slather on it, it's still a pig.



Griper News: News Roundup for 5/10/11

Obama face palm
"Oh fer chrissake..."

-Headline of the day-
"Half of Republicans polled still don't believe Obama was born in USA."

File this under "never underestimate the bullheaded stupidity of Republican voters." According to the report, "More than a week after the White House unearthed President Obama's original, long-form, Hawaii birth certificate, only 48% of Republicans polled said they believe he was born in the United States.

"In a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling from May 5-8 of 610 Americans who usually support Republicans in primaries, 34% said they did not believe Obama was born in the U.S. while 18% said they still aren't sure."

So, after the release of the document that birthers said would totally convince them, 52% of GOP voters are either birthers or birther-lite.

And this was the same poll that showed that Donald Trump's candidacy had "collapsed" following the BC release.

It's like they blame him for getting the document and (almost) bursting their bubble. (LA Times)

-And here comes the next round of crazy-
Newt Gingrich is going to announce his candidacy. Expect it to look like this:

Gingrich leads a circus parade
Click to enbiggen

It's not so much a question of whether a crazy person will win the GOP primary, as it is a question of which one. (Political Wire)

-Bonus HotD-
"Republicans in Texas Senate approve guns on campus."

Because history shows that really awesome things happen when people bring guns to colleges. (AP)

Bin Laden Photos Probably Less Consequential Than Most Believe

Bin LadenIf the White House decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden's body splits pundits, talking heads, and other media types, there isn't a lot of controversy among the general public. An NBC poll finds a solid majority -- 64% -- agreeing with the decision. Of that percentage, 52% reportedly "strongly" agree. And with even al Qaeda admitting that bin Laden is dead, it's difficult to see what purpose the photos would serve.

Still, the Associated Press is on the case:

[The Atlantic:]

President Obama's decision to withhold the visual evidence of Osama bin Laden's death has created a fundamental disagreement between the White House and one of the largest journalism organizations in the world. "This information is important for the historical record," said Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at The Associated Press. "That's our view."

Last Monday, the AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photographic and video evidence taken during the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The organization's FOIA request included a reminder of the president's campaign pledge and a plea to be more transparent than his predecessor. "The Obama White House 'pledged to be the most transparent government in U.S. history," wrote the AP, "and to comply much more closely with the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did.'"

"It's our job as journalists to seek this material... We're not deciding in advance to publish this material," said Oreskes. "We would like our journalists, who are working very hard, to see this material and then we'll decide what's publishable and what's not publishable based on the possibly that it's inflammatory."

While some believe that the keeping the photos under wraps is a matter of national security -- denying bin Laden followers and sympathizers a "martyr photo" to wave around like a bloody shirt -- the president himself put the argument in terms of decency and security.

"It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool," the president told 60 Minutes' Steve Croft. "We don't trot out this stuff as trophies. The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received."

For the record, I'm with the NBC poll's majority here. I am persuadable -- I wouldn't put myself among the "strongly" agreeing -- but the arguments against release seem more compelling. I'm not going to begrudge the AP's pursuit of their perceived legal rights (especially since I believe the dangers of their release are most likely overstated) but there's also a more common sense argument to the contrary; if something's working, don't pick at it.

[Juan Cole:]

While Usamah Bin Laden's passing will not destroy al-Qaeda altogether, it is a horrible blow to their morale, despite the bravado in al-Qaeda's message acknowledging Bin Laden's death at American hands.

(By the way, for those who insisted that President Obama had to release the photos of Bin Laden's corpse for the reality of his death to be accepted: well, not so much.)

Some have suggested that the Taliban may sever their ties with al-Qaeda in the wake of the latter's clear vulnerability and leadership vacuum.

If the Taliban swears off al Qaeda, then withdrawing from Afghanistan becomes much, much more likely and much, much easier to defend to the "war forever!" crowd. After all, it was the Taliban's ties to the terrorist organization that got this whole thing started in the first place. If this is a serious possibility, then maybe we shouldn't change the game board too much.

On the other hand, there is the question of rights. The security argument seems to be a weak one in this case, with the term "national security" being nothing more than a synonym for "good foreign policy." We've given up way too many rights since 9/11 to let that go lightly. If AP wants to fight a First Amendment press freedom fight, then more power to them.

I guess in the end I'm still going with the administration on this one, but wouldn't lose a lot of sleep if they lost their case in court. If Cole is right and al Qaeda is demoralized by bin Laden's death, then release of the photos wouldn't do much to change that. In fact, it may just serve as a reminder of the blow.