Saturday, July 31, 2010

Republican Hacks and the Journolist

The Weekly Standard editor claimed political purity in bashing Journolist, but he's on the Republican payroll

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes has lately lamented the betrayal of "traditional journalism" by the liberal denizens of Journolist -- the defunct listserv that conservatives have used to revive the debate over "liberal media bias." His widely quoted Journal Op-Ed noted that before Journolist, neither liberal nor conservative journalists were likely to be "part of a team," and went on to add:

"If there's a team, no one has asked me to join. As a conservative, I normally write more favorably about Republicans than Democrats and I routinely treat conservative ideas as superior to liberal ones. But I've never been part of a discussion with conservative writers about how we could most help the Republican or the conservative team."

This assertion of political purity struck me as false, coming from a journalist who has appeared repeatedly as a speaker at Republican Party events across the country -- a breach of the political boundaries of "traditional journalism" that few, if any, of the writers on Journolist, for example, would ever contemplate.

Nevertheless, it is true that Barnes has enjoyed greater credibility than other journalists on the partisan right throughout his career. After all, he is a former reporter for such publications as the Washington Star, the Baltimore Sun and the New Republic. He was once a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and served as one of three panelists for the first nationally televised debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale in 1984.

Now, however, there is further evidence that Barnes not only routinely helped Republicans raise money as a banquet speaker, but accepted tens of thousands of dollars from party organizations as well:

• In February 2006, Barnes was paid $10,000 plus travel expenses by Oregon's Lane County Republican Central Committee to deliver the keynote address at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. (Thanks to Carla Axtman for research assistance.) These payments, recorded in filings with the Oregon secretary of state, were evidently made through the Premier Speakers Bureau of Franklin, Tenn., which represents other Fox personalities including Sean Hannity, Dick Morris and Mike Huckabee. Barnes is no longer listed on the Premier website, but the company did not respond to phone or e-mail inquiries about its relationship with him.

• In February 2007, Barnes spoke at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner held by the Republican Party of Fort Bend County, Texas -- home of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who purchased a ticket to the event. The party organization's filing with the Texas Ethics Commission shows two payments of $5,000 each on April 26, 2007, to Premiere Speakers Bureau (with the notation "LRD 2007 Speaker - Fred Barnes") and travel expenses of $1,823. Photos of a smiling Barnes with various local dignitaries at the event, which netted a reported $70,000 for the party, can be viewed here.

• In early March 2008, Barnes served as the keynote speaker for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at its annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Whether he received the customary $10,000 is not clear because the party's filing with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections show only a single payment of $5,500 to Premiere Speakers Bureau on Feb. 18. The committee reported net $120,000 in net proceeds from the event.
The Journolist was one great conspiracy: moderate to liberal pundits say'n moderate and liberal stuff to each other - ooooohhhh the shame of it all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rand Paul Confesses He is a Wacky Nihilist

Rand Paul: Controversial Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Isn't So Bad -- It Enhances The Land!

In a wide-ranging profile due out in next month's issue of Details, Kentucky's Republican nominee for Senate, Rand Paul, stands up for all the good things the controversial practice of mountain top-removal mining can do for the environment. Despite warnings from conservationists that blowing the tops off of mountains to get the precious, precious coal underneath can have a seriously negative impact on the surrounding environment, Paul says that when you really stop to think about it, losing those mountain tops is actually a net positive.

From the lengthy article, which was reported before Paul shunned the national press:

Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it."

As he said of so many things in the past, Paul said the final decision about mountaintop removal mining (which, as Details reporter Jonathan Miles reports, has been called "the greatest environmental tragedy ever to befall our nation" by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) should rest in the hands of private landowners.

"Let's let you decide what to do with your land," Paul told the magazine. "Really, it's a private-property issue."

Coal production, of course, is one of the most important industries in Kentucky, so Paul's not likely to lose many friends in the business community by talking up the advantages of flattening Appalachia to dig up more coal. But if the people who run the coal mines might be happy with the article, the folks who actually dig up the coal might find Paul's understanding of the industry lacking a bit. Miles and Paul drive through Harlan County, Kentucky -- the front line for some of the nastiest labor battles in the history of American coal. The county was where many miners spent decades trying to win concessions from owners and help build coal mining into a middle class job. But when Miles asks about it, Paul can't seem to remember why the area is important to Kentucky:

Something about Harlan has lodged itself in my brain the way a shard of barbecue gets stuck in one's teeth, and I've asked Paul for help. "I don't know," he says in an elusive accent that's not quite southern and not quite not-southern. The town of Hazard is nearby, he notes: "It's famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard."
Besides being devastating to the environment and the people that live near it, the main purpose of mountaintop removal is to avoid hiring more miners because blowing the tops off mountains requires less labor.

Timeline of Proto-Fascist Breitbart's Sherrod smear

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The stunning hypocrisy of Journolist's critics

The stunning hypocrisy of Journolist's critics

Nothing much can be learned from the manufactured media uproar over Journolist, except as a case study of how the right-wing propaganda machine still dominates America's daily narrative -- and how conservative journalists remain astonishingly exempt from the standards they are pretending to uphold.

Look no further than the outrage feigned by two of the nation's most prominent right-wing journalists, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard (and Fox News) and John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, both of whom could barely contain their indignation over the revelation that a few hundred progressive writers and academics engaged in political discussion via e-mail. Having read a single Journolist e-mail that suggested tarring him as a "racist," Barnes suddenly detects a departure from "traditional standards" :

When I'm talking to people from outside Washington, one question inevitably comes up: Why is the media so liberal? The question often reflects a suspicion that members of the press get together and decide on a story line that favors liberals and Democrats and denigrates conservatives and Republicans.

My response has usually been to say, yes, there's liberal bias in the media, but there's no conspiracy. The liberal tilt is an accident of nature. The media disproportionately attracts people from a liberal arts background who tend, quite innocently, to be politically liberal ... Now, after learning I'd been targeted for a smear attack by a member of an online clique of liberal journalists, I'm inclined to amend my response. Not to say there's a media conspiracy, but at least to note that hundreds of journalists have gotten together, on an online listserv called JournoList, to promote liberalism and liberal politicians at the expense of traditional journalism.

My guess is that this and other revelations about JournoList will deepen the distrust of the national press.

Then Barnes explains why he thinks the liberal listserv represents an ominous watershed in Washington journalism:

Until JournoList came along, liberal journalists were rarely part of a team. Neither are conservative journalists today, so far as I know. If there's a team, no one has asked me to join. As a conservative, I normally write more favorably about Republicans than Democrats and I routinely treat conservative ideas as superior to liberal ones. But I've never been part of a discussion with conservative writers about how we could most help the Republican or the conservative team.

My experience with other conservative journalists is that they are loners. One of the most famous conservative columnists of the past half-century, the late Robert Novak, is a good example. I knew him well for 35 years. He didn't tell me what stories he was working on nor ask what I was planning to write. He never mentioned how we might promote Republicans or aid the conservative cause, nor did I.

But it isn't so difficult to identify the "team" that Barnes signed up with long ago. It's called the Republican Party. A Google search of his name with the terms "featured speaker" and "Republican" instantly turns up numerous examples of his speaking engagements at GOP fundraising events across the country, from Palm Beach, Fla., to Eugene, Ore. (The Lake County Young Republicans even posted a few photos of a tanned, well-fed Barnes with their president and other dignitaries.)

As a Fox News star, Barnes commands fat speaking fees from trade associations and lobbying groups -- and presumably from Republicans as well. Is he on the payroll, or just cheerleading for free? That is for him to answer, but either way he is clearly on the GOP "team." Yet he flatters himself as an independent loner, while chastising the Journolisters.

Like Barnes, Fund poses as an ethical purist while fulminating about Journolist:

From 2007 until last month, some 300 liberal journalists and policy wonks exchanged ideas and commentary on a secret, off-the-record Internet email group called JournoList. It was shut down after portions leaked, leading to the resignation of Washington Post writer David Weigel last month over his intemperate criticism of conservatives he was covering.

But someone who belonged to JournoList continues to leak information from its archives, providing a fascinating glimpse into how some liberal journalists coordinate their story lines to protect their favorite politicians and ideas ...

Some of the comments will no doubt revive conservative allegations of a liberal news media conspiracy ... Apparently, many on JournoList had an agenda that had little to do with covering legitimate news stories, but instead were concerned with protecting their friends and trying to ensure they had "control of the country."

Here, again like Barnes, Fund is grossly exaggerating the meaning of the leaked Journolist posts in order to highlight a pose of injured innocence. And he, too -- along with many other right-wing journalists and media figures -- is a featured speaker at Republican gatherings across the country, from Hoboken to Oberlin to the San Francisco Bay. He covers the Tea Party movement while accepting speaking gigs sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the corporate-backed nonprofit that is behind much Tea Party propaganda. But of course Fund is deeply shocked to learn that liberal writers would compromise their commitment to "covering legitimate news stories" by joining Journolist.

Most absurdly, Fund and Barnes, along with many other conservatives who have promoted paranoid nonsense about Journolist, seem to be suggesting that conservative journalists never, ever coordinate their messages with Republican politicians, lobbyists, policy experts and academics.

That is, to coin a phrase, a very big lie.

Specific, orderly, disciplined, ideological coordination -- and not the freewheeling blather to be found on Journolist -- has been proceeding every week for nearly two decades at the "Wednesday meetings" convened by lobbyist Grover Norquist in the Washington offices of Americans for Tax Reform.

As David Brock, who had attended those meetings, explained a few years ago in the Republican Noise Machine:

Every Wednesday morning in Norquist's Washington offices, the leaders of more than eighty conservative organizations -- including major right-wing media outlets and top Bush White House aides -- convene to set movement priorities, plan strategy, and adopt talking points. Norquist seems a cross between a Communist Party boss and a Mafia don as he presides over these strategy sessions ...

Conservative media turned out in full force for the weekly strategy meetings convened by right-wing activist Grover Norquist -- Peggy Noonan and John Fund of the Journal, representatives from National Review and the Washington Times, and a researcher for Bob Novak all checked in. The right-wing writers considered themselves part of the conservative movement "team," as Norquist put it ...

So what would Fund and Barnes say now about Norquist's famous meetings, which have included many, many right-wing journalists over the years? Maybe Barnes skipped the Wednesday meetings, but he certainly knows dozens of the regulars -- including his late pal Novak, who dispatched a lackey to take notes.

As for Fund, his claims of innocence would be hard to sustain, considering the quote attributed to him in a New York Observer story on Manhattan's offshoot of the Norquist event, known as the Monday Meeting. Ben Smith, who now blogs at Politico, described the Monday Meeting in 2004 as one of New York's "newest, quietest and most powerful political institutions."

Smith's report is worth quoting at length as evidence of the sheer fraudulence of the Journolist "scandal":

An invitation-only, off-the-record gathering ... the monthly meeting has brought together the right wing of the city's financial and intellectual elite -- among the regulars are major Republican donors and members of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board ...

The Monday Meeting offers a clue to understanding the conservative movement's success and its continued vitality. Liberals talk endlessly of building coalitions -- Senator Hillary Clinton has suggested that the left needs a meeting on this model -- but infighting, inertia and a lack of discipline have kept them from pulling off this union of ideas, money and power. The right, meanwhile, often acts like the embattled minority that it was in the days of Barry Goldwater, protecting its own and keeping disputes in the family.

"The meeting serves the Grand Central Station function," said John Fund, a Monday Meeting regular who writes a column for The Wall Street Journal 's Web site. "This is where everyone meets; this is where people coordinate, get updates and gather support for projects." ...

The inspiration for the Monday Meeting comes from Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. Mr. Norquist is an implacable anti-tax lobbyist and part-time provocateur who has won some notoriety recently by comparing the principle behind progressive taxation to the principle behind the Holocaust. His weekly Wednesday meetings of conservative activists in Washington, D.C., were an intellectual engine for the Republican takeover of the House in 1994.

Mr. Norquist, an occasional visitor to the Monday Meeting, has created a network of these gatherings around the country, most of them in state capitals. He pushed Mr. Higgins and Mr. Factor to start the New York branch.

Perhaps it is appropriate to give the last word to the American Spectator's John Tabin, who has written a striking dissent from the right-wing hysterics over Journolist:

Since 1993, Grover Norquist has held an off-the-record meeting every Wednesday where conservative activists, policy wonks, and government officials exchange ideas about policy and politics. Sometimes journalists attend. Depending on a particular journalist's ideological and partisan disposition -- which can vary quite a lot given the state of our media landscape, which includes both 'straight news' reporters (i.e. people who attempt to hide the almost-always-left-of-center opinions that shape their journalistic choices) and opinion journalists with various worldviews and temperaments -- journalists may be there to get ideas that will influence how they think about issues, or they may just be there to get perspective on how conservatives are thinking about the issues of the day.

The Wednesday Meeting has periodically been the source of breathless fear-mongering on the left about the all-powerful conservative conspiracy to control media narratives. This is, of course, absurd. Much of the hyperventilating over Journolist is equally absurd ...

Everyone who has been shown to have their work influenced by conversations on Journolist is, likewise, a commentator. That Chris Hayes tries to get perspective from other liberals before he goes on TV to opine on a topic, or that Joe Klein incorporates ideas from off-the-record exchanges into his blog posts, is not exactly earthshaking news. Commentators on the right do exactly the same thing -- it's just our emails don't get leaked because we're smart enough not to conduct these exchanges on listservs where we let the audience expand to include 400 people. This practice is a double-edged sword -- you get the benefit of idea-sharing, but you have to be careful not to get sucked into groupthink. Liberals seem more prone to the latter failing, but that's more a problem for them than for anyone else, and it's not much of a scandal ...

This brings us to the conduct of the Daily Caller itself ... [Editor Tucker] Carlson is being flat-out disingenuous when he puts the burden on Journolist members to release the context of the threads that Jonathan Strong has reported on with a gloss that the people quoted all say is misleading. Everyone on Journolist was party to an off-the-record agreement. As explained above, having people trust you to keep conversations off the record is an important part of practicing journalism. (It shouldn't be a surprise that my source, who was willing to break the agreement to the extent that he treated an off-the-record discussion as an on-background discussion, is an academic, not a journalist.) The Caller is in possession of the complete threads (I gave them too much credit when I assumed they must not be), and was not party to that agreement. If the Caller is witholding information from readers to sensationalize the narrative, as the people they're quoting all claim that they are, they are practicing tabloid journalism ...

If Tucker Carlson wants to run his website like a tabloid, he's welcome to do so -- but he shouldn't be lecturing anyone about journalistic scruples.
Reprinted in the public interests and to piss off Tucker Right-wing Propagandist Carlson.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Glenn Beck Inspires a Conservative Psycho

The CA cop shooter and Glenn Beck: Here's what we know

On July 18, Byron Williams, an ex-felon with a history of violent criminal behavior, was pulled over by California Highway Police on I-580. Williams, who was apparently intoxicated, opened fire at the officers as one approached his truck. He continued firing as eight additional officers arrived. More than 60 rounds were reportedly fired during the five to eight minute shootout; two officers were reportedly injured by flying glass after a squad cars window and windshield were shattered by gunfire. Williams was arrested and hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds.

Williams was reportedly heavily armed with a handgun, shotgun, rifle and body armor. Shortly after the shooting, a CHP sergeant said that "There is no doubt in our mind, given the body armor and the extensive amount of ammunition he had, that he was on his way to do a very serious crime against either someone or a group of people" And indeed, Williams reportedly told investigators that "his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU."

The ACLU is a very well-known entity, but the Tides Foundation, which seeks to "promote economic justice, robust democratic processes, and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected," is much more obscure.

Williams may have been a disturbed individual who was destined to explode. But the question the media should be asking is why he decided to target Tides.

According to his mother, Williams "watched the news on television and was upset by 'the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items.'"

We don't know what Williams was watching, or that television played a role in his decision to target Tides. However, if it did, according to our Nexis searches, the primary person on cable or network news talking about the Tides Foundation in the year and a half prior to the shootout was Fox News' Glenn Beck.

According to our searches, since Beck's show premiered on January 19, 2009, Tides has been mentioned on 31 editions of Fox News programs, 29 of which were editions of Beck's show (the other two were on Sean Hannity's program). In most of those references, Beck attacked Tides, often weaving the organization into his conspiracy theories. Two of those Beck mentions occurred during the week before Williams' shootout.
Free speech is a wonderful thing and even Glenn Beck's incitement for people to commit murder is protected. That does not mean that Beck escapes all moral responsibility for his crazy talk and those conservative anti-American nuts he inspires.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wing-nut Republicans use cooked up black panther controversy to scare white voters

Wing-nut Republicans use cooked up black panther controversy to scare white voters

Numerous media and political figures, including Fox News contributors and Republicans, have dismissed the Fox-hyped phony scandal surrounding the New Black Panthers Party, with the Republican vice chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission even criticizing conservatives on the commission for trying to use the case "to topple the [Obama] administration." Despite this, Fox News has hyped the manufactured scandal more than 100 times since June 30.
Media and political figures dismiss phony scandal surrounding New Black Panthers case

Thernstrom: "This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration." In a July 16 Politico article, Abigail Thernstrom, a Republican who serves as vice chair of the Civil Rights Commission and is an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized the Republican-dominated Civil Rights Commission's investigation of the Justice Department's actions in the New Black Panthers case. Politico quoted Thernstrom as saying: "This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration. ... My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring [attorney general] Eric Holder down and really damage the president."
There are a few sensible republicans left in America we just don't hear anything from them over the constant shrill of the wing-nuts who have hi-jacked the Republican party.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Breitbart and Fox - Giving in to conservative spin ‘makes it worse’

Maddow to White House: Giving in to conservative spin ‘makes it worse’

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has some advice for the White House about reacting to conservative media stories: "Believing conservative spin about what's so wrong with you and then giving into that spin, is not an effective defense. In fact, it makes it worse."

The Obama administration had asked for the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod after a heavily edited video surfaced Monday on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website that appears to show her describing how she had denied help to a white family trying to save their farm. The story was quickly picked up by Fox News as an example of racial discrimination by the Obama administration.

The NAACP condemned Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked her to resign. After obtaining the unedited video, which showed that Sherrod had been describing an incident 24 years ago in which she did successfully help the white farmers, the NAACP apologized and Vilsack said he is willing to reconsider her firing.

Considering the rapid collapse of the original Breitbart story, Maddow had some tart comments to make on the Obama administration's hasty response.

"What is not really interesting about this whole situation is that Fox News is doing this," said Maddow on Tuesday. "This is what Fox News does. This is how they are different from other news organizations. This is why the White House argued months ago that Fox should be treated as a media organization, but not as a normal news organization, because they don’t treat news the way a normal news organization treats news."
Story continues below...

"What is interesting about this story is that the Obama administration inexplicably keeps falling for it," she continued.

"Dear White House, dear administration, believing conservative spin about what's so wrong with you and then giving into that spin, is not an effective defense against that spin," Maddow advised. "Just buying it and apologizing for it and doing whatever they want you to do doesn't make the problem of them lying about you go away. In fact, it makes it worse."

Breitbart has since asserted that his real target was not Sherrod but the NAACP, which has recently called on the Tea Party movement to expel racists from its ranks. According to Breitbart's Big Journalism site, the video "features Sherrod telling a tale of racism that is received by the NAACP audience with laughter and cheers. They weren’t cheering redemption; they were cheering discrimination. Upon hearing the cheers, Sherrod fails to offer any immediate clarification and even smiles right along with them."

Even conservative Jonah Goldberg, however, stated on Wednesday, "I think [Sherrod] should get her job back. I think she's owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart."

Goldberg went on to express a perception of the Obama administration that was strikingly similar to Maddow's. "Meanwhile, as a matter of politics,' he wrote, "I think this episode demonstrates that this White House is a much more tightly wound outfit than it lets on in public. The rapid-response firing suggests a level of fear over Glenn Beck and Fox that speaks volumes."
I do not know that the White House is motivated by fear so much as that, unlike the Bush administration, the Obama administration bends over backwards to be fair. perhaps too much so rather than waiting and fighting back against it's unhinged critics when needed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Economics 101 - Conservatives Are Corporate Shills and Social Darwinists

It's on the economy where the real differences between left and right are clear

That fault line involves the very nature of the economy itself. If we set aside the nonprofit and household realms, then it is a crude but fair generalization to say that conservatives believe in an economy with two sectors — the market and the government — while liberals believe in an economy with three sectors — the market, the government and the utility sector.

Liberals believe that some goods and services could be provided in a purely competitive market but should not be. Instead, these goods and services should be provided to citizens by an industry organized as a publicly regulated utility, which in the terms of ownership can be private, public or a mixed private-public enterprise.

Whether an industry should be treated as a public utility depends on the nature of the provider or the nature of the goods or services themselves. If the provider is a natural monopoly, like a sewer system, then there is a case for public ownership or for private ownership combined with public price regulation, so that the monopoly does not take advantage of its power to gouge consumers. In other cases, like electricity, competitive markets might be possible, but price volatility would be too disruptive to be tolerated by consumers and businesses.

This was taken for granted by generations of moderate American conservatives as well as liberals, and it would be difficult to find European or Asian conservatives who would question this reasoning. But thanks to the success of radical libertarians in converting the American right to their own free-market fundamentalism, the idea of a distinct utility sector is now seen as a heresy by American conservatives if not by British Tories or French Gaullists. While they acknowledge a role for government, for example in defense, today’s free-market conservatives as a rule reject the legitimacy of a regulated or publicly provided utility sector in an intermediate zone between government and competitive markets. This explains the fervor with which the right seeks to privatize or deregulate services that most Americans, along with most people in other countries, think of as utilities, like local electric power companies.

The most important economic debates between left and right involve industries whose treatment as utilities is less widely accepted than sanitation or electric power. Healthcare is one such industry. What divides American progressives not only from Republican conservatives but also from center-right neoliberals in the Democratic Party is the idea that healthcare should be a publicly regulated utility that is provided as a matter of right to all citizens, not a commodity like apples or shoes that should be sold in a typical competitive marketplace. Not all liberals agree on single-payer healthcare, all-payer price controls, or other specific policies, but it is safe to say that all liberals believe that healthcare should be treated as a utility.

Finance is another industry that American liberals think should be treated as a regulated public utility, not a competitive market. For progressive Americans, the provision of basic financial services like checking and small loans to households and businesses is as essential as the provision of water and electricity. The institutions of the financial sector that provide these basic, essential services should be carved off and converted into regulated utilities, as they were before Republicans and Democrats united to tear down the New Deal regulatory system in the 1980s and 1990s. Other sectors of finance, like investment banking, can be organized as competitive markets, not public utilities, as long as the public is not called on to swallow the costs of failure.

On the other side of the debate are those who believe that healthcare and basic banking services can be provided by multiple firms seeking to maximize their profits in competitive markets. If this were true, then most liberals would have no objection. After all, the center-left, unlike the socialist left, favors competitive markets where they provide abundant goods at low cost with no danger to the public. That is why you don’t see progressives campaigning for turning apple farms or shoe factories into public utilities with prices set by law or regulators.

The problem is that competitive markets do not work well in healthcare and basic financial services. For example, most people live in areas where there are only a few nearby hospitals, perhaps only one. Free-marketeers think that “transparency” can help control costs, thanks to comparative shopping by self-interested consumers. But even if the data were easily available, do libertarian conservatives really expect someone in the throes of a heart attack to go online to check hospital rates before choosing an emergency room? Hospitals are more like local water treatment plants than they are like shops in the mall.

By contrast, in all but the smallest communities there are numerous banks, not to mention other financial institutions like credit unions. In finance, the purpose of regulation is not to prevent a natural geographic monopoly from extracting monopoly rents, but to prevent a horde of mostly small producers and some large producers from competing to fleece their customers.

No problem, says the free-market conservative. Here, too, transparency will enable comparison shopping by well-informed consumers among competing service providers. But just as people cannot be expected to compare and contrast hospital rates before choosing an emergency room, so most people cannot be expected to devote hours or days to decoding deceptive jargon contained in the microscopic print in the blizzard of pages provided by credit card companies and banks. Such "transparency" is really opacity. That is why, in the opinion of many liberals, government should directly regulate basic "utility" financial services and the fees charged for them. And just as no American liberal wants to turn apple farms and shoe factories into public utilities, so no American liberal cares if investors lose their money gambling on South American chinchilla futures, as long as the public is not expected to make them whole.

The recent reforms in healthcare and financial regulation are too market-oriented for most liberals and too utility-oriented for most free-market conservatives. But this does not imply that each side is equally dogmatic. The center-left is much more flexible and open-minded.

For example, when the conditions that made a sector suitable for treatment as a utility change, liberals do not necessarily object to deregulation. As long as telephony was based on wires, regulated telephone monopolies like AT&T made sense. When technology, in the form of wireless telephony, made a competitive market in that industry possible, few liberals objected to deregulation.

Liberals, as I have noted, acknowledge the value of competitive markets in addition to the government sector and the utility sector. But the reverse is not true. Free-market conservatives usually do not acknowledge the need for a public utility sector in addition to competitive markets and government. Instead, they tend to equate the very idea of a publicly regulated utility sector of the economy with "socialism."

"Sewer socialists" was the term coined to describe early 20th-century socialists who boasted of their publicly owned water treatment system in Milwaukee. Later the term was generalized to include progressives who favored publicly regulated utilities. While the term "socialism" is misleading, contemporary American progressives who support an expansive definition of the utility sector should take pride in the term "sewer liberal."
The definition of liberal and moderate has shifted so far to the advantage of right-wing conservatives that any attempts to protect consumers and small investors is defined as socialism. What do conservatives stand for? Dog eat dog crony capitalism. The kind of system that got us into the mess we're in now and will probably take ten years to dig ourselves out of.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Get on the Republican Bandwagon. We Stand for something. We have solutions

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) Refuse To Detail GOP Agenda, Offer Zero ‘Painful Choices’ To Cut Spending

The heads of the Republican congressional campaign committees — Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) — appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press today to discuss their party’s strategy for the November elections. Sessions began by saying that everyone knows exactly “what Republicans stand for,” but he quickly proved that even he doesn’t really know. Host David Gregory, visibly frustrated, repeatedly pressed the two campaign chiefs for substance, saying, “these are not specifics, voters get tired of that.” But all he got in return was vapid talking points, like how Republican candidates are “standing with the American people back home.”

Gregory correctly dismissed what he was hearing from Sessions as “gauzy,” and turned to Cornyn, saying, “I’m not hearing an answer here, what are the painful choices” that Republicans are prepared to make to cut the deficit? Instead of offering any ideas of own, and in direct contrast to the sense of urgency with which conservatives paint the deficit, Cornyn responded that he would wait for President Obama’s debt commission’s report, which will conveniently come after the election. Gregory replied, “wait a minute, conservatives need a Democratic president’s debt commission to figure out what it is they need to cut?”:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Liberal Washington Post Pushes Fake Black Panther Story

Wash Post gives New Black Panther story new life
Just when the peddlers of the phony "corruption" claim are discredited, the paper restores their credibility

The always smart Adam Serwer, writing for the American Prospect, called Friday "The Day The Controversy Over The New Black Panther Case Fell Apart." He credited Politico's interview with conservative Civil Rights Commission vice chair Abigail Thernstrom, who says her GOP commission colleagues and the right-wing media have tried to use the "small potatoes" story of alleged voter intimidation by the "New Black Panther Party" to "topple" the Obama administration, as well as other developments undermining the claims of former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams, the main right-winger hyping this case in the right-wing media, particularly Fox News and the Washington Times.

But right on time, Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander chimes in to keep the specious story alive, chiding his paper for ignoring it while valiant journalists like Fox's Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh fought to bring light to the darkness. The Post's "silence," Alexander complains, "prompted many readers to accuse The Post of a double standard. Royal S. Dellinger of Olney said that if the controversy had involved Bush administration Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, 'Lord, there'd have been editorials and stories, and it would go on for months.'"

First, a note to Alexander: Royal S. Dellinger of Olney, a former Reagan administration labor official, was last seen online attacking federal mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and complaining about President Obama in Sarah Palin's words: "We have a community organizer running the government, and I ask, "Does the response to the Gulf oil spill look organized?'" Though the letter was apparently written to the Wall St. Journal, I only found it posted online at, a Web site for Sig Sauer gun enthusiasts (who don't seem terribly enthused about Obama). Dellinger is apparently a regular righty letter to the editor writer, defending the Tea Party and opposing cap and trade legislation. Ironically, two years ago he was also quoted in former Post ombudswoman Deborah Howell's column complaining that the Post had been too easy on Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (Why not just make Dellinger the Post ombudsman?)

Alexander also tells a somewhat right-wing version of the story, insisting the Bush administration filed a voter-intimidation lawsuit against the NBPP, its chairman and both men at the Philly polling place, but the Obama administration ultimately went after the Panther with the billy club, with a "narrow injunction" forbidding him from bringing a weapon within 100 feet of Philadelphia polling places.

Sadly for Alexander, he seems to have written before Abigail Thernstrom told Politico she backed that decision, and said, “This doesn’t have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with [her Republican colleagues'] fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,” said Thernstrom. “My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president."

Writing in the National Review, Thernstrom also noted the relative thinness of the case against the NBPP: "The legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation — the charge — are very high. In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far — after months of hearings, testimony and investigation — no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case."

Thernstrom even took a veiled shot at the Republican activist at the center of the storm, J. Christian Adams. In the Washington Times, Adams accused the Obama administration of "corruption" in reducing the charges against the NBPP, and shrieked: "The dismissal is part of a creeping lawlessness infusing our government institutions. Citizens would be shocked to learn about the open and pervasive hostility within the Justice Department to bringing civil rights cases against nonwhite defendants on behalf of white victims. Equal enforcement of justice is not a priority of this administration. Open contempt is voiced for these types of cases." Thernstrom notes that Adams provides no evidence of his charges and suggests he and other conservatives should "get a grip."

I agree with Alexander to a point: I wish the Post had used its considerable resources to do what Media Matters has done, and debunk the phony right-wing charges against the Obama Justice Department on this case. In fact, I wish I'd assigned someone at Salon to do the definitive piece on J. Christian Adams, a GOP hack hired by Bradley Schlozman, the notorious Bush Justice Department official at the center of the U.S. attorney firings scandal. Schlozman, you'll recall, admitted using political criteria in department hiring, looking for "loyal Bushies" who were in his words "good Americans" – which meant, in practice, Republicans.

While Fox and others are hyping Adams as a whistleblower and voting rights activist, and Andrew Alexander is wringing his hands about a right-winger complaining about the Post's coverage, here's what Media Matters found:

• Adams is a long-time right-wing activist, who is known for filing an ethics complaint against Hugh Rodham that was subsequently dismissed, served as a Bush poll watcher in Florida 2004, and volunteered for a Republican group that [according to the legal Web site Main Justice] trains lawyers to fight "racially tinged battles over voting rights";

• Adams was hired to the Justice Department in 2005 by Bradley Schlozman, who was found by the Department of Justice Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to have improperly considered political affiliation when hiring career attorneys -- the former head of the DOJ voting rights section reportedly said that Adams was "exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman";

• Adams has admitted that he does not have first-hand knowledge of the events, conversations, and decisions that he is citing to advance his accusations.

If he's going to chide the Post, Alexander should be criticizing its failure to debunk the story, not to hype it. In fact, the ombudsman notes that the Post actually covered the NBPP developments in three stories in 2009, but only one this year, published last week, focused on the latest right-wing firestorm. And indeed, the Post embarrassed itself in that story, but not the way Alexander implies. It was first headlined with the breathless " 2008 voter-intimidation case against New Black Panthers a political bombshell," which was later changed to "2008 voter-intimidation case against New Black Panthers riles the right," when someone realized there was no "political bombshell" in the trumped-up charges against Obama. (Alexander didn't mention the headline rewrite in his screed today.) Sadly, features editor Kevin Merida gave Alexander a mea culpa, terming the controversy "significant," and saying he wished The Post had covered it sooner. Ugh.

This reminds me of when the New York Times took itself to the woodshed for not covering the right-wing "scandal" that brought down former White House Green Jobs "czar" Van Jones. The fact is, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to Salon, it really is hard, with limited news room resources, to decide whether and how to cover the insane narrative of rumors, half-truths and lies being peddled by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, not to mention Fox News "reporters" like Megyn Kelly. By covering them (as Salon readers frequently remind us) we risk spreading lies and delusion beyond the right-wing smogosphere. But by ignoring the ones that gain political currency, we risk letting them acquire more influence than they deserve.

Let me state, for the record, that the New Black Panther Party is a despicable, deluded, crackpot fringe group, whose members' insane anti-white rhetoric sometimes makes me wonder if they're still on the payroll of the FBI's COINTELPRO, that 60s-era project in which righty provocateurs infiltrated left-wing groups, including the Black Panthers, and egged on some of the worst violence (not that the old Panthers weren't capable of violence and thuggishness all on their own, along with the breakfast programs their lefty admirers like to remember).

But the right wing needs the thuggish but miniscule and derided NBBP to matter, and to tie the crazy group to our black president, in order to advance their narrative of lies about Obama's "racism," tyranny and illegitimacy to be president. If they can convince enough people that Obama was elected thanks to intimidation by the NBPP, and "voter fraud" by the now-defunct ACORN, they won't even need the crazy Birthers to prove he's not legitimately president, even though he won with a bigger mandate than any first-term president since Lyndon Johnson (who of course had become president after the Kennedy assassination.)

It also serves a purpose for more mainstream conservative pundits, who never adequately denounce the Birthers, or Tea Party racists, or violent right-wing threats, instead resorting to false equivalance: "OK, well, we have Birthers and racists and guys who carry guns to presidential speeches, but the left has the New Black Panther Party!" How about this: If I denounce the New Black Panther Party, will Sarah Palin denounce racist Tea Party leader Mark Williams? Somehow I doubt it.

It's the job of editors at big papers like the Post to expose those lies, and the movement behind them – not to flagellate themselves for not saying "How high?" when right-wing media watchdogs say "Jump!" Andrew Alexander botched his job today.
Reprinted here for educational purposes.

Charles Krauthammer also writes for the "liberal" WaPO and is yet another conservative who does not believe in fact based journalism Krauthammer Revives Reagan Small Government Myth

Republicans Playing Politics With the Unemployed to Get Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Obama rips Republicans for impeding unemployment benefits
The President claims that GOP legislation blockage will "filibuster our recovery"

President Barack Obama says Senate Republicans are playing politics with bills that would extend benefits to the unemployed and increase lending to small businesses.

Striking a deeply partisan tone in his weekly radio and online address, Obama said the GOP leadership has chosen to "filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress" by blocking votes on agenda items the president says would breath life into the economic recovery.

"These steps aren't just the right thing to do for those hardest hit by the recession," Obama said. "They're the right thing to do for all of us."

The address was recorded at the White House before Obama flew to Maine on Friday for a weekend family vacation.

Lawmakers have battled for weeks over extending unemployment benefits to workers who have been out of a job for long stretches of time. The last extension ran out at the end of May, leaving about 2.5 million people without benefits.

The House has already passed a bill to extend the benefits through November, but with the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, Senate Democrats don't have the 60 votes they need to overcome a GOP filibuster. The Senate plans to take up the measure again on Tuesday -- when Byrd's successor, the former chief counsel for Gov. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is expected to be sworn in.

Obama said lawmakers' obligation to extend benefits is both moral and practical, citing some economists who believe extending unemployment insurance is one of the most cost-effective ways to jump-start the economy because it puts money in the pockets of people who are likely to spend it quickly.

As Republicans stall unemployment benefits for working Americans - the ones suffering most because of conservative economic policies - Republicans are crying over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest do nothings -

Of course, just because Republicans claim it, doesn't make it so.
Ezra Klein was quick to sum up the "evidence" Mitch McConnell pretended was non-existent:

But how about the Congressional Budget Office's estimations? "The new CBO data show that changes in law enacted since January 2001 increased the deficit by $539 billion in 2005. In the absence of such legislation, the nation would have a surplus this year. Tax cuts account for almost half -- 48 percent -- of this $539 billion in increased costs." How about the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget? Their budget calculator shows that the tax cuts will cost $3.28 trillion between 2011 and 2018. How about George W. Bush's CEA chair, Greg Mankiw, who used the term "charlatans and cranks" for people who believed that "broad-based income tax cuts would have such large supply-side effects that the tax cuts would raise tax revenue." He continued: "I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don't."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rand Paul (R) The Next No Nothing Senator From Kentucky?

Kentucky curently has Mitch McConnell, was of the most do nothing and dumb senators to ever hold office. Rand Paul seems like he will fellow in Mitch's footsteps,
RAND PAUL, NOT EXACTLY 'FORTHRIGHT'.... Kentucky's Senate hopeful, right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R), used to be quite candid about his radical political beliefs. Social Security? It's a Ponzi scheme. Medicare? Obviously socialism. The Civil Right Act and Fair Housing Act? Both are examples of abusive government intervention.

But as the Senate election draws closer, Paul's extremism has been muted. Talking to National Review, the Republican candidate effectively conceded he's trying to keep the truth from the public in order to get votes.

"No one [in the Republican Party] is forcing me to do anything. I do exactly what I want, but I am also realistic about what it takes to run a campaign and get elected."

For instance, instead of calling for the elimination of many federal departments -- as his father, Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican congressman and former presidential candidate, regularly does -- Paul says he is trying to "nibble around the edges," to "not be the person who says he will eliminate every department in the federal government. My dad freely will say that, that he would eliminate at least half of the departments, but he is just more forthright."

As a rule, candidates for statewide office don't admit to being less forthright, but Rand Paul is special. He could talk about his actual beliefs during the campaign, and try to persuade the public that he's correct, but the far-right Kentuckian has decided it's much easier to hide his principles to win votes.

Of course, Rand Paul wasn't always a Senate candidate. Back in the 1990s, he appeared on several episodes of "Kentucky Tonight," a state-based public affairs show, and "talked about the elderly dying at the hands of Medicare rationing; the need to privatize Social Security, which he called 'a Ponzi scheme;' and the rights of the government to invest in racist companies." In one episode, he even equated Medicare with the Soviet Union.

Voters won't hear much about this during the election -- Paul just isn't "forthright" enough.

On a related note, Paul also insisted recently that he's running to help Kentucky get a better return on its federal tax dollars. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, "When tax money flows to the nation's capitol, half stays there, half is wasted and half of it goes to political cronyism, Paul said."

Putting aside the fact that a dollar can't have three halves, Alan Pyke reminds the right-wing candidate, "When Kentucky sends a tax dollar to Washington, it does miraculously turn into three-halves of a dollar. Kentucky gets at least $1.51 back from the federal government for every $1.00 that it contributes to the nation, placing it near the top of state rankings. Paul is in effect saying that if he is Kentucky's next Senator, he will work to reduce his state's share of federal spending, thus hurting his own constituents."

Government should be whatever size -small or big, often the subject of debate - but whatever size it is should be effective. Paul, like Mitch wants to make sure it is not effective in between wacko political theories.

Businesses And Attendees At Eric Cantor (R-VA) Job Fair Debunk Right-Wing Talking Points On Unemployment Benefits

58% of Real Income Growth Since 1976 Went to Top 1% (and Why That Matters)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Republicans And Ben Nelson Say Screw What America Wants

Ben Nelson Vs. The Public: Super Majority In Favor Of Extending Unemployment Benefits Despite Deficit Impact

Before Congress ajourned for recess, the U.S. Senate failed to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans due to a united filibuster by Republican senators joined by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (NE).

Despite the fact that the unemployment rate is at a high 9.5 percent and that the benefits are the only source of income for many of those unable to find work, conservatives have demanded that spending on the benefits be offset before they vote for them (a demand they do not make for tax breaks for mulitmillionaires). In a statement explaining his decision to join conservatives to filibuster the extension, Nelson cited the relatively tiny deficit impact of extending them:

“Recently, Nebraska state officials estimated that our unemployment had improved slightly and was down to 4.9 percent. I am very sympathetic to the many Nebraskans who remain out of work and recognize that the federal government should extend unemployment benefits to help them. Before the vote last week on the tax extenders bill, which provided unemployment benefits, I informed Senate leadership that I was willing to vote for new spending as long as it is paid for. I believe this can be done and that the votes are there to pass it. The bill has been revised several times already and each time the deficit spending was less. Tough choices are possible and necessary to not add to the deficit. [...] So, Congress should provide additional unemployment benefits but not as a bailout to the states that worsens the deficit and passes the bills onto our children.”

Yet today, the Washington Post reveals a new poll that finds that the overwhelming majority of Americans support extending unemployment benefits, even in the face of concerns of opponents who say it “adds too much to the federal budget deficit”:

The poll also finds that 57 percent of self-identified “moderate or liberal” Republicans support extending benefits. If Congress fails to extend benefits, it will — by the end of the week — “bring the total number of long-term unemployed prematurely cut off from aid to 2.5 million.” Considering the public’s views on the issue, Nelson should reconsider his stance.
For eight years -as Dick Cheney famously said, deficits did not matter - that was when conservatives went on the wildest spending spree in the nation's history. They put the debt on America's future, acting like the irresponsible brats that conservatives usually act like. Now those same Republicans think the 9.5 million unemployed should pay for the criminal negligence of Republican management of the economy.

Can infrastructure-led growth save the economy?
Forget "stimulus." The U.S. needs more public investment paid for by more borrowing and higher taxes

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why Does Arizona and Fox Hate the Constitution

Legal experts -- including Fox's Napolitano -- dispute Fox's analysis that AZ lawsuit is "baseless"

On Fox & Friends, senior legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. claimed that the Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law is "baseless," "nonsensical," and "almost laughable." But legal experts -- and even Fox's own Judge Napolitano -- dispute this claim, saying the Arizona law is "un-American" and "unconstitutional."

[ ]...Fox News' own Judge Napolitano: Arizona law "is unconstitutional" because AZ "can't write a law that says the federal law means something different in Arizona than it does in the other 49 states." On the July 7 edition of Fox Business Network's Varney & Co., Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano railed against the Arizona law, calling it "un-American." Napolitano called the law "unconstitutional" and noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that immigration laws are "strictly a federal issue."

[ ]...Constitutional law expert Dellinger: DoJ "had no choice but to bring this suit." New Republic reported that constitutional law expert Walter Dellinger said the DoJ "had no choice but to bring this suit":

Giving the national government control over immigration into the United States was a major decision made by the framers of the Constitution. That is neither a liberal nor a conservative position. Allowing states to set their own immigration policy could lead in the future to more rather than less unlawful immigration. Given the freedom of movement within the United States and the implications of immigration for domestic national issues and foreign policy, it is unthinkable to leave immigration policy to thirteen or fifty different states. Calibrating the right combination of enforcement tools to utilize is at the core of the national power over immigration, and state laws are preempted whether they purport to add to or subtract from the system put in place by Congress. Whether current federal enforcement is adequate or not, whether Arizona's law is wise or not, whether suing is good politics or not are all beside the point: it is essential that the federal government's control over immigration into the United States be protected from state interference. In my view the Justice Department had no choice but to bring this suit.
Do conservatives even read the Constitution they swear to care so much about. maybe they read, but lack the reading comprehension skills to understand what it says. In either case they certainly don't bother to read legal precedent.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) Still CooCoo - Back To Beating The 'Death Panels' Drum. Bachmann is in serious trouble if we start requiring people to have mental competency exams before holding federal office. The government death panel nonsense has been debunked, like all wing-nut myths - The "death panels" are already here. Sorry, Sarah Palin -- rationing of care? Private companies are already doing it, with sometimes fatal results

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Lapses Into Incoherent Fiscal Nonsense

Deficit Fraud Jon Kyl: ‘You Should Never Have To Offset’ Tax Cuts

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has been one of President Obama’s most vocal critics on the budget deficit (most of which is actually attributable to the President’s predecessor). “The Obama administration is spending trillions of dollars we do not have on things we do not need,” Kyl has said.

But today on Fox News Sunday, Kyl threw his concerns about the deficit out the window when discussing tax cuts. Kyl said Congress should not allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, but when host Chris Wallace asked, “How are you going to pay the $678 billion to keep Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?” Kyl wouldn’t answer. And in fact, he went so far as to say tax cuts should never have to be paid for:

WALLACE: We’re running out of time, so how are you going to pay $678 billion just on the tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year?

KYL: You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes. Surely congress has the authority and it would be right, if we decide we want to cut taxes to spur the economy, not to have to raise taxes in order to offset those costs. You do need to offset the cost of increased spending. And that’s what republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.

Kyl is not only a deficit peacock, but he’s also a deficit fraud. On the one hand, he attacks Obama for rising deficits but at the same time says that multibillion dollar tax cuts “never” have to be offset.

Earlier this year, Kyl defended Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) for blocking a measure to extend unemployment benefits. “All Senator Bunning was saying quite correctly is it ought to be paid for,” Kyl said. So while Kyl advocates on behalf of the wealthy, he has no problem reverting back to being a deficit hawk at the expense of the less well-off.
Just recently Kyl claimed the President told him something about immigration. The right-wing media echoed every word. A few days later, Kyl emerged from his mental fog and walked back his claim. Nice to know that we're in the middle of an economic crisis Kyl helped create and he can't seem to have a coherent thought about any important issue facing the country. In his defense that is pretty much true of most conservatives.

The Wealthy are the Biggest Mortgage Defaulters
While Republicans continue to block jobless benefits for those they deem undeserving, a different morality play is at work in the nation's foreclosure crisis. As the New York Times reported this morning, the biggest defaulters on mortgages are the rich. Even as U.S. income inequality hit levels not seen since 1929, wealthier Americans, whose recovery from the recession is already well underway, are walking away from their homes at far greater rates than everyone else.
That decadent attitude which lets the rich just walk away from their responsibilities has been cultivated by conservatives for decades. And so much for the Republican narrative that the poor and working class are the irresponsible ones.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Matter of fact it is unconstitutional not to be a wing-nut

Smiley faced fascist Jim DeMint: Not Being Extremely Conservative is an Impeachable Offense
It appears that, for Senator DeMint (T-SC), the only members of Congress that haven’t violated their oath of office are hard-right conservatives.

Supposedly, after we all pledge to a limited government, we can work together and debate how to do that. But the Democrats have completely forgotten that oath, and so have some Republicans. I hope those Republicans are sent home. And I hope we get some people up here who take their oath of office seriously.

Here’s the text of the oath of office:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Another conservative completely oblivious to not only what the U.S. Constitution says, but the oath of office he actually took. If being a good citizen and good conservative means means one is obligated to shrink government than can we retroactively impeach Bush and Senators like DeMint who voted for his agenda - George W. Bush: A "Big Government Tax-Cut & Spend Conservative?"

The the era of big government is back, thanks to the Bush Administration.

That’s the conclusion of a Brookings Institute study. The Wall Street Journal reported that the think tank is releasing a study Friday which found that the “number of full-time employees working on government contracts and grants has zoomed by more than one million people since 1999, bringing the overall head count to more than 12.1 million as of this past October.”
More here on what happened during DeMint's watch and he did nothing to correct course - Growth in federal spending unchecked

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Lesson in Conservative Economics. Pay Attention.

Spending and Short Term Deficit Not the Cause of Our Problems

"Runaway government spending" is an easy target now. It is not the cause of our problems. Government spending will not "crowd out" private investors. It is essential in stimulating the demand on which the private sector and even our ability to sustain healthy debt to gross national product ratios depend.

Further cuts in domestic job creation, sure to result from the refusal by Congress to extend unemployment benefits, will be counterproductive. It will lead to more unemployment, more benefit spending for prisons, emergency health care, domestic violence, and further declines in government revenues - a true death spiral.

That message, however, hardly ever gets a hearing. CNBC anchors regularly proclaim: "only the private sector creates wealth." I wonder what these anchors would be using for their research and communication but for massive government subsidy and research and development on computers and the Internet.

Critics also claim that the Obama stimulus did not work. Using carefully sourced data the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that the stimulus package created jobs and saved others that would have been lost.

The problem here is political.

As even some business economists pointed out at the time, the initial Obama package was far too small. Dean Baker points out the federal package amounted to less than half of the trillion-dollar hole caused by the housing bubble collapse. Government stimulus was reduced even further by cuts in state government spending.

Perhaps President Barack Obama could not have achieved more, but he should have chastised Congress and made clear the country would need more and soon. Obama's inflated claim on behalf of that modest legislation is a major reason that more federal job creation is so politically difficult.

The deficit mania has other deeper roots. A core within the business community, especially financial services, never accepted the New Deal.

Social Security always has been especially offensive. It is a universal program that worked and became very popular. It constitutes the major reason poverty rates among the elderly declined dramatically. Had George W. Bush privatized Social Security, our great recession likely would have become Great Depression II.

Unable to go after the program directly, conservatives attacked Social Security through fallacious arguments that the program, which its bipartisan trustees certify as fully funded through 2044, is a fiscal time bomb. As Baker points out, the real fiscal time bombs are exploding private sector dominated health costs, the bank bailouts and war costs of a trillion dollars and counting. Concern about deficits never has prevented the business press or our senators from supporting these corporate behemoths.

Paul Krugman also provocatively argues that more than immediate monetary interests drive this issue. Ideological and even identity issues are in play. Krugman cites John Maynard Keynes' powerful aside on classical capitalist culture: "The completeness of [the notion that government can do nothing] is something of a curiosity and a mystery. It must have been due to a complex of suitabilities in the doctrine to the environment into which it was projected. That it reached conclusions quite different from what the ordinary uninstructed person would expect, added, I suppose, to its intellectual prestige. That its teaching, translated into practice, was austere and often unpalatable, lent it virtue. That it was adapted to carry a vast and consistent logical superstructure, gave it beauty. That it could explain much social injustice and apparent cruelty as an inevitable incident in the scheme of progress, and the attempt to change such things as likely on the whole to do more harm than good, commended it to authority. That it afforded a measure of justification to the free activities of the individual capitalist, attracted to it the support of the dominant social force behind authority."

The anti-deficit mania has tangled roots both in immediate monetary interests and in the broader political culture. It has surprising support among some working-class citizens, who stand to lose from its implementation. They are led by, and in turn sustain, the so-called Blue Dog Democrats. Nonetheless, its deep and tangled roots constitute no reason to treat it as inevitable

It's simple. Conservatives do not want to spend on unemployment benefits or to create jobs because they think a bad economy is their ticket back to a majority in both houses. At which time they will punish the middle and working class by making them pay for the way Republicans managed the economy from 2000 to 2008. They'll also let Wall St off the hook for new regulations that would prevent another Great Recession, because Republicans love recessions. The 14 million unemployed are the ones suffering not the greedy rich that form the Republican base. Those rich benefactors pay for the endless TV ads which create a completely false narrative which shifts the blame to Democrats and than we have another cycle of boom and bust; which again Republicans use to get back in power. Its all a crazy carnival ride that America needs to stop riding.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Sorry Truth - Most Conservatives Are Fascist and Obama is Not a Socialist

Is Obama a socialist? What does the evidence say?

The assertion is getting louder: President Obama is a socialist, a wealth-redistributing wolf in Democrat's clothing gnawing at America's entrepreneurial spirit.

It's easy to buy "Obama is a socialist" bumper stickers on the Internet. Political commentator Dick Morris said, in a column circulated on, that conservatives are "enraged at Barack Obama's socialism and radicalism." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich titled his new book "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine."

So, is Mr. Obama trying to form The Socialist Republic of America? Or are the accusations mainly a political weapon, meant to stick Obama with a label that is poison to many voters and thus make him a one-term president?

As is often the case in politics, the answer is in the eye of the beholder. Some people feel genuinely certain that Obama aims to make America into a workers' paradise – a land where government-appointed pay czars tell Wall Street tycoons how much they can make and where the feds take large ownership positions in companies like General Motors (GM) and insurance giant American International Group (AIG). Even if Obama is not a card-carrying Socialist, they say, he displays a disdain of the private sector.

"You start with his apparent acceptance that there are major segments of the US economy for which it is reasonable for the US government to own or manage," says Michael Johns, Heritage Foundation policy analyst, "tea party" movement leader, and former speechwriter for President Bush. "Look at the auto industry, mortgage industry, the health-care industry to some extent, and, obviously, banking."

Others just as assuredly refute the idea that government involvement in failing industries defines a president as socialist – or that wealth is being redistributed from the Forbes 500 richest Americans to the nation's "Joe the plumbers."

What Mr. Johns, Mr. Gingrich, and others brandishing the "socialist" s-word are really complaining of is a return to the policies of John Maynard Keynes, the English economist who advocated vigorous government involvement in the economy, from regulation to pump priming, says labor historian Peter Rachleff of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

"Socialism suggests getting rid of capitalism altogether," says Dr. Rachleff. "Mr. Obama is not within a million miles of an ideology like that."

For what it's worth, socialists deny that Obama is one of them – and even seem a bit insulted by the suggestion.

"I have been making a living telling people Obama is not a socialist," says Frank Llewellyn, national director of the Democratic Socialists of America. "It's frustrating to see people using our brand to criticize programs that have nothing to do with our brand and are not even working."

Adds Billy Wharton,co-chair of the Socialist Party USA: "I am not even sure he's a liberal. I call him a hedge fund Democrat."

The socialism tag is nothing new for the White House. In speeches, Obama chalks up the criticism to "just politics."

But he also works to counter it, sprinkling speeches with words about the appropriate role of government. "Government cannot and should not replace businesses as the true engine of growth and job creation," he said June 2 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

That may be one reason some tea partyers doubt that Obama himself is humming "The Internationale" before breakfast.

One of the reasons conservatives call President Obama a socialists, besides just being infantile name calling, is that modern conservative is a form of fascism. What some historians have called soft-fascism or smiley faced fascism. Instead of the people being slaves of the government collective, we're all wage slaves of the corporate collective. Notice when the economy tanked it was the corporate elite that still made a profit as millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs. Ironically many of the tea nut conservatives complained during their protests last year about keeping the government out of their Medicare - ignorant of the fact that Medicare is a government program.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pelosi's accurate unemployment benefits comment

Right-wing media freak out over Pelosi's accurate unemployment benefits comment

Right-wing media figures are jumping on Nancy Pelosi's comment today that unemployment benefits are a "job creator" that "creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name." (Representative comment from Doug Powers: Pelosi is "around the bend," "demonstrating lunacy").

They are not, of course, pointing out that she's basically right.

As we've repeatedly noted, economists, including Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf and McCain economic advisor Mark Zandi, have pointed out that increases in unemployment benefits are among the most effective forst of economic stimulus. In congressional testimony, Elmendorf has said:

Transfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would also have a significant impact on GDP. Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010. Transfers also include refundable tax credits, which have an impact similar to that of a temporary tax cut.

A dollar's worth of a temporary tax cut would have a smaller effect on GDP than a dollar's worth of direct purchases or transfers, because a significant share of the tax cut would probably be saved. The nonbusiness tax cuts in H.R. 1 would reduce revenues much more in calendar year 2010 than in calendar year 2009 because much of the reduction in taxes would be realized by households when they filed their returns in 2010.

Likewise, Zandi has said that "Extending UI [unemployment insurance] Benefits" would boost GDP by $1.64 for every dollar spent, a greater "Bank for the Buck" than any other provision he analyzed except increasing food stamps ($1.73 per dollar spent).
Not the first time the conservative fringe has freaked out over the truth.

Another day another Republican lie. Conservatism is ironic -morally bankrupt it bills itself as the party of values. GOP's false talking point: Jones Act blocks Gulf help

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nutty is as Nutty Does -The Keep Your hands Off My Medicare Conservatives

Figuring out the psychology of "Keep your government hands off my Medicare"
It's not simply about making the Obama administration look bad. Many Republicans actually love economic recessions. No better means of disciplining the labor force has ever been devised.

That's the real message behind the GOP's Senate filibuster denying extended federal benefits to roughly a million long-term unemployed. The same bill, which failed 57-41, would also have provided $16 billion in Medicaid help to states overburdened by declining tax revenues.

In consequence, several hundred thousand cops, teachers, firefighters and other public employees are sure to be laid off due to state budget cuts. Fat lot of good that will do the economy. But working stiffs will be keeping their heads down, won't they?

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., whose state has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate (13.6 percent), put it forcefully: "The Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail. In cynical political terms ... they want our country to fail to win an election, and they're willing to take the people of this country with them."

But that's only part of the story. One of the enduring mysteries of American life is how Republicans keep succeeding by failing. The presidency of George W. Bush ought to have inoculated American voters against GOP economic theories for a generation. Tax cuts for the wealthy led not to greater prosperity, but runaway budget deficits, a doubled national debt and the weakest job creation since World War II. See-no-evil financial deregulation damn near destroyed the world banking system.

By the time President Obama was inaugurated last January, the economy was bleeding 750,000 lost jobs a month; the Congressional Budget Office had already projected the FY 2009 deficit at $1.3 trillion -- a budget written by the Bush White House. After taking over in 2001 with a healthy budget surplus and some economists warning against paying down the debt too fast, Bush doubled it to over $10 trillion in eight short years.

Yet there was Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on CNN, allowing as how he's "waiting for this administration to take responsibility." He accused the Obama administration of "tripling" the annual deficit, as brazen a falsehood as can be imagined. Is it even necessary to say that neither Cornyn nor any Republican who twiddled his thumbs throughout Bush's two terms has condescended to explain what exact combination of revenue increases and spending cuts is needed to reduce the deficit short term?

Alas it's absolutely necessary. According to the Center on Budget and Priorities, "(T)he fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next 10 years."

New spending by the Obama administration -- mainly the economic stimulus and auto industry rescue -- is dwarfed by Bush's spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars and the unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit. If Democratic attempts to stimulate the economy have proven less than adequate, that's because they've both been hostage to GOP obstructionism and restrained by the fiscal straitjacket Republicans left behind.

But a lot of voters simply don't know it. Indeed, many people actively refuse to understand anything important about what the federal budget consists of or the role of government in modern economies. Millions remain captive to what Paul Krugman calls "zombie lies": long disproven canards like the one that says cutting tax rates invariably leads to higher revenues. Because it's so counterintuitive, parroting it makes Rush Limbaugh fans feel like intellectuals.
Many Americans are ignorant of the issues and the broadcast media - from which most Americans still get their news - is terrible about education people about the issues and recent history. They seem afraid to report that Bush lied us into a trillion dollar war and conservative policies trashed the economy. We had tea baggers literally on government Medicare protesting against government health care - seemingly completely unaware that Medicare is a government run health program.