A Word About “Fake” News (updates)

December 19, 2016

writing-book
I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be trying to pin down the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s campaign loss for a little while, especially given the fact that, at this moment, the Electoral College is all but certain to proclaim Donald J. Trump as our next president, as horrifying as that reality is (and believe me when I tell you that I’d love to be wrong). And yes, I know I personally have already engaged in this exercise in this space, and at a certain point the whole damn thing starts to become repetitive or self-serving, or both.

However, I believe I must add something to the discussion about so-called “fake” news that, as nearly as I can tell, has been missing.

As far as I’m concerned, the concept of “fake” news isn’t new at all. You could argue that the means to propagate it is relatively new (that is, by means of social networking sites, most infamously Facebook). To me, though, “fake” news has propagated like metaphorical weeds all over the manicured green grass of what should be our information landscape ever since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 (and, not coincidentally at all, the arrival of Fox “News” 20 years ago).

There has definitely been a conservative element in this country from its inception, of course – isolationist, capitalistic, racist, among other faults (not to say that the other side has been perfect on this stuff either…far from it, actually). And they have had their own sympathetic media voices for a long time (such as Westbrook Pegler and Jack O’Brian in the 1950s, who were precursors to William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol, and others). However, they remained relegated to the sidelines by comparison in response to the legitimate news networks and professionals of our corporate media who, long ago, were not saddled with the burden of profitability. I would also argue that conservatives realized just what kind of an impact the media could have on our politics when the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led to Richard Nixon’s resignation in Watergate of course (if conservatives don’t have a sense of resentment over something and a need to attack “the other” in response – and Nixon’s fall gave them that in their estimation – then they truly have nothing).

The ascendancy of their hero Ronald Reagan gave them the excuse for triumphalism in their media and discourse overall (print back in those days), but it wasn’t until the election of Bill Clinton and the advent of communication online at about that time that they found a way to generate a self-sustaining media presence that (as far as I’m concerned) led to the whole “weed” thing I mentioned earlier. They saw that they could generate the requisite outrage aimed chiefly at our 42nd president over the “controversy du jour” and maintain their profitability in their little devil’s bargain (and of course, the financial success of Fox “News” speaks for itself, unfortunately).

To me, that is when the whole “fake” news thing started. And when the Supreme Court installed Clinton’s successor (aided by plenty of “fake” news from Frank Bruni, for one, in favor of the Republican nominee in that election), we found ourselves with a presidential administration that, to no small degree, started to fix its often disastrous policies in no small part on “fake” news (see Miller, Judith and the Iraq War).

Of course, the whole “fake” news industry had to shift gears when President Hopey Changey was elected in 2008 – I mean, they had to be outsiders all over again, so of course that led to all of the birther stuff, Bill Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, etc. I’ll never forget that useless hack J.D. Mullane’s column about how Obama was supposedly “racist” for saying that white people in this country cling to their guns and their religion in times of crisis, or something (even though that whole dustup almost sunk Obama’s campaign – again, the whole “fake” news business falls apart without a heaping dose of white resentment – I don’t think there was a speck of untruth in that statement).

So along comes 2016, and so what does the “fake” news industry do now? The answer is almost too easy, especially since another Clinton is now the candidate of the Democratic Party for president. And I would argue that this campaign brought us yet another evolution in the fake news industry…that is, not just to support a political party and opponent who is sympathetic to the corporate, conservative cause (with the so-called “values voters” being played for saps yet again), but to go for the whole enchilada, if you will. And by that I mean to roll back all reforms sponsored and initiated by the Democratic Party since the post-Great Depression and World War II era of Franklin D. Roosevelt (if you think I’m wrong, by the way, I give you this in response).

So yeah, the whole “fake” news industry has existed for a little while. And it has existed to the benefit of one political and corporate constituency only as far as I’m concerned.

Is it dirty and lowdown? Of course it is. But for any Democrat to campaign in this day and age without knowing that reality and finding a way to combat it somehow (including staging and broadcasting your own events, finding a way to interact with the key constituencies you need without the help of the usual alphabet soup of media culprits…in short, making your own damn media in response) shows a naivete that, as far as I’m concerned, is staggering.

Yes, “fake” news is one reason why Hillary Clinton lost. But there were many others, including the James Comey stuff and Putin’s hacking, as well as the fact that Trump knew that the election would be won or lost in the primarily white suburbs of this country, mainly in the Rust Belt (of course, Trump typically lied his ass off about protecting Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Law, which those who supported him will learn to their horror I’m sure). And as nearly as I can tell, Trump made the election just close enough for the Comey/Putin stuff to make an impact; my point, though, is that the Clinton campaign should never have let it get that close in the first place (I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard about HRC beating up Trump but not making the case somehow as to why she would have been an infinitely better president).

I wish I could say that “fake” news will go away. However, given its impact in what has just happened, I cannot possibly imagine that that will be the case.

Update 12/20/16: I thought this was a good related post on this subject.

Update 1/13/17: Of course, I could be totally self-serving and point out that I’ve spent literally years trying to debunk fake news at this site and also at the Blogger site.

That is, if I really were self-serving of course (wink).

Update 2/1/17: Uh, yep.


Friday Mashup (5/9/14)

May 9, 2014
  • This from clownhall.com tells us the following (with the understated headline of “Guns Don’t Cause Gang Violence – Democrats Do”)…

    Between Friday night, and Sunday evening, 28 people had been shot in Rahm Emanuel’s gun control utopia (Chicago). Which, unbelievably, shows an improvement over the previous weekend, which tacked on more than 40 gunshot victims to the city’s climbing statistics. And, heck, with the CPD’s recent scandal surrounding how they classify various crimes, it almost makes you wonder if these numbers are more “ballpark” figures than actual stats.

    I mean, heck, (gun control) hasn’t exactly worked out that well so far, but why not double down? Right? The fact is, the failure of Liberalism has brought the city to its current state of deterioration. The Chicago model of unconstitutional restrictions on keeping and bearing arms has done little more than add fuel to the fire. Politicians, meanwhile, have been more than happy to ignore the easily identifiable, but politically tricky, origins of gang violence, and criminal activity.

    Yeah, well, this is part and parcel of the wingnut caterwauling on guns I realize. However, did you know that the state of Illinois recently passed a concealed carry law, as noted here?

    Well then, isn’t the Michael Schaus post proof, then, that concealed carry leads to more crime?

    And as noted here, the NRA is pushing for a national concealed carry law that would override other more sensible state laws (the party of “state’s rights” strikes again, considering how “simpatico” the NRA is with the “party of Lincoln”). Which is all part and parcel of this (and by the way, Politifact strikes again on the whole “half true” thing – the U.S. has the highest gun casualty rate among “other affluent nations on a per capita basis,” so that settles it as far as I’m concerned).

  • Next, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” is back to inflict the following (here)…

    The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well-connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

    (The “Dude” reference, for the uninitiated, has to do with Vietor pretty much laughing off more BENGHAZI!!! idiocy from Bret Baier of Fix Noise, which I think was definitely the correct response.)

    So a certain V.D. Hanson is criticizing Vietor and Rhodes because of their ascent in the Obama Administration from a background of “yeoman partisan PR work.”

    Well then, let’s take a look at Obama’s ruinous predecessor, as long as Hanson has opened that “can of worms”:

  • Longtime Bushie Karen Hughes was a “communications strategist” who, as a member of the White House Iraq Group, helped to sell Number 43’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq (here).
  • And speaking of the quagmire in Mesopotamia, former PR flak Dan Bartlett once said that his boss “never had a ‘stay the course’ strategy” here (liar).
  • When it comes to PR and marketing, though, I don’t think either Hughes or Bartlett can top Andrew Card, who rose to Chief of Staff and notoriously said here that “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” in response to the question of why Bushco started beating the drums for war in Iraq in earnest in September 2002.
  • Given this, I would say that, when it comes to “yeoman partisan PR work,” Vietor and Rhodes are chumps by comparison (and speaking of Iraq, more “fun” with Hanson is here).

  • Further, I think it’s time to take a look at some true revisionist wingnuttery on The Sainted Ronnie R, first from Michael Barone here

    Second-term presidents over the last generation have tried, with varying results, to achieve breakthroughs. Ronald Reagan, after cutting tax rates in his first term, called for further cuts combined with elimination of tax preferences that had encrusted the tax code.

    House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Senate Finance chairman Bob Packwood — a Democrat and a Republican — achieved a historic breakthrough with the tax-reform legislation of 1986, thanks in part to intensive coaching from Treasury Secretary James Baker.

    See, the point of Barone’s screed is that Obama isn’t being “bipartisan” enough for his liking, with Barone’s definition of “bipartisan” being, apparently, to get beaten up and let the Republicans do whatever they want (Barone lists other examples of supposed “bipartisanship” that got things done in Washington).

    I guess that, living in the world of reality, it may not be necessary to point out at every opportunity to you, dear reader, that Number 40 raised taxes a dozen times, as noted here. However, since the other side is constantly trying to form reality to their twisted worldview, I believe that I must engage in this exercise.

    And sticking with the decade in which Reagan took up space in An Oval Office, this post from The Daily Tucker discusses a TV program called “The Americans,” which I guess has to do with Soviet-era spies living in this country.

    So what is this show about, exactly…

    In one recent scene, for example, KGB agent Elizabeth goes off on a standard 80s liberal spiel about the Nicaragua war, complete with hypocritical sympathy for Catholic nuns and dissident journalists.

    Well OK then – it looks like this Will Rahn person isn’t a big fan of ‘80s-era political activism in particular.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    I first confronted this pattern while covering Reagan’s hard-line policies toward Central America. The lies started just weeks after Reagan’s 1980 election, when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by government security forces in rightist-ruled El Salvador.

    On the night of Dec. 2, 1980, two of the women, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, drove a white mini-van to the international airport outside San Salvador. There, they picked up Ita Ford and Maura Clarke who had attended a conference in Nicaragua.

    Leaving the airport, the van turned onto the road that heads into the capital city. At a roadblock, a squad of soldiers stopped the van and took the women into custody. After a phone call apparently to a superior officer, the sergeant in charge said the orders were to kill the women. The soldiers raped them first and then executed the women with high-powered rifles.

    The atrocity was only one of hundreds committed each month by the Salvadoran security forces in a “dirty war” against leftists and their suspected supporters, a conflict that was more mass murder than a war, a butchery that would eventually claim some 70,000 lives. The Dec. 2 atrocity stood out only because Americans were the victims.

    The proper response from U.S. officials would have seemed obvious: to join U.S. Ambassador Robert White in denouncing the brutal rape and murder of four American citizens. But the incoming Reagan foreign policy team didn’t see it that way; Reagan was on the side of the rightist Salvadoran military.

    So, the rape-murder was treated like a public relations problem, best handled by shifting blame onto the victims. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s choice for United Nations ambassador, depicted the victims as “not just nuns. The nuns were political activists – on behalf of the [leftist opposition] Frente.”

    Kirkpatrick’s implication was that it wasn’t all that bad to rape and murder “political activists.”

    And as far as the “Fourth Estate” is concerned (here)…

    To conceal the truth about the war crimes of Central America, Reagan also authorized a systematic program of distorting information and intimidating American journalists.

    Called “public diplomacy” or “perception management,” the project was run by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. The explicit goal of the operation was to manage U.S. “perceptions” of the wars in Central America.

    The project’s key operatives developed propaganda “themes,” selected “hot buttons” to excite the American people, cultivated pliable journalists who would cooperate and bullied reporters who wouldn’t go along.

    The best-known attacks were directed against New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing Salvadoran army massacres of civilians, including the slaughter of more than 800 men, women and children in El Mozote in December 1981.

    But Bonner was not alone. Reagan’s operatives pressured scores of reporters and their editors in an ultimately successful campaign to minimize information about these human rights crimes reaching the American people. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

    The tamed reporters, in turn, gave the administration a far freer hand to pursue its anticommunist operations throughout Central America.

    Despite the tens of thousands of civilian deaths and now-corroborated accounts of massacres and genocide, not a single senior military officer in Central America was held accountable for the bloodshed.

    The U.S. officials who sponsored and encouraged these war crimes not only escaped any legal judgment, but remained highly respected figures in Washington. Reagan has been honored as few recent presidents have.

    The journalists who played along by playing down the atrocities — the likes of Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer — saw their careers skyrocket, while those who told the truth suffered severe consequences.

    And given the BENGHAZI!!! fever currently sweeping the “leadership” of the U.S. House, I think this is a timely article.

  • Continuing, it looks like VA head Eric Shinseki (who, once again, is a huge improvement over his Bushco counterpart) is in hot water, as noted here

    (Reuters) – Two Republican senators on Tuesday joined veterans groups in calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid claims that up to 40 people died while waiting for treatment in the U.S. veterans’ healthcare system.

    Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, said the Veterans Affairs Department needed a “true transformation … from top to bottom.”

    “I ask the secretary to submit his resignation and I ask President (Barack) Obama to accept that resignation,” Moran said on the Senate floor.

    Assistant Senate Republican leader John Cornyn said: “The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve.”

    As noted here, Cornyn voted against a bill to provide $12 billion in medical, educational and job-training benefits for our veterans returning from the wars (to be fair, Moran voted Yes as noted here).

    However, it’s not as if the Kansas senator doesn’t have his own baggage in these matters. He gave conditional-at-best support here to the military sexual assault bill sponsored by Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Moran also voted against the Veterans with Disabilities Act (here), despite the request from former Kansas Sen. (and WWII-disabled vet, of course) Bob Dole that Moran and everyone else in the U.S. Senate support it.

    The Reuters story also tells us the following…

    The American Legion, the biggest U.S. veterans’ group, and Concerned Veterans for America called on Monday for Shinseki, a former Army general twice wounded in Vietnam, to step down.

    I’m not going to take issue with The American Legion, but Concerned Veterans for America…hmmm…

    Oh yeah – as noted here, that’s another “dark money” front group for Chuck and Dave Koch (kind of like “Concerned Women of America” who are apparently trying to torpedo a women’s history museum sponsored by Dem Carolyn Maloney and Repug Marsha Blackburn (!), as noted here, with “Moon Unit” Bachmann opposing it even though the plan is for her to be featured in an exhibit – way too funny).

    Returning to the main topic, I don’t know if Gen. Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. However, I think it’s more than a bit hypocritical to blame only him for trying to clean up a mess originated by our prior ruling cabal (which he, among a very select few – and more’s the pity on that – actually stood up to, as noted here).

  • Finally (and speaking of war), I give you former Bushco U.N. rep John “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton (here, with what you might call some “crackpot history” in concert with his claim that President Obama’s recent far east tour didn’t go well since Obama looked tired, or something)…

    In 1932, Secretary of State Henry Stimson declared his “non-recognition” doctrine regarding Japanese aggression in China and subsequent annexations. Although politically symbolic, Stimson’s high-collared moralisms did nothing to deter further Japanese expansionism.

    Years later, when President Roosevelt finally imposed sanctions that could actually inhibit Japan’s military, the increasing likelihood of war against the Nazis was apparent. Pearl Harbor followed, but one can ask if stronger U.S. Asia policies in the 1930’s might have caused a different result.

    Yes, “one” can ask indeed if “one” were a total moron, I suppose. As noted from here

    In 1933, President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt proposed a Congressional measure that would have granted him the right to consult with other nations to place pressure on aggressors in international conflicts. The bill ran into strong opposition from the leading isolationists in Congress, including progressive politicians such as Senators Hiram Johnson of California, William Borah of Idaho, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. In 1935, controversy over U.S. participation in the World Court elicited similar opposition. As tensions rose in Europe over Nazi Germany’s aggressive maneuvers, Congress pushed through a series of Neutrality Acts, which served to prevent American ships and citizens from becoming entangled in outside conflicts. Roosevelt lamented the restrictive nature of the acts, but because he still required Congressional support for his domestic New Deal policies, he reluctantly acquiesced.

    The isolationists were a diverse group, including progressives and conservatives, business owners and peace activists, but because they faced no consistent, organized opposition from internationalists, their ideology triumphed time and again. Roosevelt appeared to accept the strength of the isolationist elements in Congress until 1937. In that year, as the situation in Europe continued to grow worse and the Second Sino-Japanese War began in Asia, the President gave a speech in which he likened international aggression to a disease that other nations must work to “quarantine.” At that time, however, Americans were still not prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods for peace abroad. Even the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not suddenly diffuse popular desire to avoid international entanglements. Instead, public opinion shifted from favoring complete neutrality to supporting limited U.S. aid to the Allies short of actual intervention in the war. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 served to convince the majority of Americans that the United States should enter the war on the side of the Allies.

    And as noted from here

    By 1940, the (Second Sino-Japanese) war descended into stalemate. The Japanese seemed unable to force victory, nor the Chinese to evict the Japanese from the territory they had conquered. But western intervention in the form of economic sanctions (most importantly oil) against Japan would transform the nature of the war. It was in response to these sanctions that Japan decided to attack America at Pearl Harbor, and so initiate World War II in the Far East.

    OK, so, to review:

  • Sanctions against Japan were probably necessary in hindsight, but to try and make the argument that Roosevelt sought them too late and Pearl Harbor might have been prevented is ridiculous. If anything, if sanctions had been imposed earlier, an attack might have happened earlier (again, not saying that sanctions were wrong) when we would have been less adequately prepared to fight it than we were.
  • As the article states above, there was not enough of a “push back” against the isolationist sentiment Roosevelt faced across the political spectrum at home after World War I. And he needed those same senators opposing military action to support the New Deal.
  • I’m not a bit surprised, however, to find out that Bolton knows nothing about that period of history, given that he finished his column with the following (again, using this totally inaccurate reading to justify another attack on Number 44)…

    In December, 1937, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of all people observed that, “It is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words.”

    5_fig002
    And the fact that Bolton would say that without a single word of acknowledgment of the price this country paid to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II (particularly repugnant as we approach Memorial Day) tells you how callow and ignorant he truly is.


  • Monday Mashup (10/7/13 – update)

    October 7, 2013

  • Time to welcome right-wing bloviator Rod Dreher to the party (here, believing that it’s important for him to let everyone know why he left the Catholic Church)…

    What needed changing? Lots. My own brokenness was plain to me, and I was ready to turn from my destructive sins and become a new person. The one thing I didn’t want to do was surrender my sexual liberty, which was my birthright as a young American male. I knew, though, that without fully giving over my will to God, any conversion would be precarious.

    Also, Dreher, says that he rarely heard homilies about LGBT individuals or abortion; I haven’t heard them as much as I used to either, but there are plenty of reminders during the course of a Mass in the general intercessions or announcements after Communion from the Church about their views on those subjects. That being said, though, yesterday was “Respect Life” Sunday, so we got a heaping helping of a homily full of ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!! Oh, and by the way, euthanasia and human cloning are baaaad, and one more thing…ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!! from Deacon Bob (and even trying to co-opt the fight for civil rights and the fall of Communism, as if those two struggles are of equal importance).

    Returning to Dreher, I just wanted you to keep in mind what he says about “surrender(ing) his sexual liberty” as you consider the following (here)…

    Rod Dreher, commenting on the Iowa State Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, notes that the anti-gay marriage position is being likened to racism and complains that as this mindset takes hold “it will be very hard to be a public Christian”.

    For heaven’s sake. Harder than it was for Christ himself, whose crucifixion we will be commemorating shortly? Harder than for the early Christians who were tossed to lions, not just served with a harrassment (sp) summons from the HR Department?

    So Dreher is defending the anti-gay marriage position of the Church even though he tells us that he’s no longer a member of that Church? “Sexual liberty” for me, but not for thee, I guess (and I don’t know anything about the “harassment summons from the HR Department” stuff).

    And for someone who doesn’t want to affiliate himself with the Church, he certainly has no problem supporting its admittedly narrow-minded position on contraception, as noted here from former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and best-selling author (and now lawyer, apparently) John Grogan (oh, but it’s really John Grogan saying these things and not Dreher – true, but if Dreher didn’t agree, why would he link to Grogan’s commentary? I could be snarky, though, and say that Grogan should apologize for making it possible for me to endure the movie version of “Marley and Me,” but maybe I’d better let that go).

    And get a load of this

    Liberalism, while imposing through state power regimes that declare everyone free to pursue whatever they take to be their own good, deprives most people of the possibility of understanding their lives as a quest for the discovery and achievement of the good…

    So, trying to think like Dreher for a minute (a dangerous exercise I’ll admit), couldn’t you argue that “liberalism,” by making it possible for us all to pursue “our own good,” has helped make it possible for Dreher to achieve the “sexual liberty” he so cherishes?

    I know we’re “deep in the woods” here, so I’ll wrap this up with the following; if Dreher wants to act like a wanton libertine with his private parts, that’s his business. However, that in no way gives him the right to assign any notion of moral behavior to anyone else.

    And as long as I’m in “moral scold” territory, I have to tell you about this from Falafel Man…

    People have a right to take the Bible literally, he said, but in the case of “Killing Jesus,” he was trying to be historically accurate. He never says in the book that Jesus was the Son of God because his book is not intended to be religious.

    “So is this the Gospel according to Bill?” asked “60 Minutes” correspondent Norah O’Donnell.

    “This is best available evidence according to Bill,” O’Reilly responded.

    So, as a Roman Catholic, when given the opportunity to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God (and yes, I am completely aware that other faiths have different things to say about that, and they should be respected also of course), Bill decides to take a pass because he doesn’t have “the best available evidence,” or something.

    However, this same guy can complain here that “the Judeo-Christian tradition is under attack” and those who think Christianity is a religion are “so stupid, it’s painful” here.

    What a pompous ass.

    Update 10/8/13: There aren’t very many times when I’m ashamed to be a Roman Catholic, bur unfortunately, this is one of them.

  • Next, I haven’t checked in with Former Laura Bush Employee Andrew Malcolm for a little while, so please allow me to do so now here (he who gravitated downward from the LA Times to Investor’s Business Daily; I guess Mad Magazine would be next, as if they’d have him)…

    (Last) Tuesday, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu announced that Israel would not permit development of a nuke by Iran, which has several times vowed to erase Israel from the face of the planet. And, the Israeli added, if necessary, his nation was prepared to go it alone in that preventive endeavor.

    Did Netanyahu’s unusually tough, forthright stance stem from something disappointing that Obama told him during (a) White House photo op?

    My guess would be no, but somehow I’m sure Malcolm will do his best to make it sound like that’s true anyway.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about the recent UN speech by “Bibi,” British career diplomat Peter Jenkins flagged about 30 lies from the Israel PM while he spoke (here, and as far as the supposed hostility from Number 44 to our supposedly staunch ally, I give you this).

  • Continuing, former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent opined as follows at Fix Noise here, trying ultimately (and in vain, I think) to argue that President Obama fails some kind of a leadership test because he isn’t like FDR, or something…

    Against the stunning backdrop of the current diplomatic efforts to avoid our use of military force in Syria, I have been reading a superb new book, “Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World” by Michael Fullilove.

    There seems no limit to the interest in World War II, and this book examines the efforts of five envoys President Franklin D. Roosevelt used between late 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland and December,1941 when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, to represent him as he tried to deal the emerging crisis.

    Those envoys, close associates of his, were Sumner Welles, Bill Donovan, Harry Hopkins, Averell Harriman and Wendell Willkie.

    Vincent is correct to say that Fullilove points that out. However, from this New York Times review of the book, we learn that “the only true personal envoy, the only man whom the president fully trusted to speak for him, was Hopkins” (Willkie even ran against Roosevelt for president in 1940). So I would say that Fullilove has a bit to learn on that subject.

    I have to admit that I have a bit of an axe to grind about Vincent ever since his lifetime suspension of Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds (and the Phillies, for a time – more here). Yes, I have a bit of a blind spot because I’ll never forget that catch of Rose’s that led to final out of the 1980 World Series, and I know Vincent’s actions were based upon the rules, but I have not yet seen an epidemic of gambling on baseball because of Rose’s admittedly dumb actions. And I don’t see how that compares to the performance enhancement stuff appearing all over the place in that sport in particular (and somehow, Alex Rodriguez can argue that he still belongs in the game, as noted here).

    Also, while I’m on the subject of “America’s National Pastime,” I have a request for the management of the Philadelphia Phillies that I’m sure will be ignored (now that their season has been over for about the last week or so).

    McCarthy_Wheeler_Matthews
    And that is to fire all three of these guys.

    I don’t spend the time in front of the tube watching the Phillies as much as I used to for a lot of reasons, but when I do, it is absolutely intolerable. All three of the Phillies’ TV announcers (Tommy McCarthy, Gary Matthews, and the thoroughly insufferable Chris Wheeler) should Google the term “dead air” and read up on the concept. And yes, I know the team isn’t riding high at the moment (sports being cyclical and all that), but that has nothing to do with this observation.

    Between the utterly mindless promotions and gabbing about inconsequential nonsense, to say nothing of the thorough non-insight into the actual game (shocking from Matthews, a good former player), I pretty much feel like this when I watch the Phillies on TV…

    McDowell_Eyes
    Simulcast Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen (and Jim Jackson if possible), and let the TV crew do the whole “baseball nostalgia and collectible” circuit instead (maybe Wheeler can spend 5 minutes opining on the Phillie Phanatic to people who actually care…that being said, at least the Phillies aren’t as chaotic as the orange-and-black these days, which, based on this, are turning into a reality TV show IMHO).

    Update 1/9/14: Apparently, Comcast (who recently took over the Phillies broadcasts) was listening based on this (I’m sure McCarthy will follow the lead of whoever is hired to replace Matthews and Wheeler – I have no desire to see these guys, or anyone else, out of work in this climate, and to be fair, Wheeler has put a lot of time in and deserves something. I’m just glad that, whatever it is, a microphone or a TV camera will be nowhere in sight).

  • Finally, I left our “big story,” as it were, for last – to begin, I give you some true comedy from Fred Barnes of the Weakly Standard here

    (House Speaker John Boehner’s) ability to corral Republican votes was in doubt. He had lost 66 GOP members on raising the debt limit in 2011. But the vote on the “fiscal cliff” in late December was worse: 151 of the 233 Republicans, including Cantor and House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, voted against the Boehner-blessed deal. This raised doubts about his future as speaker.

    Now all that has changed. Republicans are united behind him.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Is it my imagination, or does Barnes sound like “Baghdad Bob”?

    Based on this, basically all of the southeastern PA U.S. House delegation now opposes shutting down the government over the continued, ridiculous intransigence of the Teahadists (except this guy, of course).

    And speaking of our delegation, one of Mikey the Beloved’s spokespeople told us here back on 9/17 that a shut down was “off the table” for him (of course, Mikey isn’t the one to make the decision on that – and I wonder if the robocalls noted in the Inky story had anything to do with making up his mind?). Also, I’m sure we’ll never find out why Mikey opposed the measure noted here that would allow our military to get paid in the event of a shutdown (just another reason to support Kevin Strouse, one of the Dems vying for the nomination to run for the PA-08 seat – more on Strouse is here).

    I also wanted to link to this item on the so-called “clean continuing resolution” to fund the government that just about all of this country wants to see passed; Chris Hayes did a pretty good job of pointing out how much the House CR looks like the Ryan budget rejected by the voters last year (and the Senate CR isn’t much better – they both come in under the funding requested by the White House to “keep the lights on”).

    For anyone who still needs to get an understanding of the pain caused by the current shut down, though, I would ask that you read this from here; we’re talking about the following (probably some overlap on this list)…

    Veterans
    Head Start funding
    Welfare recipients (of course)
    Women and infants relying on nutrition programs
    Low-income individuals in need of utility help
    People with disabilities
    Bureau of Land Management operations

    And from here

    Senior citizens in need of food services
    Hundreds of thousands of workers furloughed immediately without pay
    The economy overall (we could lose $10 billon a week)

    And from here

    Flu vaccines
    Death benefits for military families
    Forest fire fighters in California (did I mention that they’re in the dry season?)
    OSHA (they had to halt factory inspections)
    FOIA requests
    Renewable energy permits
    College students
    Data collection from the Bureau of Economic Analysis
    Air monitoring

    And on, and on, and on…

    So let’s give an appropriate ”thank you” to those responsible, shall we?

    Teabagger_100913
    God Bless America.

    Update: Uh, yep (h/t Daily Kos).


  • Friday Mashup (9/20/13)

    September 20, 2013

  • Stop the presses! It looks like the Repugs FINALLY have their “alternative” to the Affordable Care Act (here)…

    Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference unveiled their proposed replacement for President Obama’s healthcare law Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed GOP promise.

    The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.

    Ummm – well, in response, I give you mcjoan here

    To be fair, they include all the other non-reform reforms they’ve been rehashing for years—tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, high-risk pools—all the things that don’t actually don’t do anything to address the real problem in our health care system: the increasing, systemic cost of health care. But they don’t include any provision for lower-income people to purchase affordable insurance. They don’t include any of the popular Obamacare provisions, like young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plan or an end to lifetime limits on what insurance will pay.

    So what they’ve really got is tax cuts, as usual. But at least this time they’ll be for the middle class, too. So, progress?

    Because, when it comes to tax cuts (noted by Joan), never forget the following (and here is more wingnut mythology on this subject).

  • Next, did you know that Mikey the Beloved favored reinstituting a 21st-century version of Glass-Steagall (the Depression-era legislation insuring federal bank deposits and separating commercial and investment banking) in 2011 (here)?

    Of course, since we’re now in 2013…

    More than two-and-a-half years later, Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, won’t commit to putting Glass-Steagall back in place.

    The Depression-era act was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure bank deposits while Glass-Steagall put up a firewall between commercial and investment banks.

    “I support building a wall to protect taxpayers and protect banking customers, I absolutely support that,” Fitzpatrick said.

    But first he wants the administration to implement The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which includes the Volcker Rule, proposed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to prohibit banks from risking institutional money in certain speculative investments.

    More Mikey flim-flam BS (and of course, I’m sure Mikey’s newfound ambivalence has not one thing to do with the fact that this legislation was first championed by Dem U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts)…

    As noted here and here, Mikey’s fellow Repug U.S. House brethren want to do away with both Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule. But of course, President Hopey Changey is supposed to ride to the rescue and save this country from Mikey and his same-party playmates in the House, right?

    And I’m sure Mikey would be cheering President Obama on every step of the way.

    Sure he would (and as a point of reference, this tells us who was right and who was wrong about repealing Glass-Steagall in 1999…it was a bipartisan failure – opposing it may have been Byron Dorgan’s finest moment).

    And in other financial news related to Congress, it looks like “Man Tan” Boehner and his caucus in the House wants to play chicken with our economy again over the debt ceiling here, even though, as noted here, he said on five different occasions that he wouldn’t do that.

    Oh, and did you know that Number 44 was responsible for this country’s decline in median income, among other downward numbers, according to something called CNS News here?

    Meanwhile, in the world of reality, it should be noted that median income in this country (for the rest of the 99 percent “rabble,” most definitely including your humble narrator) has been declining for at least the last 10 years (here – more on this is here).

  • Continuing, we have Repug U.S. Senator John Thune propagandizing as follows here

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is calling for the Senate to end the Obama administration’s controversial green vehicle loan program in the wake of news that the Department of Energy is selling off the $168 million loan it gave to financially troubled Fisker Automotive.

    “The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said Thune in a statement. “From Fisker and Vehicle Production Group, to the Chinese-owned A123, this administration should not be making questionable investments with the American people’s hard-earned money.”

    I wonder how many people know that the Fisker loan, as well as the loan program itself, stems from the ruinous reign of Obama’s predecessor (here)? And as noted here, Obama supposedly knew that Fisker was missing milestones in 2010, though neither of the docs mentioned in the AP story cited by Media Matters (and probably released to the AP by the Repugs) confirmed that.

    This is a bit of a rehash, I’ll admit; I already pointed out here, in a response to a WaPo column by that dim bulb Charles Lane, that it’s wrong to blame the Obama Administration for the Fisker loan (and besides, when you’re talking about federal loans to startups, some will pay off and some will go bust; what matters is the percentage of the former as opposed to the latter).

    And on the subject of “questionable” money decisions, this tells us that Thune, being a good little Repug from the Karl Rove/Grover Norquist template, sought to repeal the “death tax,” even though it mostly affected 0.1 percent of the households in this country. Also, Thune argued for more defense spending here, which, given how much we outspend the rest of the world, is beyond laughable.

  • Finally, this tells us the following…

    College freshmen that haven’t decided on a major may want to consider a degree in sales and marketing, medicine, health-care research and renewable energy to increase their odds of getting hired upon graduation.

    According to newly-released data from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, jobs in these fields will be in high demand come 2018. What’s more, the firm finds that students who concentrate on math, science, engineering and technology will have the largest array of job options post-graduation.

    Concentrating on math, science and technology positions will help college grads secure work because these skills cover a vast array of positions in our jobs economy, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

    “When you get into fields that run across every type of company, it gives you such flexibility in your career,” Challenger says. “So many jobs today require people to have so much communication, through companies’ programs and policies, so that is very important as well.”

    I have no factual information to argue with this claims, but I would say that some context is missing here.

    Let’s start with this item, telling us that employers, five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers that ushered in this era of economic calamity, are STILL pushing to increase H-1B visas for foreign, temporary workers. That’s one prong of the pitchfork, if you will, stabbing U.S. workers (both new and experienced) in the metaphorical “gut.”

    The other is offshoring, which really hasn’t been reined in much by Number 44 (here), partly because he has supported trade deals that make the problem worse (here), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as noted here (an update is here).

    I know this isn’t an original observation, but it needs to be shouted from the mountaintops; we have a jobs crisis in this country!


    And with all due respect to our young men and women entering college (who, along with their parents, may benefit from reading this), whether or not you choose to major in a STEM-related curriculum or not won’t mean a damn thing until we start investing in this country once more and do everything we possibly can to resolve it.


  • Saturday Mashup (5/18/13)

    May 18, 2013
  • Somebody named Michael Tanner at NRO said here recently that the young will have to subsidize the old and sick on health care reform, or something (with a typically understated right-wing headline, of course)…

    Moreover, (the national) debt might be a bit hard to pay off, since young people are having a very tough time finding a job in Obama’s economy. Overall unemployment in this country may finally be improving — albeit slowly — but unemployment among those under age 30 hovers around 13 percent, nearly twice as high as for the population at large. This is particularly damaging since research shows that workers who are unemployed as young adults lose valuable work experience and opportunities to develop skills. As a result, youth unemployment can lead to lower wages for many years even if young people do find a job. And many young people who are working are in low-paying jobs or jobs unrelated to their college degree.

    To summarize, then, according to Tanner:

  • The debt is making it harder to find jobs (uh, no).
  • Since young people cannot find work, it’s creating an “underclass” of unemployed (yes, but not for the reason Tanner is willing to admit – more here).
  • This is leading to lower wages (see above).
  • It’s almost funny to read this from Tanner without acknowledging the following, as noted here

    A revolution may be on the way for the under-30 set: Thanks to the provisions put in place under the new health care law, the days of needing a job just to get affordable health insurance may be over.

    The shift in how Americans can get health insurance, in some ways a little noticed effect of the sweeping 2010 law that will be in full force by 2014, could be particularly radical for young adults. They are uninsured at higher rates than any other age group and face a job market less likely to provide health benefits than the one their older siblings and parents entered in their 20s.

    “If you want a career that doesn’t tend to be associated with companies that provide health insurance coverage, you’ll have more options,” said Sara Collins, the vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund. “It frees people’s work-life decisions.”

    The model of employer-based health care arose from the days after World War II when there was a huge quantity of good-paying jobs to be filled, but a comparatively small domestic labor pool, and employers believed they had to provide health care through work to attract good employees. Does anyone seriously think those days will ever return? Also, this tells us that naysaying about premiums going up for the young are “overblown” because of cost-control mechanisms built into the law.

    Continuing from Tanner…

    Even HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits that “some of the older customers may see a slight decline, and some of the younger ones are going to see a slight increase.” Or, not so slight. According to a survey by the American Action Forum, healthy young people in the individual or small-group insurance markets can look forward to rate increases averaging 169 percent.

    By the way, I should note that the American Action Forum (hmmm, smell the AstroTurf, people!) was founded by former John McCain confidant Douglas Holtz-Eakin, along with former Repug U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (remember how long the recount lasted in the election where he lost to Al Franken?) and former Nixonite Fred Malek, among other Repug “heavy hitters.”

    For the record, here is some more realistic information on likely premium increases under health care reform (and as noted here, Tanner is no stranger to propagandizing on this subject).

  • Next, it’s time for the latest pearls of wisdom from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal (here).

    In wording that I cannot obtain now verbatim because this latest dreck from Stephens went behind Rupert’s pay wall (heh) faster than I could retrieve all of it, Stephens blames Obama for the deterioration of the Congo. As noted here, though, you can just add that to the massive legacy of problems that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History handed off to Number 44 (and I honestly don’t recall EVER seeing a corporate media compendium of the whole sorry list of “parking lot” items that Former President Nutball swept under the proverbial rug…if roles had been reversed, we’d be hearing about them forever).

    Continuing (I managed to get a couple of excerpts anyway)…

    Yet barring fresh blockbuster revelations the scandal will go nowhere, because so many Americans are as eager as the White House spokesman to forget it ever happened.

    WAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!!!

    Oh, boo-f*cking-hoo, Bret. Sorry that the “99 percent” rabble is blowing off another Repug media circus (and you along with it, I guess) and concentrating on “dumb” stuff instead like our economy, our environment including our planet that continues to melt, national security issues for real, etc.

    Nope, it didn’t work for Stephens, and I don’t think it’s going to work for anyone else either (here).

    Continuing…

    America alone, it seems, suffers the opposite affliction: We remember little, and we remember it poorly. “Does America Need a Foreign Policy?” The question seems odd only because not many people besides Henry Kissinger, nearly 90, can recall that the U.S. has attempted to do without one before—and recall also how the previous attempt ended in September of 1939.

    That’s actually kind of an unintentionally hilarious comment when you consider that FDR was doing his best to help Winston Churchill and Great Britain, but his hands were tied by neutrality laws passed by Republicans and southern-state Democrats in Congress (Roosevelt signed them reluctantly because he needed the support of these people for his domestic agenda, though he did manage to aid Great Britain before December 7, 1941).

    And besides, based on this fairly scholarly takedown of Stephens, it looks like the august Journal pundit misinterpreted Kissinger anyway; though Nixon’s foreign policy guru was one of the most notorious liars in history as far as I’m concerned, he at least knew the limits of American hegemony, something that utterly escapes a triumphalist wingnut like Stephens.

  • Further, did you know that Dem U.S. House Rep Allyson Schwartz would be just an awful candidate to run against PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett because ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!!! (here)…

    For over a decade, Schwartz was the executive director of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center. Under her direction, the clinic — which is now run by Planned Parenthood — provided first-trimester abortions, as evidenced by a lawsuit it was a party to in 1995.

    This matters because the governor of Pennsylvania has the power to enforce — or not enforce — abortion regulations. One of Corbett’s predecessors, the pro-choice Republican Tom Ridge, didn’t enforce laws mandating abortion clinic inspections. That’s part of the reason Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was able to get away with killing as many as several hundred babies that had survived late-term abortions. (This week, Gosnell was convicted of murdering three newborn infants. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter of one patient.) Inspections would have stopped Gosnell and his staff in their tracks, but the facility avoided inspection for 17 years!

    This is the real “war on women.”

    Fortunately, Governor Corbett signed into law abortion clinic regulations in the wake of the grand jury report on Gosnell’s crimes.

    Um, there’s just a teensy weensy bit of an omission here, and that is the fact that the horrors of Gosnell’s clinic were discovered when former PA Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, quite rightly decided to enforce abortion clinic inspections once more in 2010, as noted here.

    In response, I thought this was a pretty detailed post on Congresswoman Schwartz, and what she brings to the table against Corbett. And given the fact that Admiral Joe Sestak has said that he’ll start gearing up for a rematch with Pat Toomey here (which will be a bit more daunting with Toomey’s commendable recent actions on guns, even though he’s utterly awful on everything else – and that “poison pill” in Toomey-Manchin on a federal gun registry is utterly ridiculous)…well, we’ll see if that ends up clearing more of a path for Schwartz to the nomination.

    So who is it in The Daily Tucker who is primarily criticizing Schwartz anyway? “Pro-life” activists Marjorie Dannenfelser and Mike Geer, that’s who.

    I can’t find much on Geer, but as noted here, this tells us that Dannenfelser claimed “victory” on a supposed social issues truce within the Repug Party (meaning, I guess among other things, that her brethren can now go back to caterwauling about “values” pabulum for the other lemmings under the Repug “brand” – this development apparently had something to do with Indiana Repug Governor and former Bushie Mitch Daniels deciding not to run for president in 2012, though Daniels is definitely not a moderate by any means).

    And like a good little wingnut, Dannenfelser twisted herself in metaphorical knots trying to defend the odious Blunt Amendment here (sponsored by the guy responsible for this) in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). And on top of that, Dannenfelser claimed here that Planned Parenthood made $300 million in “profit,” which, in a lucid moment for them, was properly debunked by Politifact (not the same thing as excess revenue over expenses, as pointed out by people who actually know what they’re talking about).

    I realize that I didn’t point out earlier that it is sickeningly disingenuous for The Daily Tucker to try and conflate anything Allyson Schwartz did while running the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center with Kermit Gosnell’s chamber of horrors. So please allow me to do so now.

  • Also, it looks like our wet noodle PA-08 rep has been getting a lot of “love” lately from the No Labels crowd, with recent hosannas from the Bucks County Courier Times as well as this item from philly.com…

    Too often, people focus on our differences instead of what brings us together. Yet, despite what we all hear, common ground does exist among lawmakers from opposing parties.

    Although one of us is a Democrat and the other a Republican, we both believe that things can and should get done in Washington. Our constituents sent us to our nation’s capital not to position and posture, but to use common sense and compromise to move our country forward.

    This is why we joined the bipartisan group called No Labels, and are identified with the Problem Solvers caucus. We surely don’t agree on every issue, but we are united in the desire to put partisanship aside and find common ground. There are plenty of areas that we can find to achieve results for the people we represent.

    Oh, by the way, “moderate” Mikey votes with his U.S. House “leadership” about 79 percent of the time (gag me). And Mikey’s new “BFF” Cheri Bustos was rated the 182nd most progressive member of Congress (hmmm); both of those items among others are noted here.

    As far as I’m concerned, though, “No Labels” is another one of these fraud “centrist” groups trying to be bipartisan when, in fact, they’re pretty much bygone-centrist-era Republicans, if that. This tells us that one of their big ideas was “bipartisan seating arrangements” in Congress (really?), and this from Alex Pareene of Salon tells us that another one of their “big ideas” is “No Budget, No Pay” (Again, really? How about “No Passing President Obama’s American Jobs Act And Waging War On Public Sector Employees, To Say Nothing of Climate Change Denial, No Pay” instead? And sorry that’s too big and not catchy enough to fit on a bumper sticker.).

  • Finally (and keeping it local for Bucks County, Lower Makefield in particular), I have a feeling that this will be my last opportunity to comment on the primary election this Tuesday in which Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf are running for the Democratic Party nomination to compete in the general election this fall for the Pennsbury School Board. So it’s particularly important that folks in the Pennsbury School District go out and support Deb and Josh on Tuesday.

    Campbell_518c6b248a212_preview-300
    Because every vote for Deb and Josh is a vote against this guy.


  • Monday Mashup (7/23/12)

    July 24, 2012
  • Pity the poor “pay no price, bear no burden,” put-upon “job creators,” as Ari Ari Bobari whines here

    You wouldn’t know this from President Obama’s rhetoric, but our tax system, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is incredibly progressive. Consider: The top 1% of income earners pay an average federal tax rate of 28.9%…The average federal tax rate on the top 20% is 23.2%. The 20% of taxpayers earning between $50,100 and $73,999 pay an average 15.1%, and so on down the line. The CBO report includes payroll as well as income taxes paid.

    There’s also another way of looking at fairness, and that’s the tax burden. Here, consider the top 20% of income earners (over $74,000). They make 50% of the nation’s income but pay nearly 70% of all federal taxes.

    WAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

    Gee Ari, do you want to know what the top rate was in, say, 1958? You know, back when this country had a federal government that actually did stuff, like building the interstate highway system, without a bunch of conservative naysaying? 90 percent, that’s what!

    Moreover, as noted here

    Rich Americans are not overtaxed. Not by a long shot. From 1996 to 2007 the overall federal tax rate for the richest 1 percent fell by more than 6 percentage points. The top marginal income tax rate dropped from 70 percent in 1980 to 35 percent today. And that’s just for starters.

    The Bush tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, delivered massive new tax breaks to the rich, reducing a millionaire’s tax bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars. And tax benefits—such as the home mortgage interest deduction, the charitable deduction, and the employer provided health care exclusion—all benefit the rich more than they benefit the middle class. One in four millionaires pays a lower overall tax rate than millions of middle-class families.

    One percent of the people paying 40 percent of all the taxes? It sounds unfair, right? But stop to think about it for more than a moment and it becomes apparent that the statistic is meaningless.

    First of all, federal income taxes are only one part of the overall tax system. By focusing only on the one piece of the tax code that is very progressive, conservatives are artificially inflating the share of taxes paid by the 1 percent.

    Second, the rich pay most of the taxes because they make most of the income. Think about it: Of course the richest 1 percent of people pay way more than 1 percent of all the taxes—they have way more than 1 percent of all the income. That’s why they are in the top 1 percent.

    Third, the share of taxes paid is a really silly way to think about tax burden. What matters isn’t the amount of taxes someone pays as a share of total revenues. What matters is the amount of taxes someone pays as a share of his or her own income.

    But of course, this is typical for Fleischer, who has a knack for numeric misrepresentation, as noted here.

  • Next, it was inevitable that the pro-gun crowd would use the Aurora massacre over the weekend to express their own sort of umbrage at those nasty “anti-gun libs” who want to confiscate their weapons of death and mayhem, as noted here

    The target of liberal legislators is the gun show. If you are a licensed gun dealer you hold a Federal Firearms License and are required by law to perform a background check before you can release the gun to the buyer. That makes good sense and often there is a waiting period. A waiting period makes good sense too unless you are someone being threatened or harassed and you happen to need a way to defend yourself. The attacker will be reassured that the government will deny you, the potential victim, an immediate opportunity to purchase a tool to defend yourself. When an attack is going to happen in seconds the police, if called, will respond in minutes to take the crime report.

    I would say that that’s a real dig at the men and women of law enforcement, which of course is typical for the hardcore pro-gun zealots. If you believe that you could be attacked “in seconds,” then I think the prudent thing to do is give the police some advanced notice, wouldn’t you say? Or (and here’s a really left-wing idea I suppose), you could go to the police, tell them you have a suspicion that someone is going to attack you, and actually let them investigate as opposed to carrying out some vigilante “justice” with tragic consequences (see Martin, Trayvon).

    Continuing…

    Here is the controversial aspect of a gun show: the unlicensed seller. This is a person that wants to sell his personal property to another individual. It is the equivalent of you saying “Mike, you want to sell that .22?” And then me telling you I’ll take 50-bucks for it. We have a deal and I’m the unlicensed seller. But, I don’t need a license to sell you my .22. That is the “gun show loophole.”

    Closing the “gun show loophole” enables the government to curtail person to person sales. That is what is really behind the attack on gun shows. Every gun would have to be turned into a gun dealer so that it could be tracked by the Federal Government and then the transfer process would be monitored by the Federal Government. The right you have now to sell your neighbor your shotgun will be gone, forever.

    Once again, WAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

    In response, I give you the following from here

    Why is it important to get rid of the gun show loophole?

    The gun show loophole makes it very easy for guns to fall into the hands of prohibited individuals, including criminals and juveniles. Closing the loophole would put a barrier between the legal and illegal markets for guns. It is more difficult for law enforcement to trace firearms sold on the secondary market. Second-hand firearms typically have left the possession of a licensed dealer, where records are kept, and reached the hands of an unlicensed seller, who is not required to keep records.

    How can we close the gun show loophole?

    It’s simple. Closing the dangerous loophole merely requires unlicensed gun sellers at gun shows to conduct the same instant background checks that licensed dealers must conduct.

    Won’t closing the gun show loophole violate the Second Amendment?

    No. No matter what your interpretation of the Second Amendment is, it is illegal for criminals and youth to get guns, and federal law already requires background checks for sales by licensed dealers. We need background checks at guns shows to protect law-abiding citizens while keeping guns out of the hands of those prohibited from owning them.

    Won’t requiring background checks on all sales at gun shows be a bureaucratic nightmare?

    Closing the gun show loophole would merely involve unlicensed gun sellers at gun shows implementing that same system. More than 95% of background checks are completed within two hours, and most are completed in just two minutes.

    Will closing the gun show loophole put gun shows out of business?

    No. Three of the five states that host the most gun shows – Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California – closed the gun show loophole years ago, and gun shows continue to thrive.

    And as far as the supposed lack of public interest in gun control, I think the following should be noted from here.

  • Finally, I didn’t realize that Willard Mitt Romney was so desperate to shift the debate from his whole “to the manor born” attitude about not releasing additional tax returns (to say nothing of his wife) as well as how many employees he laid off at Bain Capital (to say nothing of when he supposedly left) that he would start clipping quotes (and, if past is prologue, he’ll continue to pull this garbage even though he has been completely busted on it, though the wingnutosphere, true to form, has dutifully carried his proverbial water).

    Update 7/31/12: And isn’t this precious, by the way, in a related story? Too damn funny…

    For the record (as Greg Sargent notes here), this is what President Obama actually said about job creators and government…

    Let me tell you something. There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.

    I also think it’s a good idea, in light of this, to look at what past presidents have said about government, to give you some perspective as to who is on the right side of history here and who isn’t (and please spare me any dreck from The Sainted Ronnie R or his “son”…the yield from those tiny minds on this subject isn’t worth noting in the final analysis).

    First, though, I digress slightly and give you this (Update 7/24/12: I forgot to add this yesterday)…

    …big government is not something that has been forced on Americans by liberal elitists and power-hungry bureaucrats. We have it because we ourselves have demanded big government to deal with the many big problems we have faced in our society. We have called for big government programs when it has been obvious that there are serious problems that cannot be solved through individual effort or by the natural workings of the free market.

    And by and large, most Americans continue to support these big government programs. Polls consistently show that between 60 and 70 percent of Americans want to see increased federal government activity around issues of the environment, education, crime, Social Security, and health care. Importantly, such large majorities supporting big government programs cannot simply be made up of liberals; they must also include a lot of moderates and conservatives as well.

    So when it comes to the issue of big government, it may actually be the Republicans who are the elitists — who are trying to impose their view of minimal government on a public that has demanded and still supports most big government programs. Democratic candidates in the upcoming elections would do well to make that one of their campaign messages.

    Further, I think we need to consider the following quotes from some of our former presidents:

    If men were angels, no government would be necessary.James Madison

    “The bulk of government is not legislation but administration.” “Men can never escape being governed. Either they must govern themselves or they must submit to being governed by others.” – Theodore Roosevelt

    “The object of government is the welfare of the people.”- TR again

    The success of our popular government rests wholly upon the correct interpretation of the deliberate, intelligent, dependable popular will of America. – Warren Harding (even someone not remembered as that great of a president knew something so obvious)

    And perhaps, coming from the granddaddy of them all on this subject (don’t totally agree with all the sentiments of the author here, even if he does make some good points – and I think we can substitute “9 and 3” years here with “8 and 4,” and we’d be about right)…

    For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

    And given all of what we’ve seen so far in this election (to say nothing of what remains to be seen), it’s pretty damn plain which candidate represents the “organized money” part of the equation and which one doesn’t.


  • Bob Herbert Speaks – We Listen

    September 13, 2008

    From 9/9 also…words to live by from here (though, being a columnist, Herbert has been known to drift over to “the dark side” on occasion – h/t Atrios)…

    Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?

    Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.

    Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.

    So there was Hillary Clinton, of all people, sponsoring legislation to ban flag-burning; and Barack Obama, who once opposed the death penalty, morphing into someone who not only supports it, but supports it in cases that don’t even involve a homicide.

    Anyway, the Republicans were back at it last week at their convention. Mitt Romney wasn’t content to insist that he personally knows that “liberals don’t have a clue.” He complained loudly that the federal government right now is too liberal.

    “We need change, all right,” he said. “Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington.”

    Why liberals don’t stand up to this garbage, I don’t know. Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals — from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers — the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today.

    There would be absolutely no chance that a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin could make a credible run for the highest offices in the land. Conservatives would never have allowed it.

    Civil rights? Women’s rights? Liberals went to the mat for them time and again against ugly, vicious and sometimes murderous opposition. They should be forever proud.

    The liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance, both of which were contained in the original Social Security Act. Most conservatives despised the very idea of this assistance to struggling Americans. Republicans hated Social Security, but most were afraid to give full throat to their opposition in public at the height of the Depression.

    “In the procedural motions that preceded final passage,” wrote historian Jean Edward Smith in his biography, “FDR,” “House Republicans voted almost unanimously against Social Security. But when the final up-or-down vote came on April 19 [1935], fewer than half were prepared to go on record against.”

    Liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Medicare and Medicaid. Quick, how many of you (or your loved ones) are benefiting mightily from these programs, even as we speak. The idea that Republicans are proud of Ronald Reagan, who saw Medicare as “the advance wave of socialism,” while Democrats are ashamed of Lyndon Johnson, whose legislative genius made this wonderful, life-saving concept real, is insane.

    When Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in the presence of Harry Truman in 1965, he said: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.”

    Reagan, on the other hand, according to Johnson biographer Robert Dallek, “predicted that Medicare would compel Americans to spend their ‘sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in America when men were free.’ ”

    Scary.

    Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people. Liberals (including liberal Republicans, who have since been mostly drummed out of the party) ended legalized racial segregation and gender discrimination.

    Humiliation imposed by custom and enforced by government had been the order of the day for blacks and women before men and women of good will and liberal persuasion stepped up their long (and not yet ended) campaign to change things. Liberals gave this country Head Start and legal services and the food stamp program. They fought for cleaner air (there was a time when you could barely see Los Angeles) and cleaner water (there were rivers in America that actually caught fire).

    Liberals. Your food is safer because of them, and so are your children’s clothing and toys. Your workplace is safer. Your ability (or that of your children or grandchildren) to go to college is manifestly easier.

    It would take volumes to adequately cover the enhancements to the quality of American lives and the greatness of American society that have been wrought by people whose politics were unabashedly liberal. It is a track record that deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed or scorned.

    Self-hatred is a terrible thing. Just ask that arch-conservative Clarence Thomas.

    Liberals need to get over it.

    Update 9/10/09: By the way, I had to remove the “New Rules” video because HBO decided to be hardasses about it.


  • Top Posts & Pages