Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You don't own me

I always loved this song - knew all the words and belted it out along with Leslie every time I heard it on the radio. I was . . . 14? 15? at the time. The maker of this video writes:
Personally, I'm struck by the fact that we are teetering dangerously close to a situation where my daughter won't have the same rights I've enjoyed my entire life and that scares the heck out of me. Women constituted 60% of last elections voters. We can win this thing. We just have to agitate, motivate, and get out the darn vote!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The War on Women

So Republicans get the vapors over Democrats saying that the R's have declared a "war on women." To recap:
In Republican-controlled legislatures in statehouses across the country, more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions were introduced in 2011.

Seven states either fully defunded or made moves toward defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception and cancer screenings to millions of women each year.

There’s the invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound mandates, personhood amendments, redefining rape, countless anti-contraception measures, attempts to end Title X and proposals to let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Then there’s the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The landmark measure had broad bipartisan support when it was created in 1994, and when it was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. But in February, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to oppose it.
When you kill people to further your ideological agenda - that's war. That's what war is, basically, (either that or a grab for more territory).

Botched illegal abortions kill women. Not having access to cancer screenings kills women. Not having access to birth control kills women when women whose health can't handle a pregnancy get pregnant or become suicidal due to pregnancy. And, well, refusing to do an abortion to save a woman's life pretty obviously kills women.

I don't even want to look up how many women die each year due to domestic violence. What kind of sociopath votes against The Violence Against Women Act?

Yes, Republicans are waging a war on women.

Will the people who vote for them finally understand this when it's their sister, wife, daughter who dies?

Thursday, October 18, 2012


There was no crowing about the delicately coordinated bombing campaign (and the covert actions on the ground which helped it succeed) that brought down a tyrant. No "Mission Accomplished" banners, no bold predictions about the future of a remade Middle East thanks to our military efforts. But Obama got results. For less than a thousandth of the cost of Iraq, and with no lives lost until September 11th, Obama gave us a democratically elected Arab ally, an ally whose people -- not their leaders, their people -- are so grateful for what America did and how we did it, that after the death of our Ambassador they poured into the streets in outrage, and attacked the Islamic militias responsible.
Republicans seem to think that this is some kind of huge gotcha moment.... But I suspect they're caught up in their own echo chamber, the same one that insists Obama wants to take your guns away and has spent the past four years apologizing for America. But the more they dive into the conspiratorial weeds on this, the worse they look to ordinary Americans who don't really mind that President Obama waited a few days to sift through the evidence instead of going off half cocked within a few hours.

Retail sales

See that grey line labeled "2009"? That's when Bush left and Obama was sworn in. Tell me again why we'd want to go back to having Republicans in charge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Does Romney ever NOT lie?

From the debate transcript:
And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said. . ."Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"

And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.
According to someone who was there at the time:
Not a true story.

What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I've checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I've just presented it is correct -- and that Romney's claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sen. Jim Webb's response to Romney on veteran's benefits

(At the end, Sen. Webb is referring to this.)

Who doesn't pay income tax?

One thing that disturbs me about the 47% rhetoric - which Romney certainly didn't invent - is that it's based on dividing Americans into Us vs. Them.

In this narrative, there are makers vs. takers, producers vs. parasites. These are descriptions of who someone is, their essential nature. The makers and the producers work hard and always take care of themselves. The takers and the parasites are, by their nature, lazy moochers who will always have their hands out for their government checks.

In fact, getting a government check isn't something that's a permanent condition for the vast majority of Americans who get one. Most of us get a government check at some point in our lives. "Government checks" include student loans, veterans benefits, disability payments, social security benefits, disaster assistance, medicare.

The vast majority of Americans work and pay taxes for most of their adult lives to pay for those benefits. But from year to year, our circumstances change. The economy is good, the economy is bad. We find a job, we get laid off. We have a baby or get seriously ill. At some point we either die or get old.

Most of the children who get free lunches while they're in school grow up, get a job and pay taxes that in turn provide free lunches for another generation of poor children. Most people who collect unemployment benefits do so only until they find another job. The very old get Medicaid to help pay for their nursing home care after a lifetime of work and paying taxes.

So who doesn't pay federal income taxes?

The key point in looking at this graph is that it shows a snapshot of who's not paying federal income taxes at one point in time.

People who don't pay income taxes are:

On social security - 10.3% of Americans pay no federal income taxes because they are elderly, drawing a Social Security "government check," and most, if not all (depending on your total income) of Social Security benefits are non-taxable income. But of course, they worked and paid taxes before they retired.

Romney's view of retired Americans on social security: " All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims . . ."

Veterans - Disability pensions for combat-related injuries are not subject to federal income tax. Veteran's education benefits aren't either. I suspect that most of my students who are veterans don't pay income tax because those education benefits are the biggest part of their income. Most have families, are full-time students, working hard to get the education they need to do well in a new career now that they're out of the military. Many were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Ordinary military pensions are taxable, but like many retired people on social security, between their retirement income being lower than what they were making when they were working and the extra deduction for being over 65, they don't owe any income tax.

Romney's view of veterans: " All right, there are 47 percent . . . who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them."

Deployed troops - pay received while serving in a combat zone is non-taxable. Romney's view of our troops serving in a war: " . . . my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility . . ."

Disabled people - Supplemental Security Income is not taxable, Social Security Disability Insurance is covered by the same rules as regular social security benefits, so most people on Social Security Disability Insurance won't have a high enough income to have to pay income tax. About 5% of Americans, receive SSDI or SSI, so they're most of the "Nonelderly, income under $20,000" in the chart above.

Romney's view of disabled Americans: "All right, there are 47 percent . . . who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them . . ."

Working but don't owe income tax - 28.3% of Americans pay no federal income taxes, but they do pay Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax, so that tells us that they have a job or are self-employed. More than a quarter of all Americans are working and paying federal taxes, they're just not paying federal income taxes.

Why don't these working Americans - more than half of Mitt's 47% - pay federal income taxes? For most of them it's because the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) and the Child Tax Credit zeroes out the federal income taxes they would otherwise owe.

For millions of American families, this is a common story: They have a baby, one parent - usually mom - quits her job and stays home with the baby for a year or two, then she goes back to work. While they're living on one income, the family doesn't owe that much in income tax and then the EITC and the Child Tax Credit wipes that out. And most Americans who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit only claim it for one or two years. Source

Romney's view of working class and middle class families with children: ". . . there are 47 percent . . . who pay no income tax... my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

And of course all of these Americans pay all kinds of state and local taxes - sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, etc.

So who are Romney's 47%? This is who they are:

The thing is Romney didn't come up with this 47% nonsense himself. Right wing bloggers and talk show hosts have been going on about "Half of Americans don't pay (income) taxes!" for at least the past year that I've been hearing it. We heard it at the Republican primary debates and on the campaign trail.

There were demands that all of these moochers should have to pay taxes so they would have "skin in the game."

Right. Apparently this is how Republicans see tax fairness:

Old people on social security? Tax 'em! Honor our troops injured in war? Tax 'em! Fighting in a combat zone? Tax 'em! Disabled people struggling to get by? Tax 'em! Stay home with your kids while they're small? You need more taxes! The maid who cleans your motel room for minimum wage, the single mom with two kids? Tax her!

Given his description of the 47% of Americans who don't pay income tax in a given year, you'd think he thinks that they're all on welfare. Well, as I said before, I guess that depends on your definition of "welfare." Unlike Mitt, I think most Americans don't think social security benefits, combat pay, veterans benefits, disability payments, etc. are "welfare." Or maybe he knows very well that that's not true and he's just lying and pandering to his wealthy donors.

But I think he really doesn't know. And not just because he's so rich that he's out of touch. (Though there is that - see the heart-warming story of how he and Ann struggled during their student days when they had to - gasp! -sell some stock that their parents gave them to get by.)

No, I think what ails him is a combination of narcissism and gullibility. He just believes whatever talking points the TV talking heads and radio talk show hosts are repeating at the moment. He really has no curiosity about the vast majority of Americans. He just doesn't care enough to give any thought to why 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes in a particular year. He thinks they're parasites. It's their nature. He has no idea that most of them paid income tax in the past and will again in the future. Not to mention all of the other taxes (payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc.) they pay.

But can we afford a president who has no idea why 47% of Americans don't pay income taxes?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nobody says it like Samuel L. Jackson

NSFW, of course. It's Samuel L. Jackson, for fuck's sake.

Manufacturing jobs

On the radio as I drove to work today, listening to Romney rant about how many manufacturing jobs have been lost and that this proves that "trends are going in the wrong direction under Obama." Looks like it's Bushes (both of 'em) that tend to make American manufacturing jobs disappear.

The BGOV Barometer shows U.S. factory positions have grown since early 2010, arresting a slide that began toward the end of the 1990s. It’s the best showing since the era of Bill Clinton … “This is the first sustained increase we’ve seen in a long time,” Macpherson said. … The progress so far also contrasts with the job losses seen during the recovery from the 2001 recession, when George W. Bush was president, he said.

Monday, September 10, 2012


It would even reach the once inconceivable point—with Joe Biden’s speech, and John Kerry’s, and veterans striding across the podium—where Democrats had and have the advantage on national security.

And that wasn’t just about the death of Osama bin Laden, who, as Kerry observed, is not better off than he was four years ago.

The GOP ceded—inexplicably, yes, idiotically ceded—the high ground here when their nominee failed to mention the war in Afghanistan or to deign to acknowledge the Americans fighting there and finally coming home.
I honestly think they just plain forgot our troops and our veterans. They're not people they think about very often. When asked why he never mentioned the troops at the convention, Romney's response?
ROMNEY: When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Romney: Troops? What troops?

OK, so he never served in the military himself. Instead he spent the Vietnam years being a missionary in France, which he lied about (not exactly a new thing for Romney). Conveniently, although most Mormon missions are for one year or two, Romney spent almost three years in France missionarying which of course kept him from getting drafted.

He was totally gung ho for the Iraq war, but none of his five sons served, memorably explaining that “It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation, and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president." Because working on your dad's political campaign is totally the same sacrifice as serving in Afghanistan.

Our veterans and those who serve are just . . . well, "those people." I'm reminded of a story I read two or three years after the war in Iraq started that was written by an Army recruiter. They went to a high school, as they often did, and kids who were interested could sign up for the recruiters to come by their house, talk to the parents, etc. When they went to one house they were sure there was some mistake. It was a very wealthy neighborhood, and they'd never gotten a request from anyone in a neighborhood like that. A middle aged woman answered they door wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with an American flag. When they explained why they were there, she appeared shocked. "No, no, there must be some misunderstanding. We . . . don't do things like that. The military? No, no. Our son would never . . ." All the while, they could see the boy who'd signed up for a visit (they remembered him from the school) standing behind her.

So Romney is itching for war with Iran, but of course, no one in his family or even anyone he knows will end up fighting it if he gets his way. Which must be why the troops still fighting completely slipped his mind when he accepted his party's nomination in Tampa.

Conservative columnist Bill Kristol asks, What War?
The United States has some 68,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan. Over two thousand Americans have died in the more than ten years of that war, a war Mitt Romney has supported. Yet in his speech accepting his party's nomination to be commander in chief, Mitt Romney said not a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there, or to those who have fought there. Nor for that matter were there thanks for those who fought in Iraq, another conflict that went unmentioned.

Leave aside the question of the political wisdom of Romney's silence, and the opportunities it opens up for President Obama next week. What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we're fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we've been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?

A more personal question about why Romney apparently forgot the troops serving in Afghanistan from Mormon mom Joanna Brooks at Religion Dispatches:
I spent my Labor Day on the beach at Coronado—home to the North Island Naval Station—with two military families we count among our closest friends.

As we watched our kids play jump rope with kelp strands, a friend recalled something Mitt Romney left out of his keynote address to last week’s Republican National Convention.

“No mention of the men and women deployed in Afghanistan,” she said, echoing a concern voiced by conservative commentators like Bill Kristol. “If it’s not worth mentioning us in a national political convention, maybe we shouldn’t even be in Afghanistan.”

Her husband faces possible deployment to Kandahar in February.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The President at the DNC

One of Sullivan's readers:
I felt like he was being square with me. But more than that, I felt not so much hopeful as proud. I'm a liberal, and mostly a cynic about politics and patriotism - but last night, I felt proud! I feel like what Obama accomplished last night was to co-opt all the best values and aspirations of the formerly moderate Republican party - hard work, self-reliance, frugality, the notion that change is best when it is slow and steady - and stitch them seamlessly into everything that is good about the values of the Democratic party - inclusiveness, shared sacrifice, community, generosity, fearless forward thinking. And it seems to me that's quite an accomplishment.

Comment of the day

The firebaggers aren’t really to the left of you—or at least, they aren’t really to the left of me. Most of them aren’t really about policy, or even politics. They’re full of outrage-for-the-sake-of-outrage, and some weird psychological kink makes them lash out not at the enemy but at the savior whose buckle isn’t quite swashed enough for their taste. They’re the emotional equivalents of the teabaggers in congress: if it’s not one thousand percent of what I ask for, then burn it all down.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jobs, anyone?

From Bloomberg:
Private Jobs Increase More With Democrats in White House

The BGOV Barometer shows that since Democrat John F. Kennedy took office in January 1961, non-government payrolls in the U.S. swelled by almost 42 million jobs under Democrats, compared with 24 million for Republican presidents, according to Labor Department figures.

Democrats hold the edge though they occupied the Oval Office for 23 years since Kennedy’s inauguration, compared with 28 for the Republicans. Through April, Democratic presidents accounted for an average of 150,000 additional private-sector paychecks per month over that period, more than double the 71,000 average for Republicans...

Private payrolls grew by 130,000 and, for the first time under President Barack Obama, surpassed the total in January 2009, when he took office. Total employment stayed below January 2009 because there are 607,000 fewer federal, state and local government employees, the Labor Department reported May 4...

Obama focused his remarks on the improvement at non- government employers. “Our businesses have now created more than 4.2 million new jobs over the last 26 months -- more than 1 million jobs in the last six months alone,” Obama said at a May 4 event in Virginia.

Through April, private employers have added an average of about 900 jobs per month since Obama’s inauguration. During the two terms of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, private payrolls shrank by an average of 6,700 jobs per month.

On a monthly basis, Democrat Bill Clinton averaged 217,000 new private-sector jobs. Democrat Jimmy Carter had an average of 188,000, followed by Republican Ronald Reagan’s 153,000, according to Labor Department data...

Republicans, campaigning on pledges to cut government spending and programs, had a relatively better record at creating public-sector jobs. Since January 1961, federal, state and local government employment grew by 7.1 million under Republican presidents and 6.3 million when Democrats were in the White House.
Bottom line: You want jobs - vote for Democrats.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Big Dawg speaks

This is our ex-president. Where was the Republican's ex-president last week? Hmmmmmm.

One of my favorite tweets from the night: "Bill Clinton should be the Secretary of Explaining Things." [Tom Levenson]

Michelle . . .

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fashion report

Ann Romney at the Republican National Convention. Oscar de la Renta, $4,000. And Ann, really?

Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention. Tracy Reese, $400. Also, Barbara Tfank.

Michelle wins.


Monday, September 3, 2012

No, we don't need Chinese money

Dylan Matthews at Benen's blog:
In Rob Portman’s speech at the Republican National Convention:

“China manipulates its currency giving it an unfair trade advantage. So why doesn’t the president do something about it?” Portman asked ...

One problem: China has stopped manipulating its currency. Joe Gagnon, an international finance expert at the Peterson Institute, explains that China hasn’t added to its reserves of other countries’ currencies in over a year now...

That makes the claim that we need the Chinese to buy our bonds to keep interest rates on U.S. debt low highly dubious. What’s more, Gagnon explains, even if all manipulators stop buying US bonds, the Fed can step in and buy them to keep US interest rates unchanged. Deficit-financed spending would be no more difficult than it was before.

But let’s suppose manipulation starts back up again in January 2013. Is Obama or Romney better positioned to tackle it? It’s hard to say, but Gagnon faults Romney for not offering many specifics for how he’d “get tough” on China. Obama, by contrast, has a pretty good record on the issue. “China’s manipulation really took off and peaked under George Bush,” he explained. “Under Obama it has gradually disappeared.”

[Portman was ranting about "Obama's trillion dollar deficits." Just a reminder about whose deficits we're dealing with, here.]

Just for the record

I'm really tired of hearing this, and I hear it from both Democrats and Republicans. As Benen describes it:
The stimulus wasn't big enough? Blame Dems; they had supermajorities in both chambers for two years. There's no comprehensive immigration reform? Blame Dems; they had supermajorities in both chambers for two years. There was only one big jobs bill? Blame Dems; they had supermajorities in both chambers for two years. And so on.
Please folks, it wasn't that long ago. They had a super majority for four months, not two years. Given that, I think they did pretty damn good to get access to healthcare for 40 million Americans passed - health reform that both Democrats and Republicans have promised and failed to produce since fucking Truman. And a stimulus bill that didn't magically fix the economy but it worked a hell of a lot better than the austerity measures demanded by the Republicans. Here's how that works:

See the green line. That's how the Democrat's way - the stimulus, worked for us. See the blue line, that's how the Republican's way - drastically cut spending - worked for Europe. So we didn't get single payer on the health care reform. Unemployment is still too high. True. However, not bad I think for four months. Which was all they had, to tackle the two biggest domestic problems in my lifetime.

Reminder. Here's why the Democrats had a filibuster proof majority - which was necessary to get anything at all passed since the Republicans filibustered everything the Democrats proposed - for only four months. Thanks, Steve, for laying it out so clearly.
In January 2009, there were 56 Senate Democrats and two independents who caucused with Democrats. This combined total of 58 included Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose health was failing and was unable to serve. As a practical matter, in the early months of Obama's presidency, the Senate Democratic caucus had 57 members on the floor for day-to-day legislating.

In April 2009, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter switched parties. This meant there were 57 Democrats, and two independents who caucused with Democrats, for a caucus of 59. But with Kennedy ailing, there were still "only" 58 Democratic caucus members in the chamber.

In May 2009, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was hospitalized, bringing the number of Senate Dems in the chamber down to 57.

In July 2009, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was finally seated after a lengthy recount/legal fight. At that point, the Democratic caucus reached 60, but two of its members, Kennedy and Byrd, were unavailable for votes.

In August 2009, Kennedy died, and Democratic caucus again stood at 59.

In September 2009, Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) filled Kennedy's vacancy, bringing the caucus back to 60, though Byrd's health continued to deteriorate.

In January 2010, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) replaced Kirk, bringing the Democratic caucus back to 59 again.

In June 2010, Byrd died, and the Democratic caucus fell to 58, where it stood until the midterms.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Graphic of the day

Private sector job creation, Obama vs. Bush:
Note - red = Obama, blue = Bush

Government jobs created, Obama vs. Bush:

[Spike is census jobs.]


Friday, August 24, 2012

Follow the money

"By proposing to end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling and coal mining on government lands, Mitt Romney is making a bid for anti-Washington voters in key Western states while dangling the promise of a big reward to major campaign supporters from the energy industry...

Giving states control over the energy resources on millions of acres of federal lands would be a radical shift from decades of policies under both Democratic and Republican presidents, dating all the way to Theodore Roosevelt, who first set aside vast tracts of territory to preserve wildlife. Since then, the federal government has tried to balance exploitation of mineral resources with other uses like recreation and environmental protection...

“This step would be a change in national policy direction going back at least 50 years, giving control over national assets to localities,” said Michael E. Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. “Local decision makers could inhibit production that could be against the national interest or could encourage production that could pollute waters or air in another state.”...

Federico Peña, secretary of energy in the Clinton administration and now a co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, said Mr. Romney’s plan would cause more problems for the oil and gas industry. “I cannot imagine a world in where there are 50 different kinds of rules and regulations for industry,” Mr. Peña said. “To see Balkanization of rules and regulation I think would drive the industry crazy.”...

An individual close to the Romney campaign said that Mr. Romney’s staff drafted the proposal in consultation with industry executives, including Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma billionaire who is the chairman of the campaign’s energy advisory committee and chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and gas driller.

Just this week, the oil and gas industry gave nearly $10 million toward the Romney election effort in two fund-raisers."
A commenter who agrees with Peña adds: "I am in the extractive resource business, and I cannot think of a worse idea. States are extremely prone to local corrupt political practices and unsavory business influences. Utah is a classic example of this, as Romney should know. The legacy of federal ownership and management of public lands and minerals is a wonderful thing, and should be kept that way. I'm sick and tired of Republicans attempting to put everything up for sale. Truly appalling. Teddy Roosevelt is turning in his grave."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How would Obama vs Romney affect the U.S. economy and American families?

Filed under "What if we stopped talking about whether or not we liked a politician or approve of this or that thing about them and talked instead about how what they propose to do, or have done, affects our country and all of us Americans who live in it? Because, after all, isn't that the only reason that politics is important? Because it affects actual human lives? (And, well, the whole Earth itself, really.)

Click on the graphics to see larger versions:

To see the overview of the entire country above from the original source, go to the Local section of Politify and enter any location in the U.S. (your own or any you're curious about). Then zoom out by clicking the minus sign at the top left until you can see the big picture.

Source for the one below is the National section of the site.


Todd Akin says women who are "legitimately" raped can't get pregnant. Actual numbers of pregnancies in the U.S. each year that are the result of rape - 32,000.

The only sane reaction to such idiocy:

The seven stages of feminist grief (Todd Akin edition)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

What He Really Said

When creating a false narrative, one powerful tool is the truncated quote, editing out part of what was said to change the meaning of the statement. One of the mainstays of the anti-Obama narratives is "Obama doesn't think America is exceptional. He doesn't think America is anything special." As evidence they have repeatedly shown a clip of Obama answering a question at a newsconference in France. This is the text of edited clip that they show: ". . . the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Here's the entire question and answer:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the context of all the multilateral activity that's been going on this week -- the G20, here at NATO -- and your evident enthusiasm for multilateral frameworks, to work through multilateral frameworks, could I ask you whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy? And if so, would you be able to elaborate on it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.

You have to ask, why is the part of the answer to the question I bolded not included in the clip that's usually shown of this newsconference?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One can hope

Comment from Mitch at Will Mitt Romney's Bet on Lying Pay Off?
All of my kin are hardcore evangelicals, and they have recently begun having major changes of heart when it comes to Romney. They have never liked him, due to his Mormonism. Yes, they do consider LDS a cult, probably influenced by Satan. But they were going to vote for him anyway. Lately, however, they have decided to not vote at all. They - Fox News watchers in Appalachia - have noticed that he lies constantly. They have noticed that he has offshore bank accounts, that he's shady about his taxes, and that his business career was a bit too centered on laying off Americans and outsourcing work overseas. I have heard from several friends and family members in Kentucky that their CHURCHES are discussing how the GOP has gone off the rails, and apparently does little more than worship money and prop up the rich while telling everyone else to stuff it. These are ALL small-town, evangelical, "real 'murcan" types. These are people who watch Fox News more than any other channel . . . but even they are starting to see the truth. So who knows? Maybe now that America is getting to know Romney as well as we political junkies know him. Maybe a lot more people feel the same way as my folks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Also typical

Months ago was I found myself trapped in the waiting room at the car dealer’s place while the car was getting its checkup, etc. The TV was tuned to some cable news channel – I don’t remember which one – and the “story” was about the level of transparency of Venus Williams’ underwear. Evidently it was not opaque enough to suit someone or other, and the pretty, young, blond anchorperson was going on hysterically – and endlessly – about it. Sometimes consulting her sidekick about whether or not he agreed (which he emphatically did, of course).

Now not only was I completely uninterested in Venus Williams underwear and pretty appalled that a discussion of same was considered “news,” she really only had three things to say about it: You could practically see through it! Isn’t that Awful! And doesn’t it set a Terrible Example for The Children! So she just kept repeating those three points over and over making the whole thing excruciatingly boring on top of everything else.

I tried unsuccessfully to tune it out for about 30 minutes until I finally fled to stand out in the parking lot even though it was cold and rainy that day. Someone who worked there asked why I was standing out in the cold and rain and when I told him, showed me a blessedly TV-free waiting room that I hadn’t known about before. It was lovely.

So this is the other reason I don't watch TV news. If it's a marginally important or relevant story, they get it appallingly wrong. The rest of the time they're going on about something totally ridiculous. I don't know if they were wrong about Venus Williams' underwear.

I.Don't.Care. about it.

[posted on 12/30/10]


This is a blog post about a story that was widely reported on the TV news. Note that a local TV news channel is the source of the blog post, but if I didn't read blogs, there's no way I'd see a story done by a San Diego TV station.

Still Making An Innocent Man Look Bad
by Conor Friedersdorf

There’s a guy named Juan Carlos Vera. He worked at an ACORN office in San Diego, California. One day, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles walked in with a hidden video camera, and pretended to be a pimp and prostitute. They asked for help smuggling underage girls across the Mexican border so that they could work in a brothel. Confronted with what appeared to be a sex trafficking plot, you’d hope that someone would play along, get as much information as possible, and call the police. And guess what? That’s exactly what Mr. Vera did! Unbeknownst to O’Keefe or Giles, he called his cousin, a police officer, shortly after they left his office.

Perhaps you know what happened next. Having cut his teeth editing The Drudge Report and its notoriously misleading headlines, Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart published the ACORN videos, which fooled me at the time – I praised them, and even encouraged Breitbart to pressure attorneys general into investigating the organization. I’ve never felt like such a fool. Some of the ACORN tapes reflect very badly on that organization, but taken as a whole, they are misleading in a lot of ways.

The San Diego ACORN video was particularly misleading.

Put another way, Andrew Breitbart published videos that made an innocent man look as if he was complicit in a plot to traffic underage girls across the border. Granted, he didn’t do this on purpose. Still, it happened. And it cost the guy his job:

A man fired from ACORN’s San Diego-area office for discussing human smuggling with a fake pimp and prostitute;reported the incident to police two days after it happened, according to information released by the police. Juan Carlos Vera was fired by ACORN after a videotape was aired on Fox News showing him discussing with a couple posed as a pimp and a prostitute the best ways to smuggle underage prostitutes into the U.S. from El Salvador.

It’s better if it’s in Tijuana, Vera is heard saying in the video. Because I have a lot of contacts in Tijuana.

But police said in a press release that Vera reported the incident to his cousin, a detective with the National City Police Department. Vera worked in ACORN’s National City office. The detective contacted a federal task force that deals with human smuggling, and an officer from the task force asked for more details.

After publishing videos of Vera that made him look like a sex trafficker and costing the man his job, did Breitbart explain how the mistake happened, apologize and correct the record? Did he alert his readers to the truth? Having expressed outrage at the media on countless occasions for trafficking in serious accusations that weren’t grounded in facts, did he behave better after realizing that he’d done exactly the same thing?

Nope. As far as I know, neither an apology nor a correction has ever appeared. The vast majority of his readership remains misinformed. The San Diego videos remain posted at Big Government, misleading as ever. I’ve attempted to get Breitbart and O’Keefe to address this. No luck. But Breitbart has a habit of having long, often profane arguments with his detractors on Twitter. A guy named Frank Vayan Walton raised the subject of Vera. And here is how Breitbart responded on December 27, 2010 (brackets are my added context):

Juan Vera called [his police officer] cousin LONG after videos were filmed - when James [O’Keefe] refused to hook up w him to help girls over border. Try again!

After examining phone records and conducting interviews with two police officers, the California Attorney General’s Office reported [PDF] this about O’Keefe and Giles’ visit with Vera: "Immediately after the couple left, Vera telephoned his cousin, Detective Alejandro Hernandez, at the National City Police Department.

The report goes on:

He left a voicemail message for Detective Hernandez stating that some “crazy people” were in his office providing information. Vera did not explain the substance of the conversation and did not make reference to prostitution or human smuggling on the message. He asked his cousin to call him back. Later that day, Vera also reported the incident to fellow ACORN employee Cruz Acosta. Acosta had been away from the office while the couple was present. Vera explained to him what happened. Vera also reported the incident, either the same day or shortly thereafter, to Mar Murrillon, an ACORN board member. Vera told Murrillon that he had reported the incident to the police. (Vera Interview.) Vera eventually spoke with Detective Hernandez on August 27, 2009.

So Breitbart is factually wrong. He is also still insinuating than an innocent man was willing to be complicit in the transnational smuggling of underage prostitutes. All this seems like a story to me! Something that would be of interest to folks on the press beat like Howard Kurtz or Jack Shafer or others. And shouldn’t all the press outlets that wrote about the ACORN tapes from San Diego note this development? . . .

Well, yes. They should. But they won’t. Which is why I no longer read, watch, or listen to any of them. Note that although I already knew this part of the story (from an online source)

Let's review their story:

O'Keefe, dressed as a pimp, and Giles, disguised as a prostitute, visited ACORN offices where they asked for assistance purchasing a home. They claimed to have difficulty documenting income derived from the streets. But they had so much money! In fact, it wasn't just the two of them -- they had a whole crew of underage girls from El Salvador turning tricks for them. Hell, they had so much money, they needed help laundering it for the pimp's run for Congress.

Now let's tell the truth.

The truth is that O'Keefe never wore the pimp outfit into an ACORN office. Instead, he posed as a candidate for Congress that wanted to help a young woman caught in the trappings of prostitution. Supposedly, he wanted to help her, and her fellow prostitutes, escape the clutches of a brutal pimp by finding a place for them to live.

I didn’t know the part about the San Diego ACORN worker reporting the incident to the police. Immediately.

And even Conor, above, omits this part:

For instance, a much-publicized recording of a visit to the San Diego office, in which an employee is purportedly seeking information to help smuggle underage girls from Mexico into the United States to work as prostitutes, did not mention that the employee's 'contact' in Mexico was actually a police official. The employee collected as much specific information as possible, then contacted Mexican police, warning them of the plot.

Anyway, all that seems pretty typical of how the traditional media works. Get all hysterical about something scandalous (transparent underwear! pimps and postitutes!) and then never bother to do any actual research or follow up. And even when there’s plenty of correct information out there – gathered by others, of course, because they can’t be bothered . . . OMG there’s another scandalous thing to share with our viewers! – they never make a correction. They just let people go on believing the wrong thing that they reported in the first place.

As I said this is why I no longer read, watch, or listen to any of them.

[posted on 12/30/10]

We are not their customers

In 1996 I read James Fallows’ Why Americans Hate the Media. It was one of those experiences that alters where you stand as you look at something. Since you are standing in a different place, what you are looking at looks different. It’s what we mean, I guess, when someone has said something thoughtful and true and you say, “Well, that gives me a different perspective on the matter."

I never saw The Media quite the same way again.

It didn’t instantly transport me to the view I have of it now, but it started the process of asking questions that I hadn’t even known were questions before. And it started a fascination with the question of how do we know what we think we know? How close is what we think we know to reality?

I should add that when I read it I was teaching a class in critical thinking. And sometime not long after I reread Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders, written in 1957.

I think a lot of things about the media these days, but all of what I think about it is shaped by what I think is a fundamental fact that’s often missed - we are not their customers.

So many discussions of the media about how frustrating, infuriating, outmoded, misleading, shallow, etc it is – and why we hate it - end up with someone saying, well, if they can’t deliver what their customers want, we’ll stop buying.

Note the “we.” And that’s the problem. We are not their customers.

The customers of a business are the ones who literally buy the product, who hand over money for a good or a service. We may hand over fifty cents for a newspaper or a few dollars for a magazine, but any newspaper or magazine publisher will tell you that the income from subscriptions and newstands won’t keep the lights on. And we get radio and TV news for free. We may pay a cable bill, but Time Warner or Comcast aren’t forking over millions of dollars to keep NBC or Fox News in business.

Who are their customers, who pays them, for what service?

Advertisers. Other businesses, who enlist their help to recruit customers for their business.

So what is The Media selling?

Not the Nightly News, or Morning Joe, or American Idol. They’re selling eyeballs (print, TV) or ears (radio), which is shorthand for our attention.

They’re selling us. To their advertisers.

Consider a commercial fisherman, trawling for cod or tuna. The fish are not their customers. The wholesalers who buy their catch are their customers.

We are the fish. The newspaper and magazine stories, the TV and radio programs are the bait, not the product. Our attention is the product, what is being sold.

If mass media is in trouble now, if it’s not selling what their customers (advertisers) want to buy, it’s because more and more of us fish are not finding the bait as tasty as we used to. Do we really want to demand that they provide better bait? Or do we start to ask ourselves if we want to be sold?

[posted on 8/1/10]

They think you're stupid

People who take politics seriously, who have strong opinions about political issues, more or less universally think anyone who has a differing opinion is stupid.

We tend to believe that we arrive at our political views by examining the facts and drawing logical conclusions from those facts. We think that people who don’t know the facts we are working with are ignorant, and people who know these facts (perhaps because we have just pointed them out) who persist in having a different opinion – well, the only explanation must be that they can’t think logically. In other words, they are stupid.

A lot of people have analyzed political opinions and how people come to have the opinions that they do and have determined that facts and logic have precious little to do with it. But even those who agree with these analyses – and I do – can’t really help themselves when confronted with someone who stubbornly persists in disagreeing with us.

We feel compelled to share our facts with them. And we can’t help ourselves from thinking that the person we’re arging with is stupid when they don’t immediately agree with us. Even when we know that this person is not actually stupid. (Well, some people are stupid, often by choice or laziness, but the majority of human beings are not, in fact, stupid. In my opinion.)

Liberals and conservatives seem to be equal opportunity offenders here. Conservative commentators call liberals “libtards” as often as possible. Liberals love this right-winger’s sign so much that “moran” is the liberal in-joke for stupid conservative.

Get a Brain Moran Pictures, Images and Photos

But what seems to be different is that conservatives seem to take this back and forth much more seriously. There’s real anger, real emotion, about being called stupid by those who think differently. While liberals are more, eh whatever, when called a libtard, for example.

Why? Liberals don’t have a constant drumbeat of “conservatives think you’re stupid” poured into their ears. If you’re a liberal who’s not passionate about politics to the point of reading conservative blogs, comments on YouTube, etc (to see what the other side is up to, ya know), you’ve probably never even heard the term libtard.

On the other hand, there seems to be no end to it in the conservative mainstream media. Fox news, talk radio. It’s constant. Liberals think they’re better than you. They think you’re ignorant, stupid, hicks.

I got to thinking what this does to a person, constantly being told that there are a lot of people who think you’re stupid. Those people, those right over there, your neighbor with the sign for the Democratic candidate in their yard, your co-worker who makes the case for conserving energy and abortion rights (clearly a liberal). They think you’re stupid. So you’re told. And told, and told, and told, and told.

Isn’t it kind of like an abusive husband, who repeatedly tells his wife something like, “Most people think you’re ugly. They make fun of how fat you are behind your back.” But then he’ll say, “But not me. I see your inner beauty. I like a woman with a little meat on her bones. No skinny chicks for me!”

It’s classic manipulativeness. Make her feel worthless and bad, and then make sure she knows the only relief from how bad she is feeling is you. If she doesn’t feel worthless and bad, if she really felt beautiful (inside or out) she might run off with someone else. It’s about power. It’s about control.

Otherwise, why tell her the bad things other people are saying? If you really love her, if you really see her inner beauty and that’s what matters to you, if you really prefer a woman to be voluptuous rather than looking like an emaciated fashion model, why not just say, “Wow honey, you are so hot!” Why preface that with the nasty things “other people” say?

So why don’t conservative anchors on Fox news and conservative talk show hosts just say, “This conservative proposal is better. Here’s why. The liberal ideas on this are wrong. Here’s why.”

Why the need to always present it as, well, of course, you know that (insert conservative proposal here) is better, but the liberals – who think you’re stupid - want to do (insert liberal proposal here).

Except to insinuate in their viewers’ and listeners’ minds that they are, in fact, stupid. Or at least to make them doubt themselves. When you’re told over and over that a lot of people think you’re stupid (or ugly) doesn’t that plant the seed somewhere in your mind that maybe they’re right? So that it feels really good when the person that just told you that other people think you’re stupid, says, “But I don’t!”

[posted on 11/26/10]

Job creator?

[posted on 6/24/12]

Memorial Day

When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac. 

The night before the burial of her husband's body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of 'Cat,' and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. "I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it," she said. "I think that's what he would have wanted."

[posted on 5/28/12]

The growth in government spending

From the Wall Street Journal:

A former Republican, now a Democrat, said, "I voted for Republicans all those years because they said they were fiscally conservative and for less government spending. I just believed them. I never actually checked the numbers. It turns out what they were saying is the opposite of what they were doing."

[posted on 5/23/12]

Who actually cut spending?

Click graphic for larger version. Article

[posted on 5/17/12]

Who are the job creators?

[posted on 5/17/12]

Deficits - Bush vs Obama

How the deficits got this big

[posted on 4/8/12]

Did the stimulus fail? (No)

Steve Benen at the Maddow blog.

[posted on 4/5/12]

Just can't win with Wall Street

From The Salt Lake Tribune.

[posted on 4/4/12]

Reality check

Obama's Spending Record: More Conservative Than Reagan's

[posted on 3/19/12]

Women who use birth control are sluts

Here is Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke's statement before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on women's health and contraception.

Transcript here.

Note that:

- She never mentions her own sex life or that she personally wants or needs birth control pills. She only discusses fellow students whose stories she knows. Students who could not afford the birth control pills they needed because they are not covered under student health insurance. A married student using them for birth control, a student with polycystic ovarian syndrome who lost an ovary because she had to stop taking the pills that kept the disease under control, a student who needs the pill for endometriosis, and a student who was raped but did not go a doctor because had gotten the impression that no women's heath care was covered by the university.

Sandra Fluke herself could be a virgin or a lesbian or a nun with no need of birth control for all we know from her testimony. She never asked that the university student insurance cover hormonal contraceptives for herself.

- She is testifying that she supports insurance coverage for hormonal contraception, just like any other drug prescribed by the student's doctor, "insurance students pay for completely unsubsidized by the university." She's not asking for anyone else to pay for the students' prescriptions. She's only asking that the insurance that the student pays the premiums for cover these drugs as they do other drugs.

Here's Rush Limbaugh's three-day attack on Sandra Fluke:

Note that this was not an off-hand comment, a couple of words that were a little rude. This went on and on for three days.

The response from the Republican presidential candidates here. Rush Limbaugh's "apology" here.

(Note that he uses his so-called apology to repeat his lies about her testimony - he states that her testimony was about "personal sexual recreational activities" when clearly it was not, and that "I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities" when no one asked him to! The students only want the insurance that they pay the premiums for to cover all of their prescriptions. He just cannot stop lying.)

[posted on 3/13/12]

Jobs lost, jobs gained

[posted on 2/6/12]

Who decides?

This Graphic of the Day might seem to imply that abortion services, since they are a small part of what Planned Parenthood does, are unimportant to those of us who support Planned Parenthood.

Not unimportant. Critical.

Too many politicians would allow abortions only to save the life of the mother - no exceptions for rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormality. If a woman gets pregnant as a result of a rape, or a 12 year old is pregnant by her father (also rape whether violent or not), they believe that the government should force the rape victim, even a 12 year old, to live with that pregnancy for nine months and give birth to their rapist's baby. If a fetus is so deformed that it cannot survive outside the womb, they believe that the government should force the woman to carry it until it dies inside her, or to give birth and then watch it struggle and die in her arms.

This is a horrifying and cruel demand for government control of our very bodies, our hearts, our souls.

But women also need to be able to determine the course of their own lives in less extreme, but still difficult situations.

I graduated from high school with a full college scholarship. It paid for everything. Not just tuition and books, but room and board as well. It was a life-saver for me. My mother died when I was seven and when Fall came I was finally able to escape from my abusive and violent father. I had tried before. I ran away from home three times my senior year of high school, but I kept being returned to him. Children had no rights in those days. They were simply possessions of their parents. I guess I just wasn't brave enough to run off to a distant big city and try to survive any way I could. Too many street kids in cities like New York or Chicago were kids like me, desperate to escape. I had heard the stories, that many survived by prostitution and stealing. Scared that I'd end up like those kids, I knocked on doors of teachers or friend's parents late at night, in tears and hysterical. They took me back.

I got pregnant when I was 19. No idea how that happened. I was taking birth control pills and don't think I had missed any. But it happened.

I had no idea what to do. I had no home to go to. The only money I had was the $63 a month I got from Social Security survivors benefits because my mother had died. I would have lost my scholarship and been expelled from school. For being an immoral slut. Several girls I knew who had gotten pregnant had abortions arranged by their parents, but I effectively had no parents.

Finally I told a friend. He told me that he knew how to get me an abortion (an illegal one, of course) if that was what I wanted. He'd done that for his sister, who had attempted suicide when she found out she was pregnant. He was literally trying to save her life, sure that she'd try again and might well succeed the second time.

The relief I felt when he told me that he could help me flowed through my whole body. I can't describe it. I told him I'd think about it. I desperately didn't want to be pregnant, but I also knew how dangerous illegal abortions were. I could die.

A few days later, I miscarried.

About a year later, my friend told me his sister had attempted suicide again. It turned out that the infection that happened as a result of her back alley abortion had left her infertile. She couldn't accept never being able to have children. My friend and his sister had grown up in a very strict Baptist family and she believed that she was being punished for having sex, for getting pregnant. She figured that since she was going to burn in Hell for all eternity, she might as well get on with it. Why wait? Eternity is a long time.

I look at my daughter, the light of my life, and I think, if I hadn't miscarried, if I'd accepted my friend's offer of help, I too might never have been able to have children.

I don't want young women today to experience the panic and desperation that I did and I sure as hell don't want them to go through what my friend's sister went through.

We can't go back.

Abortion is complicated. But the basic principle is simple. There are as many reasons, as many personal stories like mine behind every decision to terminate a pregnancy as there are women who need an abortion.

The decision should not be the government's.

From Planned Parenthood:

Our primary goal is prevention — reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, especially the alarmingly high number of teenage pregnancies, in the United States. At the same time, to protect their health and the health of their families, women facing an unintended pregnancy must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from the government. Decisions about childbearing should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and doctor — not by politicians.

(bold mine)

[posted on 2/5/12]

What Planned Parenthood does

(thoughts here)

[posted on 2/5/12]

Why do Americans hate the media

From Devilstower at DailyKos

The media -- newspapers, radio, and television -- is not made up of reporters running on a sparkling field of journalistic integrity. Those reporters are instead embedded in a machine intended to do the one thing that Mr. Keen sets as the mark of professionalism -- make money. And the way the media has chosen to make money over the last few decades is, perversely, by devaluing their own product. The clearest illustration of this can be found in three massive changes that have affected news over the last two decades: the increase in radio pundits, the establishment of the Fox News Network, and the reaction of the remainder of the media to the first two events. . . .

But the right wing talk brigade doesn't exist just to build up their own or tear down Democrats. They have, from the moment they first rolled onto the air, existed to tell you that traditional news organizations are no good. The Washington Post? Inside the beltway losers out of touch with real America. CNN? The Clinton News Network. The New York Times? Please. Do you really have to ask?

Punditry has always aimed as much artillery at the people who deliver the news as it does at those who make it. There's a very good reason for this. Before you can convince someone of a lie, you need to make it more difficult for them to check your information. If you establish from the start that NPR is communist, MSNBC and CNN are slanted, and every newspaper this side of Journal's editorial page should be printed on pink paper, then any exaggeration you deliver becomes the de facto standard. Impugning the validity of other news sources is the first job of a successful pundit. They don't seek to be your sources of information by passing along reliable news. They do so by constantly assailing the legitimacy of other sources until you're left shaking your head at the absolute ignorance of everyone but Rush/Bill/Sean/Ann.

The same principles apply to an even greater degree for Fox News. Yes, the network exists to promulgate a rigidly conservative agenda, but it can't do that without first informing you that every other source of news is invalid. Fox doesn't compete with the other networks, it sneers at them. From its motto to its non-existent boundaries between opinion and reporting, Fox exists by being an instrument of destruction to other news providers. Why do those who watch Fox News continue to believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11 despite that idea having been disproved over, and over, and over? Because Fox tells them to. Because Fox's pundits repeat the lie. Because Fox has convinced them that no other source of fact exists.

Fox News Network alone has done more to devalue the whole idea of news than every supermarket tabloid, every radio ranter, and every blogger combined.

If both the institutions at blame are heavily weighted to the right, that's no coincidence. Conservative dogma has long held the idea that it must discredit the press by claiming that the Fourth Estate is in fact a Fifth Column. They have depended on their ability to defame factual sources as a means of easing the way for misinformation since well before the time of Joe McCarthy. The right has successfully extended this campaign into the realm of science, convincing people that both evolution and global warming are somehow "political issues," deserving of no more attention than alternatives despite reams of evidence.

The myth of the "liberal media" came long before the blogs. Discrediting the "nattering nabobs" of the press is not a game that originated with bloggers. Every blogger I know is fully aware that we could not survive without the legwork done by hardworking, professional reporters. Bloggers are not competition to the traditional media -- though they do, hopefully, act as an occasional check on its excesses. However, even if the Internet were entirely dedicated to the downfall of existing media, it would be only one popgun in a chorus of cannons. A large part of the traditional media is dedicated to nothing less than making war on the rest. . . .

The media is working very, very hard to make sure that you don't trust the media. Professionalism defined only by dollars dictates that they chase declining ad revenues through alleys of filth. News outlets have become devoted not to providing stories that are timely and accurate, but to providing proof that their competitors are slanted and unreliable. It's devolved into a battle in which all sides lose. And the biggest loser is the consumer looking for a reliable, authoritative source of information.

The parts I bolded in the excerpts from Devilstower's post reminded me of why I continually have a deeply disturbing sense that the extreme right-wing is more like a cult than a political party. As I understand it, as new members are enticed into a cult, the first thing that must be done to ensure their "capture" into the cult is to isolate them. They must be completely separated from any source of information that would cause them to question the ideology and worldview of the cult.

Cult members are often required to cut off all communication with family and former friends. TV, newspapers, magazines, books (except for any written by the cult leader) are usually banned. The only "information" new members are allowed is the distorted view of reality provided by the cult itself.

Some cult members (often the women and the children) are permanently kept isolated from the wider world. However, it is difficult to impossible to completely isolate everyone in the cult from the outside. The men, for example, may be required to have jobs or the cult itself may establish businesses that require contact with their customers in order to financially support the cult. The truly isolated members may accidentally be exposed to outside sources. So it is necessary to install deep distrust of any information from outside the cult into the very brains of the cult members.

What Devilstower describes is how this is being done to millions of Americans through the traditional media. What started as conscious propaganda on the part of the extreme right has now spread to formerly more-or-less reliable sources of information. And the formerly more-or-less reliable sources are actively participating in their own erosion of credibility.

Scary, when you think about how dangerous the cult mentality can be and where it can lead. What's scary is not that most Americans are buying it. They aren't. What's scary are the horrors that can be unleashed in any society by a minority of "true believers" in the name of an ideology.

[posted on 12/27/11]


Larger graphic and discussion at the source Center for American Progress

[posted on 12/27/11]

Pretty funny

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The death penalty


If we go from 1976, the year the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court, there have been 1,266 executions.

In the same time, there have been 133 inmates who were sentenced to die, who have had their conviction overturned on appeal, and were subsequently acquitted on re-trial, or had their charges dismissed by the State, or were granted an absolute pardon. . . .

Those numbers mean, in the past 35 years, 1 in 10 deathrow inmates was tried, found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers, and sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit.

Those are just the ones we know of. If the system could get it demonstrably wrong 10 percent of the time. There’s a good chance that there’s a similar number of cases where the accused wasn’t so fortunate.

[posted on 12/13/11]


Darksyde considers his parents:

I'm lucky. Both my parents are entering their ninth decade of life and in relatively good health. They're alive, vibrant, enjoying their golden years surrounded by legions of kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.

Thanks to Medicare, my parents have survived heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, each requiring major, life saving surgery. They’ve had cataracts repaired, hold arthritis in check, and closely monitor and treat any signs of peripheral artery disease or pending stroke. That's why today they can enjoy a round of golf, shop for Christmas presents, hug their great-grandchildren, and do all the precious things more valuable to everyone in my family than any sum of money. To say that private, for profit health insurance could never offer our clan that option is a laughable understatement.

If Fox News, Newt Gingrich, or Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the lying wingnut clowns had been around when Medicare was proposed, my mother and father would be, at best, blind and crippled in a homeless shelter due to medical costs. Probably with at least one or two of their medically tapped out adult children living in a dumpster across the street. Or, more likely, they would live only in my family’s memory. And make no mistake; this Republican war on affordable heathcare is a war on my parents and yours. It's a fundamental plank in conservative ideology and includes destroying Medicare, usually disguised by widely quoted bytes like ‘ let's get the government out of healthcare.’

. . . What’s so remarkable about my parents' healthcare battles and victories isn’t that they're unique; the remarkable thing is they are the norm. Millions of senior citizens are alive, pain free, and productive today as a direct result of a core value in the progressive movement: it's time for affordable, quality healthcare to be a right, not a privilege, for everyone.

. . . If ever there was a time when pastors and priests should be reminding their congregation that "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me," it is here. If ever there was cause worth fighting for, healthcare reform is it. Our time is now.

[posted on 8/16/09]