Pundits, Pesticide, And The President

This morning, after the President’s press conference in Russia, I watched a few liberal pundits on MSNBC criticize Obama’s demeanor during his exchange with reporters, including his lack of enthusiasm, and so on. The idea was that the President doesn’t seem all that convinced about his own decision to attack Syria. Presumably for these folks, the President’s leadership style is much too thoughtful and not forceful or decisive enough for their tastes. He’s too professorial, don’t you know. He should be the cheerleader-in-chief.

Now, I’m used to hearing those criticisms from right-wingers, who seem to value more “manly” decision-making, which to them requires less thought and more knee-jerking. But I never thought I would live long enough to hear liberals implicitly long for Bush-like decisiveness, which decisiveness was pregnant with a false but, apparently for some, comforting certainty.

Such decisiveness and certainty resulted in things like, say, the attacking, defeating, and occupying of Iraq, which we were told with utter certainty was not only necessary (turns out it wasn’t), but would bring us much good will in the Middle East (turns out it didn’t). Even though the Iraq war, from its pretenses to its promises, was a colossal mistake, at least, dammit, Bush was certain and decisive and forceful!

When it comes to making decisions on the use of force, I’ll take the thoughtful, get-it-right-the-first-time style of Barack Obama, no matter how much it irritates people on the right—or left. Thus, fed up with listening to liberals whine about the President’s leadership style, I thought I would at least get a taste of the big league whiners. So, while on my way to Fox, I stopped by CNN and found a Tea Party town hall being conducted by the one and only Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who represents Old South Alabama in the U.S. Senate. He was trying to explain, to hard-headed teapartiers like himself, the dynamics of what is going on in Syria and Congress. And, of course, it is all President Obama’s fault because he is a weak leader:

If President Bush had told Bashir Assad, “You don’t use those chemical weapons or you gonna be sorry, we’re coming after you, this will be a consequence you will not want to bear,” I don’t believe he would have used them (raucous applause)…People didn’t see strength in the President’s red line…

Sessions, echoing what I heard liberals on MSNBC say minutes before, called Obama an “uncertain trumpet.” Well, if it is certainty that people want, they should go to a once-saved-always-saved, Bible-believing Baptist church and confess their faith in Jesus and live happily ever after, however long the after is. Then they can say things like the following, which was said by a town hall teapartier immediately following Jeff Sessions’ put down of Obama and his praise for the leadership qualities of George W. Bush:

I stand here and I listen to you and, uh, and I sure hope that in those secret meetings that you have good intelligence…but…I’m not sure it was a chemical weapons attack. I think it was a pesticide attack. I think that the al Qaeda could get a hold of pesticides. It was not consistent with a chemical weapons attack. The emergency people came in there too quickly. They would not come into an area with poison gas residue all over the place. I read a very interesting analysis of this, and I think it was setup to get the United States to come in there and do al Qaeda ‘s dirty work.

But here’s my question: You have something that none of us here have. You have a megaphone. You have a platform. You have a microphone. But my question to you is I’ve seen this president…crossing one red line after another, you know, fraudulent birth certificate—everybody knows that his documents are a fraud, everything about this man is secret, nobody knows anything about Obama, nothing! Gays in the military, gun-smuggling to the Mexicans, getting Mexicans killed, getting Americans killed…He violates the Constitution in that he has a duty as the President of the United States to enforce the laws of the United States. He’s refused to enforce the immigration laws. He’s refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by Bill Clinton for heaven sake’s [sic]. This man has violated so many, he’s crossed so many red lines, and now Syria.

And my question [sic] is, What do you think is the red line for Barack Obama? When is the United States Senate, when are our representatives going to say that he’s gone too far and stop this man? As a U.S. Senator, do you feel like you personally are incapable of doing anything to stop him? Or do you feel like you’re capable of doing something to stop him, and if so what is that? Thank you very much (loud applause).

To which Jeff Sessions replied:

It is sad that…such a large number of people have lost confidence in the President, his integrity or his willingness to lead…

Yes, it is sad. And what is sadder is that a United States Senator is part of the problem, part of the reason that ignorant and ill-informed and conspiracy-crazed Americans, like that poor Tea Party fool in Alabama, can feel comfortable in standing up and saying such stupid things and expect only the mildest of rebukes from a Senator who has so much to say about leadership:

But you know I can’t agree with all of those things. I don’t think they’re probably factually correct, all of them. I just don’t think that’s true, some of them. I do believe that from the day we saw his Supreme Court nominations, his own statement that, uh, he wanted judges to do “empathy,” and basically that’s saying you want judges not to follow the law but to do whatever feels good at the time…They do not respect the rule of law as the President of the United States should…[blah, blah, blah]

Jeff Sessions had been criticizing President Obama’s leadership style, he had been talking about how weak Obama is, how that leadership weakness allows bad things to happen. Yet the Senator couldn’t stand up to a freak at his town hall freak show and say to him, “Look, pal, what you said was crazy. It was nuts. You’re an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Stop reading those wacky right-wing conspiracy websites and stop spreading this crap at my town halls.” Now that would have been real leadership.

The “pesticide” conspiracy theory espoused by that Tea Party nut was undoubtedly related to the larger conspiracy going around—promoted by Rush Limbaugh and others using the writings of an Israeli-American political scientist named Yossef Bodansky—that President Obama may have helped plan the chemical attack on civilians in Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda rebels. Here is a typical headline from a true-believing, Christian website called Sword At-The-Ready:

Obama Regime Armed Al Qaeda-Rebels To Use Chemical Weapons In Syria

Now, it appears to me that the pathetic, brainsick individual at Sessions’ town hall was trying to imply what that headline states outright and what the accompanying article articulates:

Obama has been and is engaged in arming Jihadists in the Middle East, our avowed enemies. Evidence is mounting that not only did Obama arm the Jihadists in Syria with heavy weapons from Benghazi, the Obama regime helped plan the chemical weapons attack near Damascus.  A tactic the Bosnian Muslims utilized in their civil war to get the UN to bomb the Serbs.

In the process of helping radical Islam in raising up the black flag over secular dictatorships, Obama emasculates the United States and destroys it’s reputation among the world’s nations.

If you consider Obama’s agenda is to destroy the country and raise up his utopia over our ashes – much of what Obama has been doing and demands to do – makes sense.

It’s not incompetence, this is all deliberate.

Sword At-The-Ready says it is,

dedicated to the presentation and discussion of Conservative American Principles in light of the Scriptures, Our True History, Culture and Politics.

You get it: there is a culture war/civil war going on between people of fundamentalist-quality faith and everyone else, especially our diabolical leader, Barack Hussein Obama.

It’s too bad that among the nuts, even though he isn’t quite as nutty as the nutty people attracted to one of his town halls in Wetumpka, Alabama, is Jeff Sessions. This man sits in, uh, the world’s greatest deliberative body but he couldn’t bother to—or worse, didn’t want to—call out someone who doesn’t believe the President is a citizen and who suggested that he is involved in a pro-al Qaeda plot in Syria.

So much for leadership.

For the record, CNN cut away from the town hall shortly after Sessions began his reply to the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy. And later in a story reporting on what happened at the Sessions town hall, the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy wasn’t mentioned, nor was Jeff Sessions’ inadequate, leadership-less response. Thanks, CNN.

jeff sessions townhall

Stale Bread

We have all watched as Fox “News” and other right-wing media outlets have pushed the so-called Benghazi scandal. And some of us watched, in relative horror, as CNN recently joined in with its own right-wing-infected “special investigation,” complete with ominous music and boldly titled, “The Truth About Benghazi.

Revealing the truth about Benghazi, of course, had little to do with that dubious special investigation. What it did have to do with, as David Brock pointed out, is CNN’s turn toward more right-wingishness, presumably as a way “to compete with Fox News.”

The honcho of CNN, Jeff Zucker, “has lent legitimacy to the right’s agenda, especially the never-ending complaint that the network never airs enough conservative points of view,” Brock wrote. Zucker told Variety that such a complaint “was probably a valid criticism.” Yes, the network that brought us Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch lacks conservative voices.

As Brock notes, the response to that “never-ending” conservative criticism includes producing “truth” programs that push “long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”

Such is the state of the television news business these days. Excepting some thoughtful programs on MSNBC, it’s a race to the bottom it seems and CNN wants to be a part of it, even if it can’t really compete with the worst of the worst on Fox. But there may be something happening on the Roger Ailes-controlled conservative channel that needs a closer look.

For many years Fox “News” and right-wing media in general have been selling the stale bread of conservatism in the form of turd sandwiches. Hannity and Limbaugh may be the two biggest turds, but there are many smaller ones that serve as nourishment for American reactionaries. However, there may be a move away from selling pure turd sandwiches and instead put something more appetizing between those slices of stale conservative bread, something that would attract people who are not part of the turd-loving Tea Party tribe.

I’m talking about the rumor that the attractive Megyn Kelly, who is part of Fox’s daytime Republican propaganda lineup, may replace the unattractive Sean Hannity, who is part of Fox’s evening Republican propaganda lineup. John Whitehouse, writing for Media Matters, begins his interesting piece on the rumor this way:

Megyn Kelly’s move to primetime will mark a shift in the very essence of Fox News, away from the hate of right-wing radio and towards something more effective at shilling conservative misinformation.

Whitehouse says that Kelly,

is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all.

The point of all this, says Whitehouse, is adaptation. Fox is moving away from the Hannity-turd model of conservative propaganda, thus “allowing it to more effectively advance a political agenda.” My own view is that, fearful of a powerful Hillary Clinton-for-president campaign, there is a need to get people like Megyn Kelly out there to push, without the insanity of Hannity, the Benghazi “scandal,” which, naturally, will soon be an all-out assault on our former Secretary of State.Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity

And speaking of politics, take a look at what is happening to New Jersey governor Chris Christie. I have heard even liberal commentators rave about his appeal, about his personality, about his ability to attract even Democratic voters (and Democratic money). Christie is obviously a favorite of the mainstream press, which is why so much was made of his public spat with Rand Paul. By comparison to the nuts-turds in the Republican Party, Chris Christie looks quite sane and un-turdly, which, of course, is why he is so politically dangerous to Democrats.

Besides his willingness to raise money for the unhinged right-wing congressman from Iowa, Steve King—talk about your turds!—consider just how conservative Christie is. As Salon’s Alex Pareene notes, the governor

is anti-choice on reproductive rights (after being pro-choice);

has doubts about evolution;

has doubts about the reality and causes of climate change;

bullies “teachers and public servants”;

favors at least some privatization of public schools;

has opposed same-sex marriage in his state;

has opposed early voting in his state;

has vetoed a minimum wage increase;

has withdrawn New Jersey’s participation in a carbon cap and trade agreement;

has “killed” his state’s version of the DREAM Act;

has cut funding for women’s health services, including cancer screenings and family planning, which led to the closing of clinics.

Others have pointed out how Christie refused to renew a state tax on millionaires while cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He has cut business taxes and increased the amount of subsidizes given to corporations operating in New Jersey. He has cut funding for county colleges, causing tuition to go up for students.

The bottom line is that Chris Christie is a very conservative, even ultra-conservative guy. He’s just not a turd in the same way Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are. And that’s why he may be able to serve up president-size slices of stale conservative bread to a public hungry for solutions to the dysfunction in Washington.

Especially now that CNN has made a conscious turn toward the dark side of journalism.

The Enablers

Blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com is now a very popular conservative, partly because CNN chose to employ him as a political contributor. The network chose him to represent conservatives on its network even though:

he referred to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Marxist harpy wife,”

he called former Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglas “the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop,”

he smeared retired Justice David Souter a “goat f*&king child molester,”

he labeled the Democratic National Convention, “The Vagina Monologues.”

Yes, despite all that, Erickson has a job at CNN and has become quite popular.

When he was hired by the network, first as a contributor to the old John King, USA program, CNN’s political director said Erickson was “an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washingtonand that, “as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach.”

So, Washington pays attention to this guy and this guy is in touch with those small-town folks and CNN thus blesses his noxious rants with legitimacy.

And I’m afraid that in that formulation we can find the reason our divisions in America are so deep and so bitter.

You see, because Erick Erickson does speak for some people, some conservative people, he does get attention, even, I’m sorry to admit, in Washington, D.C.  But because CNN, which used to be a first-class news organization, gives him a platform that reaches millions of people, he gets much more attention than he deserves.

And so it is with most of what is now being called the “conservative media complex,” of which Erick Erickson’s RedState is a small part. Without help from more mainstream outlets, like CNN, these corrosive conservative voices would have a limited impact on our discourse, beyond selling their ideological trinkets to a relatively small but gullible audience.

A larger part of that conservative media complex, Fox “News,” is also given undeserved credibility by mainstream news outlets, which, just because there are some real journalists working there, treat Fox as a completely legitimate journalistic enterprise, thus damaging the brand of all.

About three years ago, bona fide reporters, like Jake Tapper of ABC News, came to the aid of Fox, as the White House was pushing back against the network and accusing it, accurately, of being “a wing of the Republican Party.” Tapper referred to Fox as “one of our sister organizations.”

Some sister.

Enabling Fox to do what it does—which is to provide part of the country with its own set of facts, facts that happen to support the conservative agenda of the Republican Party, and facts that often don’t happen to be the facts that the rest of us understand as facts—is part of why there were a lot of conservatives who woke up on November 7th and couldn’t believe their eyes: Barack Obama is still alive!

Our country has always been divided in various ways, but never have we had anything like a Fox “News,” a large-scale enterprise that not only broadcasts our differences, which would be okay, but it magnifies them, exploits them, and then profits from them.

While there have been a multitude of examples that I could cite to back up this claim, none of them are as stark, as telling, as what has been happening on that network since Mitt Romney first shamefully tried to exploit the tragedy in Benghazi.

In fact, as I write this, Fox is featuring the nutty right-wing congressman Louie Gohmert, who is unashamedly calling for a “special prosecutor” to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there are already investigations going on all over the place.

But Gohmert was really on the network to promote a group called “Special Operations Speaks,” which claims to have 100,000 signatures on a petition, the title of which is:

Special Operations Speaks DEMANDS an Independent Investigation to Uncover Potential High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Benghazigate

In case that doesn’t make clear the motives of this right-wing group that purports to represent “the Special Operations community,” how about the group’s logo, complete with the universal symbol for Obama haters:

______________________________

Having Gohmert on this morning is just another attempt by Fox “News” to commodify ignorance, and, perhaps more important for its profitability, to undermine and delegitimate President Obama.

In fact, things have gotten so bad on Fox, that this morning even Geraldo Rivera went on the network and called the latest claim by Foxers—that David Petraeus was essentially forced to cover for the Obama administration because of the investigation over his extra-marital affair—”absolutely reckless, and it has no fact base at all and really is a disgrace to a man who has served us honorably.”

No fact base at all,” says Geraldo, yet the beat goes on, and on.

And the vitriol continues to flow.

As do the profits for the father of Fox, Rupert Murdoch.

“Very Good” Report, But It Takes A While To Clean Up After Republicans

I was watching CNN this morning when the new—and “very good“— jobs numbers (as Mark Zandi characterized them later on MSNBC) came out. Guess who CNN, the network that tries hard at times to be a watered down version of Fox “News,” had on to comment on the numbers? No, come on, guess.

Oh, I knew you couldn’t guess. It was, uh, Grover Norquist. I’ll spare you what Grover had to say (that is something you could guess), but the point is there was no one on the panel of guests to counter the nonsense he spouted. I guess all the good guys were busy congratulating those conspirators at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for another job well done making Obama look good.

In any case, the numbers for October signal a continuing improvement. There were 184,000 private sector jobs added—32 months of consecutive growth—which represents the largest gain in eight months (government jobs continue to decline, as 13,000 more were lost, split fairly evenly between federal and state).  Because of the increased number of folks entering the job market (always a good sign), the unemployment rate rose to 7.9, from last month’s 7.8 (which, of course, the right-wing labeled a conspiracy).

What often gets lost in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report are the revised numbers for the last two months:

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised from +142,000 to +192,000, and the change for September was revised from +114,000 to +148,000.

That revision represents 84,000 more jobs added over the previous two months than previously reported.

So, although there is still a lot of Republican economics to fix, things are, indisputably, getting better and better.

Before I go, let’s play the guessing game again. What would you guess Fox “News” was doing after these “very good” numbers came out at around 7:30 C.S.T.?

Oh, I know, this one was easy, given what Fox has been doing for the past three weeks:

You gotta hand it to those guys. They are not ashamed of what they do.

By the way, in case you can’t quite figure out what that graphic in the right hand corner says, here is a better look:

Obama is one bad cat. One cover up isn’t good enough for him, he has to have two, or, who knows, possibly more. Perhaps next week’s Fox graphic will be a trifecta of intrigue: “Cover-up of the Cover-up of the Cover-up.”

Roy Blunt, False Witness

The Old Testament tells us that the Lord hates “a false witness that speaketh lies.”

Uh-oh.

Without much of a pushback from Candy Crowley, Roy Blunt appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to speaketh lies about Mitt Romney’s once-prominent promise of tax cuts for all. After playing a clip of Romney saying “don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes,” Crowley asked,

What do you make of that? Sounds like people aren’t going to get a tax cut.

BLUNT: Well, I — actually I think that’s what the governor’s been saying all the time, and it’s what most Republicans have been saying all the time. Get the rate down, eliminate the — a lot of the intricacies of the tax code…

CROWLEY: But hasn’t he been — I’m sorry. Hasn’t he been campaigning on cutting taxes?

BLUNT: No, no, no, he has always said we’re going to lower the rate and we’re going to eliminate the complexity of the tax code. That’s what he’s said consistently. It doesn’t mean revenue would go down. That would mean that people would have some sense that everybody’s paying the same thing based on the same rules, both at the corporate structure and the individual structure and I think that’s very consistent…

No, no, no,” he said. “It doesn’t mean revenue would go down.” Well, I am used to Blunt telling unchallenged lies to Missourians, but one would think when he tells lies to the nation that Candy Crowley would at least press him on it. But nope, she didn’t.

If you go to Mitt Romney’s website—in light of his “47%” comments laughingly subtitled, “Believe in America” —you will find this:

Reduce taxes,” it says, “through…tax reform.” Nothing could be clearer than that. It doesn’t say “reduce tax rates,” but “reduce taxes,” with “reduce” being commonly defined as “to bring down.” Romney promised to bring down taxes, despite Blunt’s claim that  it was really “rates” he meant. A false witness, indeed.

But that wasn’t Blunt’s biggest sin on Sunday:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the state of the race in Missouri. This is where you had Congressman Akin, who made a very controversial remark, which you condemned, which others condemned. You, in fact, said at the time, “We do not believe it serves the national interests for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in the race for Senate. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.” 

As we all know, Todd Akin did not step aside. He is running as the Republican. And you are looking as though — the Republicans are looking as though they’re going to lose that race because Akin stayed in it. 

BLUNT: I think at the end of the day, that race does largely become a debate about the majority in the Senate. Harry Reid is majority leader. What happens there? I think that becomes really big in that race. Frankly, I think that anybody else would have been a candidate that clearly would have won, and Todd very well may win. He is on a ticket at a time when people are looking at a Senate that’s not doing its work, and the only way to change the Senate is to change the majority in the Senate. 

CROWLEY: So you are going to sell it as a party race as opposed to the individual of Congressman Akin? 

BLUNT: I think it becomes a party race in our state and lots of other places as well, as people look at these Senate races. And I’m not — I think they look at them to a great extent independently of whatever has happened in the presidential race, but I think the presidential race is going to be decided by the economy, and the economy is not where people want it to be.

Get that? Blunt believes, or says he believes, that Missourians will overlook Akin’s stupidity because otherwise Harry Reid will remain Majority Leader. Forget “legitimate rape” people, we’ve got to make Mitch McConnell, the chief Republican obstructionist in Congress, Majority Leader!

In other words, Blunt, who sacrificed what principles he had left on the altar of political power, hopes Missourians will do the same thing. He said a bit later:

It’s a race about the majority, and let’s see how Todd does.

Yeah, let’s see how Todd does.

My question would be this: Is there nothing a Republican candidate could say or do that would earn Roy Blunt’s permanent disapproval? If Charles Manson were a Republican and could give the party a majority in the senate, would Roy Blunt say, “It’s a race about the majority, and let’s see how Charlie does“?

Huh?

Sadly, the reason Blunt has recanted his disapproval of Akin is because, believe it or not, the man with a cave dweller’s understanding of the female reproductive system and “ladylike” behavior and who wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, actually has a chance of winning in cave-rich Missouri.

If he had no chance, Roy Blunt wouldn’t come within a Jack Abramoff scandal of him.

For his part, Akin, with a zeal befitting an evangelical zealot, has said that there is “an amazing correlation” at work here:

When you do the right thing, you end up winning anyway.

Well, there is one thing we know: no matter who wins, neither Akin nor the principleless Roy Blunt will have done the right thing.

And if Akin ends up in the U.S. Senate, those Missourians who put him there will be just as principleless as Blunt and will have brought shame to not only their state, but to the whole country.

CNN And The Right-Wing Media Metropolis

CNN, which along with Fox initially got the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act totally wrong last week, has for a while been trying to prove it is not a left-leaning cable news network, although evidence that it was a left-leaning cable news network only existed in the heads of conservative “watchdogs,” who believe if you tell the truth about a Republican you are biased against Republicans, as opposed to being biased in favor of the truth.

The president of CNN Worldwide, Jim Walton, told The New York Times a couple of years ago:

We’re the only credible, nonpartisan voice left. And that matters.

And Jonathan Klein, president of CNN U.S. said:

Our mission, our mandate, is to deliver the best journalism in the world. No bias, no agenda.

Apparently, what these honchos mean by “nonpartisan” and “no bias, no agenda,” is what I saw on CNN today. A short segment by Ali Velshi, CNN’s Chief Bidness Correspondent, addressed the potential of falling off the upcoming fiscal “cliff,” if Congress and President Obama don’t reach some kind of agreement by January 1 of next year, when a gazillion dollars worth of tax increases and budget cuts will automatically take effect.

Velshi was explaining what Congress should do to avoid disaster:

Now, it was very nice of CNN to use Velshi’s segment to give a few pointers to Congress on how not to destroy the economy, and I had high hopes when Velshi mentioned that,

scorched-earth partisan politics could push America over a fiscal cliff if Congress doesn’t act.

Hmm. Finally, I thought, CNN is getting to the heart of it: “scorched-earth partisan politics” is exactly what Republicans have been playing for more than three years in their attempt to get the black guy out of the White’s House.

But I should have known better.

Velshi decided to present three things that Congress could do “to address the coming economic storm” and he began with addressing “the ridiculously named sequester legislation,” which was passed, Velshi unhelpfully explained,

as part of last August’s debt-ceiling extension, which followed, as you recall but would like to forget, intense partisan blackmail by both sides, that nearly shut the government down and led to a downgrade of the United States credit ratings. A stupid name for a stupid thing that could hurl the U.S. headlong back into a recession. So, solve it Congress!

Partisan blackmail by both sides.” Ah, that’s what CNN’s “credible, nonpartisan voice” sounds like. That’s what “no bias, no agenda” means at CNN. It’s the old “both sides do it” bullshit, a lazy and fraudulent journalism practiced by journalists who are trying to please both File:Metropolisposter.jpgtheir corporate bosses and their conservative critics, who won’t tolerate CNN or any news organization ratting out their political friends in Congress.

Anyone paying attention—and CNN must hope its viewers weren’t paying much attention—knows that it was Republicans in Congress—and Republicans only—who held the country hostage, threatening to shut the government down, default on some obligations, and generally make life miserable for President Obama, if Tea Party conservatives didn’t get everything—and I mean everything—they wanted.

Ali Velshi and CNN are, by such reporting, living in the suburbs of an alternate media metropolis that Fox “News” and right-wing radio have created. In that metropolis, Democrats do all the evil and Republicans do all the good. And even in the suburbs, if a news organization dares to tell the truth about what Republicans and conservatives have really done—and are really doing—to the country, then they will be bashed as “biased” and held out as second- and third-class journalists, not fit to live even in the suburbs around their dark city.

Because “objective” journalists must never, and I mean never, let the American people know that an American political party with a long and mostly honorable tradition has been hijacked by politicians and people who fear their perennial pale-faced power will never return should the Uppity Negro keep his place in the White’s House for another term.

And these same politicians and people believe that the only way to get the country back is to threaten to push it off a cliff. And should the unthinkable happen, we can count on CNN and Ali Velshi to one day report live from the rocks at the bottom that those who pushed it off and those who got pushed are equally responsible for the disaster.

Doublethink

He who controls the present controls the past, he who controls the past controls the future.”

—George Orwell, 1984

h, the aftermath.

After succumbing to the Mittens Money Machine, Rick Santorum is beginning to get his mind right:

The Santorum campaign’s website has been wiped clean of all content directly critical of the now de-facto Republican nominee.

No more “Obamneycare.” No more, “Here is a guy who is the ultimate flip-flopper.” No more he-was-for-the-mandate-before-he-was-against-it. No more “Taxachusetts.” No more “Etch-A-Sketch candidate.” No more, “Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States.”

In good Orwellian fashion, if you search Santorum’s site for the skinny on Mittens, now you get this:

But that’s not as strange—or funny depending on your perspective—as this:

Newt Gingrich rents donor list to raise cash

Desperate times in the Newt Gingrich camp have called for desperate measures.

Scrambling to dig himself out of a $4.5 million hole, the former House speaker has resorted to renting his presidential campaign’s most valuable asset – its donor list – for as much as $26,000-a-pop.

Let me see: Newt is still an active candidate, but he is pimping out his donors for dough? Is nothing sacred with this guy? If I were Callista, I’d sleep with one eye open.

But even that’s not as strange—or, again, funny depending on your perspective—as this

Gingrich Unloads on FOX News in Private Meeting

During a meeting with 18 Delaware Tea Party leaders here on Wednesday, Newt Gingrich lambasted FOX News Channel, accusing the cable network of having been in the tank for Mitt Romney from the beginning of the Republican presidential fight. An employee himself of the news outlet as recently as last year, he also cited former colleagues for attacking him out of what he characterized as personal jealousy.

“I think FOX has been for Romney all the way through,” Gingrich said during the private meeting — to which RealClearPolitics was granted access — at Wesley College. “In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than FOX this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of FOX, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of FOX. That’s just a fact.”

Now, first of all, what does all that say about CNN?  If Newt Gingrich finds the network a comfortable place to bed down and do the nasty, then everything I think about CNN slowly becoming Fox-lite appears to be true.

But secondly, Newt has had no problem with Fox being in the tank for Republicans generally; it is just when the network embraces particular non-Newt Republicans that it loses its credibility with him.

The story continues:

Gingrich did not pull his punches in accusing Rupert Murdoch — the chairman and CEO of News Corp., FOX News’ parent company — of pushing for Romney behind the scenes.

“I assume it’s because Murdoch at some point [who] said, ‘I want Romney,’ and so ‘fair and balanced’ became ‘Romney,’ ” Gingrich said. “And there’s no question that Fox had a lot to do with stopping my campaign because such a high percentage of our base watches FOX.”

You see? Fox “News” can bash Obama and the Democrats most of the broadcast day and it is “fair and balanced.” But when the network (allegedly) started playing grab-ass with Mittens, Newt felt compelled to sanitize the history books.

But Media Matters was watching Fox (that’s its job) during June 1 of last year and January 22 of this. Guess what? Ding! Ding! Ding! In terms of airtime, Newt was the winner:

As The Atlantic’s John Hudson pointed out in January, the Fox “News” prime-time lineup was on more than friendly terms with Gingrich, particularly Sean Hannity, who several times made goo-goo eyes at Newt on TV and gave him reach-arounds on the radio.

In any case, my favorite part of Newt’s rant was this:

The Republican Party is a managerial party that doesn’t like to fight, doesn’t like to read books. This is why the Tea Party was so horrifying. Tea Partiers were actually learning about the Declaration of Independence. They wanted to talk about the Federalist Papers. It was weird. They could be golfing.

The GOP doesn’t like to read books but the Tea Party does? Hmm.

Here’s a good definition of “doublethink“:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

Obama The Whitey Hater

The right-wing will not rest until President Obama is seen as an angry black man who hates white people.

Thinking they have a smoking gun—footage of a young Harvard Law Review president, Mr. Obama, defending Derrick Bell, the first tenured black law professor at Harvard—they apparently didn’t know that the gun has been smoking for almost four years, since PBS’s Frontline broadcast it in 2008 and has made it available online since then.

But folks like Sean Hannity really think they’ve got whitey-hating Obama this time. Except they don’t, as the following interview done by Soledad O’Brien on CNN makes clear:

Here is part of the 1990 video that has the right-wing so jacked up:

And here is a segment from the Frontline story:

Sunday Evening

Sunday evening, before the onset of the cruel aftershocks that continue to pummel our devastated city with remorseless storms and rescue-impeding rains, my youngest son and I undertook a journey to a destination he—a high school student and baseball player—seemed desperate to see.

He wanted to go to his school.

He had heard it had been destroyed and he wanted to see for himself, see if his home away from home—the school and the ballpark—were still there.

Just an hour after the historic tornado hit, we began our walk to Joplin High School. We stepped over thick, once-pulsating power lines; we listened to a natural gas main hiss an awful hiss as it filled the air with that unmistakable odor and imminent danger;  we stepped on and over shards of civilization—the wood, glass, and other fabric that make up a life-home; we passed by pummeled, twisted sheet metal no longer confined to driveways or cowering in garages, but like wildly wounded or dead tin soldiers on some strange and dreadful battlefield, they testified to the power of a fearsome and formidable opponent, in this case a monstrous whirlwind of nature.

In short, we walked through the rubble—how terrible it seems to call it that—and we watched the landscape, once so familiar, disorient us with its new unfamiliarity, the product of an appalling but natural disregard for our pattern-seeking and sense-making needs as human beings.

And that smell.

The stale smell that no CNN report can convey, no matter how detailed or how crowded with images. That wet-wood, musty, gassy smell that democratizes the neighborhoods, the poor and the middle-class and beyond, as it wafts through the scene.

And the sounds.

The unrelenting sirens, of all kinds, with their Doppler effects and with their piercing seriousness.  But the most amazing sound of all was the quasi-silence, the eerie effect of the shocked and shaken as they made their way to loved ones, or to be loved.

And then we turned the corner and there it was.  Our Hiroshima.

The school, and the surrounding landscape, was now a victim of nature’s Enola Gay, which dropped a Fujita-4 tornado in the middle of our city, and in the heart of the familiar, and in the education commons, the place where rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black and white, came together to learn, to socialize—and to play high school baseball.

From the elevated soccer field that overlooks the ballpark, the inspired geometry of the diamond was still discernible, even though the place had been leveled and the ground was littered with pieces of the neighborhood.  A four-wheel drive pickup made its way across the outfield to get to the street beyond, the fence no longer an obstacle, no longer a fence.

To the west, the houses were gone.  The houses whose windows and roofs had been the targets of years of foul balls, duds bounding off the bats of too-hopeful Major League aspirants. Those familiar houses were gone.  All of them, and all behind them, and behind them. 

And to the south, all gone.  And to the east.

And the boy, becoming by necessity that moment more manly, spotted a figure below, standing near the field, behind what used to be the visitor’s dugout.

“Coach Harryman!” he shouted.

And the stunned coach, whose attachment to the field and school is measured not just by years but by a career, turned around and greeted us, making his way up the hill to where we stood, his tearful wife soon by his side.  We shared our disbelief, exchanging inquiries about loved ones, standard practice around here these days.

Then it was time to get back home, before streetlight-less darkness made getting back home even more dangerous, the getting back home now even more necessary, after the sights we had seen.

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How Democracies Begin

[Published February 10, 2011, at 8:00 am]

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UPDATE, 11:00 am:

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CNN  correspondent Arwa Damon left the upheaval in Cairo and traveled an hour to the farmlands of the Nile Delta to get an idea of how rural Egyptians were experiencing the country’s crisis. 

Damon described the lives of the villagers she found as a “monotonous but desperate struggle to survive.” Most of her report centered on a mother of three girls who works at a doctor’s office making less than $30 a month, which she said was not even enough to pay the electric bill. Her husband is a day laborer, who was off looking for work when Damon visited, and who hasn’t been able to find much work since the demonstrations began.

Behind closed doors, the incredibly hospitable woman described herself as “uneducated and illiterate,” who can’t feed her children.  She didn’t know anything about geopolitics or even the politics of her own country. “I don’t know if the government should stay or go,” she admitted. And she added:

All I know is that people like us need to be able to live.

Arwa Damon picks up the narrative:

She called her children inside, pointing to them, saying, “Look at how dirty they are, their stained clothes. I can’t bear them having to live like this. Please! Please! We just need help! We just need jobs!” she begged.

Hoping that by risking speaking out to us, the world will listen.

Well, someone is listening.  His name is Wael Ghonim.  He is on leave from his job as the head of marketing for Google Middle East and North Africa, which is headquartered in Dubai Internet City.  He turned 30 years old six weeks ago.

Mr. Ghonim is credited with helping to spark the first demonstrations—through his Facebook page, which had 400,000 followers—and has emerged as the first national symbol of the revolution in Egypt, a revolution significantly attributable to the Internet Age.  His page was titled, “We are all Khaled Said,” named after an Alexandrian businessman who died in police custody.

The Egyptian government imprisoned Ghonim himself and kept him blindfolded for 12 days, and upon his release on Monday he gave a TV interview, which, in the words of the BBC, “gripped Egyptian viewers” and “re-energized the movement just as it seemed to be losing steam.”

The BBC reported what Ghonim said during that appearance:

“I’m not a hero, I slept for 12 days,” he continued.

“The heroes, they’re the ones who were in the street, who took part in the demonstrations, sacrificed their lives, were beaten, arrested and exposed to danger.”

He was shown video of some of those who had died during the protests, events he was seeing for the first time.

He burst into tears, insisting it was the fault of the authorities, not the campaigners, and left the studio—a human response that provoked a wave of sympathy.

We have heard a lot of “take our country back” nonsense from American tea partiers this past year and we have heard some talk of “Second Amendment remedies,” as if America was suffering the ravages of a brutal Obama dictatorship. 

But if you want to get an idea of real courage in the face of real hegemony, read the following transcript I made of a very powerful interview of Wael Ghonim broadcast last night on CNN’s Parker-Spitzer. Speaking of the deaths of the protesters, through defiant tears he said:

You know, I can’t forget these people…This could have been me or my brother…and they were killed—you know if these people died in a war that’s fair and square…you hold a weapon and someone is shooting and you die, but , no, none of them.  And those people who were killed…they did not really look like they were going to attack anyone…A lot of the times…the policemen sat on the bridge and shot people down. This is a crime. This president needs to step down because this is a crime.

And I’m telling you I am ready to die. I have a lot to lose in this life…I work in the best company to work for in the world. I have the best wife and I love my kids. But I’m willing to lose all of that for my dream to happen. And no one is gonna go against our desire. No one! And I’m telling this to Omar Suleiman. He is gonna watch this. You are not going to stop us! Kidnap me! Kidnap all my colleagues! Put us in jail! Kill us! Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for thirty years. Enough! Enough! Enough!

If you want to watch the interview, you will have to endure a short commercial, but it’s worth it:

 

 

Remarks And Asides

Apparently, George W. Bush told Brian Lamb of C-SPAN that he is finished with politics.  Damn.  He’s just 10 years too late.

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It seems Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is in trouble again.  On Arabic television, of all places, he explained that the 2010 election shellacking was the result of “a lot of people” who,

don’t want to be governed by an African American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society. That’s a basic philosophical clash.

Of course, Moran has it all wrong.  The reason for the shellacking was that a lot of people resent being governed by an African.

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The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission finally confirmed what most of us already knew: the financial meltdown was not the fault of poor, often minority, homebuyers who supposedly twisted the arms of helpless bankers in order to get mortgages they couldn’t afford. 

Of course, since the Republican members of the commission issued their own report, that leaves Republicans free to continue to falsely claim that efforts to help the poor own their own homes is the root of all financial evil.

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It was sad to see a once-respectable Wolf Blitzer of CNN waiting with great anticipation for Michele Bachmann to speak the other night, following Obama’s State of the Union Address.  No other network—not even the Republican “News” Channel—carried the speech, but CNN not only thought Bachmann’s speech was news, it promoted it heavily with a countdown clock and everything. And everyone knows that on cable TV, a countdown clock before an event means something really, really, really big is going to happen.

Bachmann was technically speaking only for Tea Party Express, but Blitzer billed her as an “official” spokesman for the entire Tea Party.  It turns out, as Rachel Maddow noted brilliantly, that CNN had a rea$on for promoting Bachmann and Tea Party Express: They’re in bed together. CNN has partnered with the phony—”sleazy,” is how Maddow characterized it—grass roots Tea Party group and will jointly host a Tea Party presidential primary debate in September.

And CNN is not shy about its motives. Its political director claims that,

undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.

Yes. More and more, as CNN attempts to outfox Fox, it is perfectly natural for the network to “provide a platform” for extremists in the Republican Party. 

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As Democrats salivate in anticipation, Republicans are half-seriously considering privatizing Medicare.  But don’t worry.  The leadership isn’t quite that dumb.  Here’s what John Boehner said,

We’ll outline our budget in the months ahead, after we see the president’s budget.

This type of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” cowardice may disappoint Democrats who want to bash Republicans with the issue, but in the end it will preserve a pillar of our socialistic society.  Unless, of course, the Tea Party pathology spreads and Michele Bachmann engineers a putsch and gets her hands on Boehner’s man-sized gavel.

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Finally, just prior to a Knicks-Heat contest, Tracy Morgan said on TNT:

Now let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, man, she’s good masturbation material. The glasses and all that? Great masturbation material.

Naturally, the network apologized for Morgan’s overly-descriptive (and inaccurate) commentary.  But it does explain why some tea party-ish Republican senators missed the inaugural meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

It conflicted with a rerun of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Television And The Iraq “Victory Myth”

What American could forget the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad on that triumphant day— in what seems now like ancient history—April 9, 2003? 

No matter our opinion of the war, the television images made us feel good, proud.  After all, Saddam was a bad man and we were the liberators and the liberated seemed to appreciate their liberation.

In an 8,800-word article for The New Yorker, here is how Peter Maass described the television coverage:

Live television loves suspense, especially if it is paired with great visuals. The networks almost never broke away from Firdos Square. The event lived on in replays, too. A 2005 study of CNN’s and Fox’s coverage, conducted by a research team from George Washington University and titled “As Goes the Statue, So Goes the War,” found that between 11 A.M. and 8 P.M. that day Fox replayed the toppling every 4.4 minutes, and CNN every 7.5 minutes. The networks also showed the toppling in house ads; it became a branding device. They continually used the word “historic” to describe the statue’s demise.

Obviously, bringing down a statue of a much-despised dictator is pregnant with symbolism, and coupled with non-stop television coverage, it would help to solidify public opinion on the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.  In fact, as Maass points out, the statue idea wasn’t new: 

A few days into the war, British tanks mounted a raid into the heart of Basra, in the south of the country, where they destroyed a statue of Saddam. The Brits hoped the locals, seeing a strike against a symbol of regime power, would rise up against Saddam. As the British military spokesman, Colonel Chris Vernon, told reporters, “The purpose of that is psychological.” The statue was destroyed, but the event wasn’t filmed and drew little attention. Similarly, on April 7th, after Army soldiers seized the Republican Palace in Baghdad, their commander, Colonel David Perkins, asked his men to find a statue that could be destroyed. Once one was found—Saddam on horseback—a nearby tank was ordered to wait until an embedded team from Fox News got there. On cue, the tank fired a shell at the statue, blowing it up, but the event had little drama and did not get a lot of TV coverage. No Iraqis were present, and just a few Americans, and the surrounding landscape was featureless.

By now, you may know where this is going. 

Although it wasn’t exactly a staged event, the Firdos Square moment—which seemed like such a spontaneous and joyous occasion for viewers of television news—was not what it appeared.  As Maass reports: 

The media have been criticized for accepting the Bush Administration’s claims, in the run-up to the invasion, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The W.M.D. myth, and the media’s embrace of it, encouraged public support for war. The media also failed at Firdos Square, but in this case it was the media, rather than the government, that created the victory myth.

Maass writes about the “powerful words” that went with the “powerful pictures” that constituted that victory myth: 

On CNN, the anchor Bill Hemmer said, “You think about seminal moments in a nation’s history . . . indelible moments like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that’s what we’re seeing right now.” Wolf Blitzer described the toppling as “the image that sums up the day and, in many ways, the war itself.” On Fox, the anchor Brit Hume said, “This transcends anything I’ve ever seen. . . . This speaks volumes, and with power that no words can really match.” One of his colleagues said, “The important story of the day is this historic shot you are looking at, a noose around the neck of Saddam, put there by the people of Baghdad.”

Even NPR got caught up in the television-created exuberance: 

Anne Garrels, NPR’s reporter in Baghdad at the time, has said that her editors requested, after her first dispatch about marines rolling into Firdos, that she emphasize the celebratory angle, because the television coverage was more upbeat. In an oral history that was published by the Columbia Journalism Review, Garrels recalled telling her editors that they were getting the story wrong: “There are so few people trying to pull down the statue that they can’t do it themselves. . . . Many people were just sort of standing, hoping for the best, but they weren’t joyous.”

In his article, Maass gives similar examples, but none more egregious than this one:

Robert Collier, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, filed a dispatch that noted a small number of Iraqis at Firdos, many of whom were not enthusiastic. When he woke up the next day, he found that his editors had recast the story. The published version said that “a jubilant crowd roared its approval” as onlookers shouted, “We are free! Thank you, President Bush!”

In many ways, first-class journalism is a lot like science.  It is self-correcting.  A reporter may get something wrong and along comes another one to set the record straight.  Maass reports what really happened at Firdos Square:

Very few Iraqis were there. If you were at the square, or if you watch the footage, you can see, on the rare occasions long shots were used, that the square was mostly empty. You can also see, from photographs as well as video, that much of the crowd was made up of journalists and marines… Closeups filled the screen with the frenzied core of the small crowd and created an illusion of wall-to-wall enthusiasm throughout Baghdad. It was an illusion that reflected only the media’s yearning for exciting visuals… The journalists themselves, meanwhile, were barely photographed at all. The dramatic shots posted on Web sites that day and featured in newspapers the next morning contained almost no hint of the army of journalists at the square and their likely influence on events. One of the most photographed moments occurred when the statue fell and several dozen Iraqis rushed forward to bash the toppled head; there were nearly as many journalists in the melee, and perhaps more, but the framing of photographs all but eliminated them from view.

Maass also discusses the effects of the cameras themselves on the behavior of Iraqis:

At key moments throughout the toppling, the level of Iraqi enthusiasm appeared to ebb and flow according to the number and interest of photographers who had gathered.

Any veteran television viewer understands the dynamics of camera-plus-people.  We’ve all seen how otherwise normal folks act when the television cameras are turned on.  But we expect professional journalists to report not the artificial distortions but the reality of what is going on.  And apparently many journalists tried to do just that regarding the events in Firdos Square in 2003, but were frustrated by the bosses back home, who wanted to be part of the exhilarating historic moment, no matter what the facts on the ground were.

And as it often does, television was framing the story and driving the broader coverage, as its cameras were capturing “history.”

Maass writes:

At the square, I found the reality, whatever it was, hard to grasp. Some Iraqis were cheering, I later learned, not for America but for a slain cleric, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, whose son Moqtada would soon lead a Shia revolt against American occupation… The subsequent years of civil war, which have killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people, have revealed the events at Firdos to be an illusional intermission between invasion and insurgency.

And today it appears we are in an illusional intermission between the so-called success of the counter-insurgency and the long-term stability of an independent, democratic Iraq.  Who knows what the future entails, but one thing we do know: The pictures we see on our televisions—a profit-motivated medium—never tell the whole story and often tell us the wrong story.

Here is a short video summarizing the story:

Remarks And Asides

Here’s what wrong with Washington:  Harry Reid was told by nine Republicans that they would support his efforts to get the omnibus budget bill—which would have funded the government through next September—to the floor for debate, which meant it would have eventually passed the Senate. 

But because of a fear of the Tea Party—in the person of Jim DeMint, who demanded the 1900-page bill be read by the Senate clerk, a 50-hour endeavor—Republicans who gave their word to Harry Reid stabbed him squarely in the back at the last minute Thursday night, while he was on the floor.  He was forced to pull the bill and make yet another deal with Mitch McConnell over a continuing resolution.

Now, backstabbing Republicans are a problem, no doubt.  But why can’t the guys on our side at least name names when deceit like this happens?  Reid said on the floor that he would not call out the names of those senators—liars, all—who pulled back their support.  He said they knew who they were.  Yes, they do.  But the rest of us don’t. 

UPDATE: At noon today, I heard Andrea Mitchell, on her show on the “liberal” network MSNBC, say that Reid was “outfoxed.”  Outfoxed? The definition of that word is, “to surpass in guile or cunning.”  In other words, both sides were using guile and Reid simply got out-guiled by a better guiler.  That’s what happens when Democrats refuse to name names and put a face on the deception of the other side. 

At least Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill, who was going to vote against the omnibus bill anyway, did call them out. She specifically mentioned that the Republican Minority Leader had his own earmarks in the bill and fiercely criticized Republicans for their hypocrisy. 

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Last night, the headline on CNN was: House passes Obama tax plan.  Get that?  It’s Obama‘s tax plan.

On CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night, I watched the first ten-minute segment, which was about all the “game playing” in the Congress.  Except, that if one were just a casual observer of American politics and didn’t know the truth, the impression left by Cooper and cast was that “both sides” were engaging in the game playing. 

This is Anderson Cooper and CNN at their split-the-difference best.  In order to solidify their self-described standing as the anti-Fox and anti-MSNBC network, they distort the truth to make it appear they are being neutral.  That’s not journalism, people.  Both sides are not equally guilty as regards the mess that is Washington, D.C.

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A new poll found what we all know:  Republicans believe certain facts about the world that are not in fact facts.  But so do Democrats.  The study also found that “those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation.”  Of course, that makes sense. 

But then there’s this:

There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it–though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

Surprise!

To be fair, there was one case in which MSNBC and NPR were allegedly the guilty party:

Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.

Given the fact that the Chamber of Commerce won’t—and doesn’t legally have to—release donor lists or reveal just how it keeps foreign money separate in its accounting, it’s understandable how folks could jump to that conclusion.  But, again, to be fair, it is conclusion jumping, since apparently there isn’t a way to prove it.

So, in the Misinformation Olympics, Fox “News” has nine gold medals, and MSNBC and NPR have one bronze.  In other words, Fox is the East German swim team of propaganda.  Congratulations!

Jon Stewart: “CNN, What Are You Doing?”

As further evidence that CNN, the network that gave Glenn Beck his television break, is fast deteriorating, Erick Erickson is now part of the CNN family. 

Erickson is Chairman of the Board and editor of RedState.com, whose “avid readers include Rush Limbaugh, former senator Fred Thompson and House Minority Leader John Boehner,” according to Newsweek. 

If that doesn’t give you an idea of what kind of guy Erickson is, the following might, courtesy of Jon Stewart, as part of his segment slamming CNN:


 

I disagree with Stewart on one thing.  He suggests that the honchos at CNN don’t know what the (bleep) they are doing by hiring Erickson. 

Oh, yes they do. That’s why they had Howard Kurtz, of Reliable Sources, do the segment on Erickson that Stewart used in his piece. Here’s the entire segment from Kurtz’ show:

Toyota, Highway Safety, And “How Conservatives Ruined Government”

Back in February, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Obama administration had to “push” Toyota “to take measures to protect consumers.”  Presumably, if there had been no push, there would have been no massive recall and Toyota’s customers would still be at risk driving their cars.

But they may still be at risk despite the recall “fix.”

CNN reports that Toyota released a Technical Service Bulletin way back in 2002 that suggested  the problem with unintended acceleration was possibly an electronic problem and not faulty floormats or sticking gas pedals.

In the CNN report, Clarence Ditlow, of the Center for Automobile Safety, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was given a copy of the Service Bulletin in 2002 and kept it from the public.

As an attorney suing Toyota pointed out, the reason for hiding such information comes down to the billions it would have cost the company to recall the millions of vehicles involved, something it ended up doing anyway.

A Congressional committee investigating the mess concluded that NHTSA “conducted only one cursory investigation in 2004 into the possibility that defects in electronic controls could be responsible for these incidents.” 

And the Detroit News obtained a document that shows although Toyota hadn’t yet figured out the acceleration problem, it nevertheless “negotiated” a deal with NHTSA:

Toyota safety officials bragged that they had saved more than $100 million by conducting a limited recall in 2007 of just 55,000 floormats — rather than a costly mechanical fix.

So, let’s look back at 2002, when the Service Bulletin was released, and ask, “Who was in charge?”

The head of NHTSA was Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, appointed to the post by George W. Bush in August of 2001. We know Dr. Runge has already admitted his agency was influenced by politics in 2003, when it did not release research indicating the growing danger of cell-phone use and driving. According to the New York Times:

The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states…At the time, Congress had warned the agency not to use its research to lobby states. Dr. Runge said transit officials told him he could jeopardize billions of dollars of its financing if Congress perceived the agency had crossed the line into lobbying.

That Congress—the one that didn’t believe it was the job of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to lobby states on behalf of public safety—was controlled by conservative Republicans.  There is a consequence and a price to pay for electing people to public office whose philosophy of government is hatred of government.

As Thomas Frank pointed out, in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation, the right-wing does not want a useful and competent government:

Conservatism…seems actively to want an inferior product. Believing effective government to be somewhere between impossible and undesirable, conservatism takes steps to ensure its impotence. The result is predictable enough: another sour truckload of the mother’s milk of conservatism, cynicism toward government.

Believing that effective government oversight of businesses—like Toyota—reduces profits, conservatives don’t dare object to such oversight on that basis.

Instead, conservatives claim that government bureaucracy reduces individual freedom, thus they frame all debates about government in terms of “liberty versus tyranny.”  Naturally, with such thinking comes the necessary corollary of staffing government agencies with people hostile to their missions or with otherwise ineffective administrators, whether that ineffectiveness is the result of incompetence or top-down pressure.   

The point is that when conservatives are in charge, certain things follow from their government-is-evil philosophy. 

But, as Charles Merriam pointed out many years ago*, effective government doesn’t have to be a “menace to liberty“:

…some of those who declare that our liberties are lost seem to be thinking of liberty as if it were a shield for private rather than public welfare…Our democratic system is based upon the principle that the gains of civilization are essentially mass gains and should be diffused throughout the people as promptly and equitably as possible.

The problems for Toyota are unfortunate.  What is more unfortunate is that there are doubtless some folks who would be alive today, if NHTSA had done its job nine years ago.  That job, defined on its website as a “mission” to “save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes,” was seriously compromised not just in 2002, but beginning in 1981, when Ronald Reagan took office. 

The Reagan Revolution’s hostility to government has been well documented, since it wasn’t a secret.  Reagan’s—and subsequent Republican administrations’—first loyalty was to business and its consequent mission was to undermine the public’s confidence in government, often casting government regulators—whose job it is to protect the public interest—as enemies of liberty.

The effects of years of anti-government philosophy, as it relates to Toyota and the NHTSA, was best illustrated by Clarence Ditlow’s testimony before Congress:

In 1980, there were 146 million vehicles on the road. Today there are 256 million. In 1980, there 119 people in enforcement, today there are only 57. In 1980, NHTSA had 2 cents per vehicle for enforcement, today it has less than a penny. The agency doesn’t have its own test facility and must rent space from Honda in East Liberty OH. Anyway one looks at it, the agency is underfunded. In terms of safety, the best way to look at it is motor vehicles are responsible for 95% of the nation’s transportation deaths but only 1% of the Transportation budget.

Conservatives and their libertarian cousins may rejoice over the fact that NHTSA is grossly underfunded, unable to effectively do the job it was designed to do. They may rejoice that under the Bush administration the agency’s lax regulatory enforcement benefited Toyota and other companies.

But make no mistake, in the case of Toyota and who knows how many other cases, if NHTSA had fulfilled its mission—”save lives, prevent injuries“—a number of Americans would be alive today to enjoy their individual liberty.

Here is the CNN report:

 *The American Political Science Review, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Apr., 1935), pp. 197-211

CNN Redefines Middle Class

Apparently, CNN, just another liberal network, pays its morning anchors a lot of money; so much so that they have a somewhat skewed view of America’s middle class.

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting pointed out something peculiar that happened today on CNN’s American Morning.

Kiran Chetry interviewed Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget director, and had this exchange:

CHETRY: You also talk about letting taxes expire for families that make over $250,000. Some would argue that in some parts of the country that is middle class.

ORSZAG: Well, I guess it’s not the parts of the country where I’ve been. What we’re trying to do is cut back on the tax breaks for the elite, for the very highest earners in part to help get this deficit problem under control over time and also to rebalance the tax code.

While Chetry didn’t say just who the “some” were who would argue that middle class folks haul in a cool 250 thou a year, FAIR linked to this survey from the U.S. Census Bureau that showed a mere 1.5% of Americans make $250,000 or more. 

Chetry, who reportedly made Maxim‘s top ten of TV’s Sexiest News Anchors, must have used some talking points from her old gig at Fox “News,” while interviewing Orszag.  She should have destroyed Fox’s playbook just so she wouldn’t get caught in embarrassing episodes like this.

In a previous embarrassing moment, she also, according to the New York Post, wanted Gretchen Carlson, the insufferable female co-host of Fox and Friends, fired from her show a few years ago so that Chetry could replace her.

So, the little “dark-haired, Nepalese beauty” (as the Post called her) not only missed an entry-level course on economics in school, she also skipped the Fox Etiquette Training, which resulted in a sudden dismissal from the tight-knit Fox family along with these departing words to her agent:

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