Now that the Al Gore masseuse abuse story has resulted in ... nothing, it can graduate to being an unkillable zombie story, which wingnuts will repeat as god's honest truth right up to and including the comment thread on Gore's obituary.
By the way, we know for a fact that David Vitter (R-I'll call you Wendy) was well-known to more than one prostitution ring. We've known it for 1125 days. So far, no consequences.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Now that the Al Gore masseuse abuse story has resulted in ... nothing, it can graduate to being an unkillable zombie story, which wingnuts will repeat as god's honest truth right up to and including the comment thread on Gore's obituary.
Friday, July 30, 2010
What explains Mr. Obama’s consistent snubbing of those who made him what he is? Does he fear that his enemies would use any support for progressive people or ideas as an excuse to denounce him as a left-wing extremist? Well, as you may have noticed, they don’t need such excuses: He’s been portrayed as a socialist because he enacted Mitt Romney’s health-care plan, as a virulent foe of business because he’s been known to mention that corporations sometimes behave badly.
The point is that Mr. Obama’s attempts to avoid confrontation have been counterproductive. His opponents remain filled with a passionate intensity, while his supporters, having received no respect, lack all conviction.
By the way, Krugman alludes to Yeats:
Newt Gingrich's signature achievement: To be thought intelligent by stupid people in a way that doesn't make them hate him. It's a living - and much easier than to be thought intelligent by intelligent people, but to overcome his name, his whiny voice, his bloated corpulence, his overbearing ego, and his complification of subjects that his fans all think are totally simple is quite significant.
It's as if the jocks adopted a kid out of the AV club, not just to be their twirly-sodden mascot, but to pick their dance music.
He could really use a few good mockings.
(h/t Anne Laurie on Balloon Juice)
This doesn't pass the giggle test:
Sam Wyly this year was also named one of the world’s 10 “greenest” billionaires by Forbes magazine.Forbes is judging environmentalism by billionaires. Can we load a truck up with that bullshit and compost the hell out of it? Edward Wyatt of the New York Times can't tell shit from shinola:
In 2000, Sam Wyly was a principal contributor to Republicans for Clean Air, a group that bought ads extolling then-Gov. George W. Bush’s environmental record and criticizing the record of Senator John McCain.Yup, a Texan environmentalist, as opposed to the real kind.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I've mocked "for the children" as a political slogan. It's just so touchy-feely.
But of course it's true that Republicans and conservatives enact policies that thin the herd. Even when those in the herd are too young to fend for themselves.
We're not talking about soft stats here, either. This is about living and dying and suffering from poverty.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Newt Gingrich (R-will to power) joins the amen chorus (amen to Jay-zus!) of teabaggers and wingnuts - that is, the majority of Republicans - in opposing the Cordoba House, a proposed Islamic mosque in Lower Manhattan. Once again, they prove that they have no idea of the meaning of freedom of religion. They narcissistically think that the Founders' great achievement was to codify the wingnuts' own special brand of Christianity as protected from who knows who - the great atheist-Islamist conspiracy, I guess. Just as many of them have missed the entire import of the gospels (Jesus was a liberal who ministered of love to the poor), they've missed the entire import of the First Amendment. And everything in between.
Gingrich can't help gilding the lily along with every other right-wing pundit. The mosque is "at Ground Zero." Or, as Newtie says, "overlooks Ground Zero." Most of the so-called straight news reporters give away their sycophant roles in pushing propaganda by adopting the wingy phrasing.
The truth is that the mosque is near Ground Zero - two city blocks away. (Click Google screen capture images for full-resolution aerial views.)
It just works so much better as propaganda to let your eager bullshit swallowers imagine that a mosque is going to rise in replacement of the twin towers. This is the sort of manipulation in plain sight that the Republicans know so well.
In any case, what distance toward the back of the bus would Republican opponents of religious freedom think appropriate? Maybe if the mosque were closer instead, they could think of its members as a human shield. The wingnuts' heads might explode from cognitive dissonance.
Wait til they find out how many other mosques there are in the area of Lower Manhattan!
Aaaieee! We're doomed. They're taking over! There's even an existing mosque four blocks from Ground Zero (though they appear to be having trouble keeping their lease).
Just leave out the context of how many churches there are in the same area:
I bet abortion clinics are feeling mighty nervous now! (Note: That's the wingnut logic of group accountability for the acts of a few other people who are superficially similar in some way.)
(Did I just commit journalism?)
Update (8/6): There's already a mosque inside the Pentagon! (h/t Jed Lewison on DailyKos)
Update (8/22): Updated in new item, When is a mosque not a mosque?
Update (8/22): I'm no New York Times, but I had the story of other nearby mosques almost three weeks before they did. In Manhattan, their own back yard. (h/t Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog)
Saturday, July 24, 2010
I'm reading, American Lion, Jon Meacham's biography focused on Andrew Jackson's two term as President, and Meacham's writing about pre-Civil War America unmistakably echoes the present day polarization of America. Here's one example (p. 58):
The rise of a nation with a large number of voters..., dependent for infomration and opinion on partisan newspapers, meant that a president had to project an image at once strong and simple. His ideas should be expressed clearly for the ordinary voter, who ... had only so much time and energy to devote to divining the details of a leader's political creed. In a democracy like the one taking shape in America, the people considered both the content of a politician's message and their impression of his character in deciding whether to support him. George Washington was the first and greatest such example, a man called to power not only because of his views but also for his reassuring bearing. He was a man with whom the people felt comfortable. Jackson's political appeal came out of the same tradition - a tradition in which a leader creates a covenant of mutual confidence between himself and the broader public. If the people believe in the man, then the more likely they are to give him the benefit of the doubt on the details of governance.We of course have only recently emerged from a period when having a beer with a recovering alcoholic was the perverse standard of our selection of a president. Maybe we haven't even emerged, given the continued prominence of beer diplomacy.
One big difference between now and the 1820s and 1830s is how thoroughly electronic media worm their selling messages into our lives. Two centuries ago, a yeoman farmer could at least escape the bullshit of so much political image-making for the much more useful and less noxious real cow patties. Now the caf at work plays Fox propaganda all day, and many of its viewers buy it long before all the smears and adulterants can be composted out.
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Update (7/30): Of course, big shallow fetid media outlets want to keep politics on the level of beer-drinking. Why not girls in bikinis, too?
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The actual funding appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has reached $1,000,000,000,000. That's a whole shitload of zeroes. That's more than $3,000 apiece that we owe on our credit cards from China Bank. Over and above Duhbya's tax cuts for the rich.
The trillion dollar tab doesn't include any planning whatsoever for anticipated long-range costs such as health care and other earned perks for veterans. Linda Bilmes has in the past carefully estimated those as costing additional trillions. And of course, we're still running up the tab.
It's stunning that only World War II is still "ahead" in costs. It's stunning that the margin is less than a factor of four:
Since the the 9/11 terror attacks, the United States has spent an estimated $1.15 trillion. World War II cost $4.1 trillion when converted to current dollars.My question, which the big media absolutely has refused to look into since these wars began in 2001, is why? WWII saw millions of men under arms, a huge output of materiel, a vast and expensive air- and sealift. What's different about these modern wars that make them so much more costly?
A few possibilities:
- War profiteering is worse. (Is it? There's no Harry Truman to look into it.)
- We've privatized many logistical operations that we used to do more cheaply with underpaid uniformed personnel.
- We've privatized many security operations (for more than $100,000 a man) that we used to do more cheaply with underpaid uniformed personnel.
- We're spending millions a pop in modern weaponry to atomize the tents of goatherders.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I recently saw that one of my Facebook friends here in the U.S. had joined a group using exactly that jibe.
In short, they want us to be socialist men, of course in the context of this capitalist enterprise. When faced with a task that we're not compensated for, we're expected to take up the slack and altruistically provide the out-of-scope value to the other organization. As if it takes no time. As if it has no impact on our eventual performance reviews and salary increments.
The real joke is: They pretend to provide rational incentives, and we pretend to respond to them.
The real truth is: On the lower rungs, we act as human beings and mainly give the help we can. We cooperate across silos better than our managers! And much better than the senior and executive VPs.
Most people choose their beliefs. They don't reason to them. Many won't even reject their cherished beliefs just because they've learned something new.
In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.Social norms matter immensely in the choice what to believe. The norms of society as a whole are important, though they may not be as strong for a person as the norms of a particular group that is central to that person's identity. My sixth grade teacher told me that evolution wasn't nice; she wasn't even willing to engage on the facts.
This doesn't mean that the truth is socially constructed. It means that social groups construct belief systems, often irrespective of observation and outside the truth. Just because these systems are popular (religious fundamentalism, for instance) doesn't make true-for-them a valid supporting heuristic. It merely makes them well-protected.
The Globe-reported studies found that conservatives, true to form, are often ignoramuses. Many don't care what you tell them. Offering a fact at variance with their beliefs immediately makes you biased. They rely on conservative media to package carefully constructed bullshit that protects their notions from contradiction. It's Fox's job to give its viewers shelter from the well-known liberal bias of reality.
The participants who self-identified as conservative believed the misinformation on WMD and taxes even more strongly after being given the correction. With those two issues, the more strongly the participant cared about the topic — a factor known as salience — the stronger the backfire.Liberals as always are better, but we don't have that much to be proud of either.
The effect was slightly different on self-identified liberals: When they read corrected stories about stem cells, the corrections didn’t backfire, but the readers did still ignore the inconvenient fact that the Bush administration’s restrictions weren’t total.The Boston Globe story chalks our irrationality up to the wiring of our brains. That's a pretty lame shrug of the shoulders. That wiring hasn't changed, but the degree to which we are polarized has. Yes, it's normal for all people to resist changing their beliefs, to be skeptical of new facts. But it hasn't until the past few decades been normal for conservatives especially to refuse to accept new information.
There has been an asymmetry in the past. Conservatives, by definition, resist change. It's not surprising to find more ignoramuses among them. Liberals are similarly more likely to support change for the sake of change, also not a positive trait.
But the asymmetry in teachability is larger now than at any previous time in my life. I think the crucial difference between now and the 1970s, for example, is that there is a diverse and well-organized propaganda operation dedicated to keeping conservatives away from difficult and dissonant facts.
The new social norm, created by talk radio, conservative think tanks, conservative foundations, Christian fundamentalists, and others, values adherence to the conservative creed over finding out what's actually true about the world.
To say that this is a danger to democracy, as the article does, is a vast understatement. But then, the current crop of radicals who call themselves conservative don't actually value democracy. Instead, they believe that any liberal-ish government is illegitimate and should be brought down as soon as possible. That's even more dangerous.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
As with many wonderful ideas, this one is not mine: If you're unemployed, call your Congressional Representative and both your Senators and ask for help finding a job. While you're at it, call the White House, too.
Our political leaders are the real malingerers. Unemployment is persistently above 9% in the standard, minimizing way we talk about it, U3. In a more accurate way, U6 - including discouraged workers, who've finished their unemployment compensation, and underemployed workers, who are lucky enough to be making lattes at Starbucks after long careers as middle managers - it's above 16%.
Call the complacent bastards once a week until they understand. Really. I'm not just blowing smoke.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I wouldn't pay Rachel Maddow for sex.
Sorry to break it to you, asshole. Rachel Maddow couldn't care less if the scurvy likes of you is attracted to her.
Oh, yeah, it's David Vitter watch, day 1101. I would have thought that Republicans could have gotten their most prolific consorter with whores out of the Senate by now. Could it be that they recognize their caucus's own activities as prostitution, merely without all the messy fluids? Nah, no way they have that kind of self-knowledge.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Ronald Reagan said that his tax cuts would reduce deficits, then presided over a near-tripling of federal debt. When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top incomes, conservatives predicted economic disaster; what actually followed was an economic boom and a remarkable swing from budget deficit to surplus. Then the Bush tax cuts came along, helping turn that surplus into a persistent deficit, even before the crash.The evidence suggests that Republicans don't care about the size of the economy. They care about income inequality. Unlike Democrats, Republicans favor more inequality.
That way, their wealthy friends can feel yet greater self-esteem than already oozes out of their pores.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
On behalf of the big media, Dana Milbank reports the complete and total bullshit coming from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R-pearls of a swine) - with a dollop from Sen. John McCain (R-not a maverick). (Of course, he doesn't credit the liberal blogosphere, which has been on this story for a while.)
But tomorrow or the next day, she'll be on TV again, and no one will impugn her credibility despite her repeated willingness to justify her policy on the basis of lies.
This media laxity, not ever extended to a Democrat, is why Democrats must every day call out Republicans for their lies. The media won't help. They're too busy protecting their sources and proving they're not liberal. Democrats have to stop being polite in the face of unregenerate, unremorseful liars.
"You're well known, Gov. Brewer, to state the most breath-taking falsehoods as the basis for your immigration policy. Why should anyone believe a single word you ever say?"The only alternative is to accept that American politics will continue to be driven by unrebutted lies.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
This week I'm tied for first in influence among Massachusetts political blogs. Ah right.
Look, any ranking that puts me ahead of Blue Mass Group has, uh, an idiosyncratic algorithm for determining influence.
But, hey, doesn't this again make me an award-winning blogger?
Since the rich run things, there's no expectation that they must live up to their commitments even when their debts overwhelm them. The middle class? Bankruptcy is not for them, nor even abandonment of their underwater mortgages.
Our creative muscles have gone soft and slack too.
The American experiment with effective democracy and liberty is in grave danger of senescence and death from multiple sources - deep tolerance for bullshit as a cultural norm, ideologically driven refusal to admit contrary facts, conservative ossification enabled by media whose purpose is to excuse ignorance, and a great willful forgetting of hard lessons we learned in the 20th century.
What are we going to do about it?
Update: In the gallery of images, I really like the concept of "resistance to premature closure." I need to live with that idea and muse on it...
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I get letters. They ask for money. I
throw them away recycle them.
But for yuks I sometimes pick out a good wingnut letter and read it, just to see what's making them piss their britches. Or at least what they think will make their supporters piss their britches - and open their wallets.
Socialism, usually. Obama and his "loony left agenda." (Where? Would love to see that in action.) The conservative fundraisers almost never call Obama President Obama. I guess their heads would explode. Nancy Pelosi is another boogeyman of the right. OK, boogeywoman!
Most of the letter I got yesterday from Sharron Angle (R-lunatic fringe) is standard Republican boilerplate. Since I'm not in Nevada, the letter tries really hard to nationalize Angle's contest with Harry Reid so that I'll supposedly be convinced to sign up as a "Friend of Sharron Angle." Yah, sure.
It's odd that she thinks a potential contributor would need to be convinced that the Nevada Senate race has national implications. Maybe the mailing list is supposed to be for, um, less engaged (o.k. stupid) conservatives. The fact that she's trying so hard suggests to me some desperation.
Angle does depart from one commonplace in conservative fundraising. Rather than edging up to the libel cliff and peeking carefully over, she goes for it full bore:
Reid doesn't just use his tremendous power as Senate Majority Leader to ram through Obama's agenda...Yeah, sounds as if actual malice wouldn't be hard to prove. She's accusing him of extortion and accepting bribes, not to mention abuse of his position.
...he also leverages it so that millions of dollars in Special Interest money flow [sic] into his campaign coffers.
Every Special Interest that wants a favor, [sic] must first toss some money into Reid's tin pot.
(Another typical feature of conservative fundraising letters is, ahem, idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization, not to mention the occasional misunderstanding that a number of dollars takes a singular verb, not a plural one. They are proud to be hide-bound reactionaries, but they can't even do traditional English usage correctly. Say, has anyone seen their identity papers?)
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Not much political content, but I couldn't resist the pun in my title.
As for Central Florida’s testing center, one of its most recent cheating cases had nothing to do with the Internet, cellphones or anything tech. A heavily tattooed student was found with notes written on his arm. He had blended them into his body art.Obligatory political jibe (because that's what I'm here for): If Sarah Palin had a small, tasteful tatt (as if!) on her hand to hide her crib notes, how many of her conservative followers would suddenly decide that body art is fine with them?
Monday, July 5, 2010
Campaign finance reform - the body of law to keep wealthy interests from trying to buy elections - is over. Be ready for what's coming this fall: constant fusillades of deceptive, right-wing, corporate-funded, pro-Republican ads.
Despite Barack Obama's success raising money in 2008, we liberals will not be able to compete dollar-for-dollar. We also have no history of successfully labelling bullshit as bullshit. No matter how frumious, we keep engaging it as if it deserves serious consideration.
The only response that might plausibly work is to speak bluntly, to call the Republican corporate propaganda what it is: rank bullshit. And then we must use their obvious bullshit to impugn their credibility about everything.
In other words, we have to drop our politesse and tell the truth: They are liars, they'll always be liars, their luxurious livelihoods depend on it, and the only consequence they'll understand is to be defeated.
I doubt the American bullshit detector can handle the coming avalanche.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
The New York Times is the best newspaper in the country. Yeah, I'm damning with faint praise.
Bill Keller, executive editor of the gray lady, has been a defender of official bullshit from the time I first took notice of him in the late 1990s, when the Times's thrusting of Republican bullshit about Bill Clinton needed his defense. For Keller, it hasn't mattered whether the official bullshit is the Times's own or comes from Republican political operatives and their business interests. Keller will have no part in calling bullshit bullshit. He'd rather add more onto the compost heap.
Now, true to form, his spokesperson claims that calling torture torture would have been inadmissably biased:
When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves.Words have meaning. Waterboarding has always been torture. The special pleadings of the torture-advocating war criminals of Duhbya's ugly administration don't change those meanings.
Torture is torture, no matter who applies it, no matter who suffers under it. It is possible to do evil to evil. Even for Americans...
Our media culture no longer recognizes this, and even mainstream Republicans such as Rudy Giuliani, encouraged by the unwillingness of big media to call bullshit, refuse to deal with the plain truths of our national stains. A culture so debased by lying to itself is in existential trouble, not from al Qaeda but from its own corruption of character.
Update (7/5): More good criticism from Salon:
[When the Washington Post and the New York Times] defended their acts of cowardice and dismissed criticism as tendentious, they went beyond harm. Their pride in subservience was a disgrace.
No surprise, Republican Senators are lining up against Elena Kagan.
President Obama nominated Kagan, clearly a moderate, to replace the most liberal member of the Supreme Court, but there's no satisfying the Republicans. They're so devoid of perspective, they think the responsible left is Joe Lieberman - or even Olympia Snowe.
This is what Republicans do: No matter how conciliatory or centrist a Democratic proposal, they push it hard to the right. And then they won't support the result.
It's time to stop negotiating with these bad faith assholes, kill the filibuster in January (or sooner), and make the majority's platform happen.
Digby on the elite consensus that the national debt is more important than the worst employment picture in eighty years!
What a beautiful message of unity on our Independence Day it is to tell close to 20 million citizens that they are on their own in the worst job market since the Great Depression purely to make a cheap political point. It would make King George proud to see his aristocratic heirs flexing their muscles two centuries later in the country that once proudly proclaimed that it didn't have a class system.Yet somehow it's the teabagging morons, on their platform of even more neglect, who have the fervor of revolution.
There is at present massive class warfare going on in this country. The wealthy and semi-wealthy elites think we all have to take our austerity medicine.
So the next time you hear serious-sounding people explaining the need for fiscal austerity, try to parse their argument. Almost surely, you’ll discover that what sounds like hardheaded realism actually rests on a foundation of fantasy, on the belief that invisible vigilantes will punish us if we’re bad and the confidence fairy will reward us if we’re good. And real-world policy — policy that will blight the lives of millions of working families — is being built on that foundation.Tsk-tsk, they say, it may hurt, but that's life.
Of course, it's much easier for them (including, so far, me, in the semi category) to swallow the bitter pill. For the rich, there's little real loss of living standard, and it's easier to get tickets to the ball game, since demand from hoi polloi is reduced. Plus - bonus! - less need to rub elbows with the unwashed.
The bitterness of austerity really hurts, say, the new-collar breadwinner whose drywall business is making half what it used to make. Or the single mom teacher who has been laid off and has no prospects better than an hourly position at Wal-mart with no benefits. Or the non-union line worker at a food processing plant. Or even the union flagger on a project paid for by the stimulus.
Yet somehow many of the victims of this recession have swallowed the hook of bullshit economics purveyed by cunning liars whose real goal is to advantage the already advantaged. These victims compound their own suffering by taking up the fight for their lords and masters in the propertied class. It's almost as if they're nostalgic for feudalism, in much the same way that citizens of the Republic of Georgia have been nostalgic for Joseph Stalin, one of the most prolific killers in the history of a pretty blood-lustful species.
Even more remarkable, the misdeeds of the wealthy themselves led us into this wracking pain. They've extracted money for themselves out of the economy on the way up and the way down. Our taxes and debt have made them whole for the most part. Now they're telling us we all have to suffer for their debts. And they've gotten the teabaggers to be their shock troops.
There has been a huge forgetting of the lessons of the Great Depression, here in American and in most of the Western world. (European central bankers are just as bad as Alan Greenspan on this topic.) Despite their utter, complete, and contemptible failure, we are still planning our future as if the Republican upper class economic propaganda of the past forty years were in the slightest true.