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Obama Should Apologize for the New Jersey Bridge Scandal

January 11th, 2014 2 comments

CNN, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, the NY Times, and USA Today all have multiple headlines, and all at least have one large and prominent story, near the top of their pages regarding Chris Christie’s New Jersey bridge scandal.

Guess how Fox News is handling it? Not hard to predict: way, way down near the bottom of the page:

Foxbridge
Obama’s apology? The link leads to a video of a Fox talking head showing Christie apologizing and the mayor of Fort Lee accepting the apology—and therefore, the scandal is over. But Obama? He never made multiple, formal apologies for Fast & Furious, Solyndra, etc. etc.—so that’s the real scandal the media should be focusing on.

The Wall Street Journal—also owned by Murdoch—took an almost identical approach, focusing on Obama’s IRS “scandal,” and how he never showed contrition for that.

Not that closing the bridge lanes was an earth-shattering event. It was not insignificant, either; it may have had serious impact on some emergency responses to medical crises, and may even have led to a death. But why is the story deserving of such great attention on non-Murdoch media?

For the same reason why we should have paid attention to stories about drug abuse, desertion, and the drunk driving charges regarding George W. Bush back in 2000: it would have alerted us to the character and behavior patterns of a presidential candidate who could potentially be disastrous for the nation.

Conservatives have worked hard to try to make it seem like there was actual abuse by Obama or anyone near him in the IRS brouhaha; it turned out that there was no such thing.

However, Christie’s bridge scandal is an excellent example of how Christie is far more likely to abuse power in exactly that manner.

Which brings up another interesting point about the abuse of power:

“It’s not obvious what laws may have been broken,” says Stuart Green, law professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark in New Jersey. “I mean, there was undoubtedly an abuse of power, but in the federal context, there’s no general prohibition on abuse of power.”

Maybe there should be. Unfortunately, as with a lot of other good ideas, it is one that conservatives would instantly begin to abuse, wielding it as a political weapon to spark fishing-expedition investigations, begin witch hunts, and generally harass their political opponents.

Which is what conservatives tend to do. They’re definitely Slytherins to the liberals’ Hufflepuffs, intent on the acquisition of power and completely comfortable with use any means to achieve it.

Reaching New Lows: Deranged, Perverted, AND Hypocritcal

September 21st, 2013 6 comments

a creepy conservative adConservatives have a new ad out, one which is universally being referred to as “creepy,” which attacks Obamacare. It depicts a woman at a gynecological exam having a ghoulish pervert in an Uncle Sam costume sneak up on her with a speculum.

The message, void of the warped imagery, is that Obamacare puts the government between you and your medical care, an old canard which conservatives always fall back on when it comes to anything related to health care reform, a message as fake as the asininely depraved vehicle used to deliver it.

The real irony: these same conservatives—pretty much exactly the same conservatives—are the ones who are getting laws passed around the country which force women, including rape victims, to undergo mandatory vaginal ultrasounds before they can get an abortion.

That’s right. The people who actually are getting Uncle Sam to creepily violate women in hospitals for no defensible reason are putting out ads falsely saying that Obamacare will do to women what they are doing to women. Imagine a rapist putting out a commercial saying that the district attorney sexually violates women, or an arsonist running a nationwide TV campaign about how firefighters actually start fires. That’s pretty much what we’re looking at here.

It would be creepy even if it weren’t true that these people want to force rape victims who are trying to stop the pregnancy caused by their rapist to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure equivalent to government-mandated rape. I’m trying to imagine how you could be even a little bit more perverse than these people without sounding ludicrously obscene, but these people have long since passed that landmark.

MultiPloy

August 7th, 2013 1 comment

Something that Republicans can still do with aplomb is to play the media game. While right-wing individuals tend to say incredibly idiotic stuff, like that a woman’s body can repel a rapist’s sperm, the party mechanism itself is very finely honed.

Take one of their latest gambits: they threaten to cancel primary debates on CNN and NBC if they go forward with planned programming featuring Hillary Clinton. NBC plans to make a miniseries, while CNN will produce a documentary.

The GOP objection is expressed in this letter, to NBC:

As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice. But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions. which appear to be a major networks’ thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election. …

I find this disturbing and disappointing. NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign. …

If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.

Like both networks did in 2006, right? Oh, wait, they didn’t. Hillary was also known to be a candidate then, was also seen as the inevitable front-runner, etc. etc.—so if NBC and CNN are so “in the tank” for her, why nothing on her back then? The answer, of course, is that right now a program featuring Hillary is most likely to gain viewers. That is always the bottom line, of course.

But the GOP isn’t doing this for nothing. They get several benefits:

  • They get to paint themselves as victims; victims always get vaulted status and special breaks
  • They get to perpetuate the myth that the media is liberally biased, when the most-watched “news” network is essentially their 24-7 propaganda machine
  • They get to cry “election theft” way in advance, even as they set up the largest number of laws which amount to thinly-veiled election theft
  • They get to influence people’s reactions to the programming and smear Hillary, putting forth the assumption that any TV show about her will put her in a better light than reality
  • They get to “play the ref” with the networks, a tried-and-true technique whereupon accusation of liberal bias will shift network bias sharply to the right; in this case, either getting said networks to tone down any positive view of Hillary, and/or getting them to play up negatives so as to achieve “balance”
  • They get to hold fewer debates without looking like that’s what they intended all along
  • They get to avoid having debates on any network that won’t make them into softball beauty pageants, without looking like they are—as they indeed are—deathly afraid of any debate moderator actually acting like a real journalist and pointing out the GOP insanity oozing from their candidates.

The last two points are undoubtedly the most salient; the GOP was in part slaughtered in the previous election by their interminable primary debate streak, which brought forth almost every candidate (except the most reasonable, of course) as a front-runner at least once (and a couple at least twice), causing all the campaigns to expend great amounts of funds and energy fighting against each other, whilst providing tons of ammunition for the opposition, ammunition which was then weeded and honed into devastating attacks against the eventual party candidate.

The GOP, without much doubt, would love to limit the number of primary debates to a much smaller number and hold them in venues where they can carefully control the content and exposure—in short, making these debates, until now one of the few raw images of the process, into a scripted media event as fake and as controlled as every other.

They know that Hillary will be coming at them like a steamroller, and they know that women will vote in huge numbers for her, challenging and already very challenged Republican party. They have known this for a while, which is one reason they were so excited by Benghazi, because it meant they had a shot of “scandalizing” Hillary and shooting down her chances in 2016. The GOP is not daunted by failure, however, and continues their best to paint her as unfit. Take their brief attempt to characterize her as “too old,” for example. Expect this kind of thing to intensify.

There is another aspect to this attack which is disturbing in a different way: manipulation of media. This is hardly anything new for the GOP, but the prospect of a political party threatening the withdrawal of access on the condition of following a party’s demands on the networks’ programming is more than a bit disturbing. Of course, it has increasingly been the tone for the GOP, from the staged, part-faithful-only “town hall” meetings Bush favored to the increasing tendency of the media to accept highly conditional terms in exchange for access to a candidate. Sarah Palin’s “I’m only talking to Fox” technique is becoming the new norm for Republican candidates, who find their craziness and cluelessness harder and harder to conceal when the interviewer is not a partisan hack. And sometimes even then—remember Mitt Romney getting all flustered when a Fox interviewer was not all softballs and praise?

The difference with this level of interference, however, is the overt tone. The GOP is making a very open and plain threat: tailor your programming to our preferences, or we cut off your access. I do not think it has been done so overtly or outrageously before.

Here is the full text of the letter, with my comments in green italics:

Dear Mr. Greenblatt:
I’m writing to you to express my deep disappointment in your company’s decision to air a miniseries promoting former Secretary Hillary Clinton ahead of her likely candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice. (Unless we disapprove, of course.) But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions, (and by “many,” we mean “us”) which appear to be a major networks thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election. (Only Fox is allowed that, you should know that by now.) This special treatment is unfair to the candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016 who might compete against Secretary Clinton (including Vice President Biden (like he’ll actually have a chance!), Governors O’Malley, Cuomo, and Hickenlooper, Senator Klobuchar and others (because all of those are serious contenders who have a real chance to… HAR! COuldn’t keep a straight face here, sorry.)) and to the Republican nominee, should Clinton compete in the general election.

There’s ample cause for concern. Executives and employees of Comcast, NBC’s parent company, have been generous supporters of Democrats and Secretary Clinton. David Cohen, Comcast’s EVP, raised over $1 4 million for President Obama’s reelection efforts and hosted a fundraiser for the president. (Funny, they had no problem when Comcast CEO Neil Smit was a big Republican donor.) Comcast Corp. employees have donated $522,996 to the president and donated $161,640 to Secretary Clinton’s previous campaigns. (How much went to Republicans? And if we surveyed Fox employees, what would we see?)

Your company has expressly stated that your choice to air the miniseries in the near future would avoid concerns of running afoul of equal time election laws. (Because we are really in favor of equal-time laws!) This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate, not to mention a guilty conscience. (Again, that’s Fox News’ job!) Liberals complained noisily when Citizens United sought to air a pay-per-view documentary on Hillary Clinton prior to the 2008 election, and yet they’re conspicuously silent now that NBC is launching 2 miniseries on network television. (Because that is exactly the same thing—a political smear job by a Koch-funded conservative campaign group is equal to a non-affiliated TV network making a mainstream miniseries.)

I find this disturbing and disappointing. (That’s my job.) NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign. (Remember, Fox News is fair and balanced—no hypocrisy here!)

Secretary Clinton has been in the public eye for well over two decades, so you certainly cannot claim that a series about her political career is any sort of public service or informational docudrama on an unknown individual. (Because TV networks never make dramas about people who are well-known!) Quite the opposite is true: it would be most accurately described as an in-kind donation. (Which is really different than having your own 24/7 news channel.)

Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company’s reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production. (Or, make it about how Hillary killed Vince Foster. We’d love that!)

If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor. (Which is what we plan to do anyway, unless you agree to partner in name only while we control everything.)

I love the part where they state that such programs would be unfair to Governor Hickenlooper and Senator Klobuchar. It is actually hard to tell if they are trying to make fun of Democrats or are seriously positing these candidates as serious primary threats to Clinton.

Yes, There Really Was a Partisan Political Witch Hunt

June 25th, 2013 1 comment

It has been a while since I could get a full blog post out. My apologies; work has demanded my full attention for several weeks now. It hasn’t lessened too much, but I am enjoying a little bit of a breather.

During that time, I abortively started a post on the IRS “scandal” at least a few times. Each time it seemed to be less and less likely that the scandal was a scandal at all. Each time I sat down to address the issue, there was more and more evidence that this, like Benghazi, was indeed a political witch hunt—just by conservatives against Obama, and not the other way around.

The first clue: Republicans said it was a scandal of monumental proportions. This tends to be a fairly good indicator of a non-scandal. Conservatives have been attempting to smear the administration with something since he started running for president. Any time anything comes along, it’s supposed to be The Thing That Takes Obama Down. How many “Obama’s 9/11”s have we seen? How many “Obama’s Katrina”s? How many “Obama’s Watergate”s? And yet, nothing sticks, because nothing was there in the first place. Wishing does not make it so, even though conservatives have been wishing so hard that you’d think it would make it so. When right-wingers start claiming that something is “worse than Watergate and Iran-Contra combined, times maybe 10,” you can rest assured that there’s nothing to it.

The second clue: predictably, accusations by Republicans starting turning out to be bullshit, like the story about how IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House “at least” 157 times, which of course could only mean he was constantly scheming with Obama personally to target conservatives. The “at least” was a cute touch, meaning that it was probably even more than 157 times. It turned out that this “smoking gun,” as Fox News talking heads referred to it, was baloney. Shulman did not visit the White House 157 times. The number refers to how many events Shulman was cleared to attend. In fact, Shulman signed in only 11 times over 4 years. Furthermore, 76% of the clearances were for health care-related briefings.

The third clue: it was revealed that about two-thirds of the groups applying for tax-exempt status were conservative, and about two-thirds of the groups approved… were conservative. As Kevin Drum pointed out, it’s a funny way to run a “witch hunt.” If the intent was to target conservatives and disproportionately shut them down, why did that not happen?

The fourth clue: right-wingers started using the investigation of whether there was a focus on conservative groups applying for tax-exempt “social welfare” status to claim that any IRS audit against any conservative for any reason was only more evidence of Obama’s criminality. Take Wayne Allyn Root, former Libertarian vice-presidential running mate and conservative talk show host. He was claiming to anyone who will listen that he knew all along there was a witch hunt, because he was audited!

Despite the fact that it was a personal audit—meaning that, in fact, the current IRS brouhaha has absolutely no relation to Root’s case. Nevertheless, Root claims he is “vindicated” in his accusation that Obama personally targeted him for persecution.

The fifth clue: after many hearings and enough investigation so that some clear evidence of wrongdoing should have been uncovered, Darryl Issa (whose personal reputation is hardly sterling) issued a statement which clearly insinuated that Obama, through his lackeys, was directing the IRS to attack his political enemies—but when you looked closely, it was clear that Issa had nothing:

… Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office show targeting of conservative groups was “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we’re getting to proving it.”

“My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election,” he said. “I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.”

Now, read that carefully: “in all likelihood,” “getting to prove it,” “My gut tells me.” When you factor all of that in, you are left with, semantically, nothing. Zero. But after reading it, you get the strong impression that this is real and true. After all, “people knew it was happening,” and there can’t be “motives” for something that was not happening, right?

And the excerpts of testimony? They seemed to consist of every time that “Washington D.C.” was ever mentioned, so as to give the impression that D.C., and therefore Obama personally, was involved. But again, a close inspection shows that no one piece of testimony showed any actual evidence of direction from D.C., and that references to “requests” for information from D.C. were likely of a simple procedural nature.

The sixth clue: an IRS manager, this time making clear statements, said that the focus on “Tea Party” groups did not originate from D.C. (not that originating from D.C. in any way means that Obama was involved anyway). And this official claiming it was his idea was a conservative Republican.

That was kind of when the ongoing firestorm of conservative-media outrage ebbed quite a bit.

But today, we have one last piece of the puzzle:

The Internal Revenue Service used the terms “progressive,” “Israel” and “occupy” on internal documents that helped agency employees screen groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to IRS documents.

In other words, it was not a witch hunt for conservatives. They were looking for wrongdoing by pretty much anyone.

My favorite line comes next in the article:

The disclosure adds a dimension to the controversy surrounding IRS scrutiny of applications for tax exemptions.

Ya think? The “extra dimension,” by the way, is that this is not a scandal at all. The groups under scrutiny are supposed to be “promoting social welfare,” and it seems clear that many, if not most, are primarily partisan political action groups using the tax-exempt and donor-anonymous status illegitimately as a shield. Which is why any political leaning is a clue. The wrongdoing would have been if one type of group had been singled out over the others. This new information suggests that this was not the case.

Republicans like to ask, “What did Obama know and when did he know it?” the classic Watergate question. Now it becomes, “Did Darryl Issa and the Republicans know about this new information, and if so, when?”

Because there has been an egregious abuse of power culminating in a partisan political witch hunt—by Republicans, targeting Obama. That abuse of power, that string of lies, that waste of taxpayer money will never be investigated. And the media will likely allow this all to fizzle without fanfare, leaving a huge chunk of the American population to feel like there was something there, because it was not refuted as loudly or as clearly as it was accused.

The Coup D’état Is In Progress

January 26th, 2013 2 comments
As I have referenced over the past week or so, Republicans are in the process of what appears to be a political coup d’état. While it may actually follow the letter of the law, it without any doubt completely perverts the spirit of the law. Faced with a party bent on radical extremism in a country with a population growing ever more liberal, they seem to believe it is more fitting to subvert the constitution and steal elections rather than to actually come around to reason on a policy or two.

Here is how it works:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

That’s Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution. They key phrase: “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” In theory, one can suppose that electors can be chosen any way the legislature wants, even if it defies the actual votes of the people in that state. This is where the letter can be exploited to corrupt the spirit of the law as well as the spirit of the nation.

And that perversion is exactly what Republicans are beginning to carry out this day. Not plan for in the future, not consider as a possibility: they are doing this as we speak.

The exploit is as follows: change the way states assign electoral votes so that gerrymandering allows a losing candidate to win more electoral votes, just as it does with House representatives.

Most states currently have a winner-take-all approach to the electoral college; if a candidate wins a majority of a state’s votes, then all votes are counted towards that candidate.

Two states, Maine and Nebraska, buck this trend, distributing electoral votes by district, with the two senatorial votes going to the winner of the state’s popular vote. If districts in a state are fairly drawn, then this plan is not much better or worse than the winner-take-all strategy, just with opposing votes given to the other candidate in smaller chunks.

However, there’s a way this system can be abused: the gerrymander. If you stack the deck, as Republicans have been doing furiously in many states for the past decade or so, then the number of opposing votes given to the other candidate is maximized, and instead of less than half a state’s votes going to the candidate not voted for, a potentially much larger number could be subverted.

And since this plan is to only institute this system in key states where Democrats often win but Republicans control the state government, it would not balance out over the whole country.

Taking it even further, the latest GOP plan is to have the two electoral votes based on Senate seats in these states go to the candidate who wins the most districts, actually magnifying the effect of the gerrymander.

Look at the chart below. The plan at the far right is the one Republicans are trying to enact in battleground states where they control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office.

Electoral Vote Dist

If this plan had been in effect last year, in the six key states listed above, Obama would have won by 5% of the popular vote in these states, 52% to 47%, but he would have lost the electoral vote, 30% to 70%—a 40% margin!

One could argue that winner-take-all subverted 48% of the votes, an even greater amount. However, this ignores the larger picture. These are only states where Obama won. Add the states where Romney was the winner, and things balance out somewhat. For all its flaws, winner-take-all is a more random system, is more or less impervious to corruption, and has worked fairly well over time in that only twice has a president won the electoral college while losing the popular vote.

And that’s the key point: in our country, we all support the idea wherein the candidate with the most votes wins. That’s the basic assumption.

The new Republican plan topples that system. Look at Michigan; Romney wins less than 45% of the votes, but gets 69% of the electors. In Ohio, he wins 48% of the vote, but gets 78% of the electors.

With the new Republican plan in effect, Republican candidates would start winning presidential elections almost no matter how many votes they won or lost. It would take what is now considered a landslide to overcome this stacked deck. It would be a violation of our principles because it is specifically designed to overcome the popular vote in favor of one party.

Obviously, a system of assigning electoral votes designed to win one party an election no matter what is a clear corruption of Democracy. One problem: gerrymandering is a long-standing tradition of legal corruption which acts as the camel’s nose under the tent. Going back to the 18th century, gerrymandering has been limited (it cannot, for example, be used to intentionally deprive racial groups of due representation), but is generally allowed freely for purely partisan purposes.

While the Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional and could be challenged in court, it set such a high standard of proof that it made legal challenges of such districts extremely difficult. Since then, the Court has remained divided on whether there is any viable way to set a judicial standard for what makes a given district an illegal gerrymander.

While it is possible that a Supreme Court challenge could upset plans to subvert the electoral college, it is not likely, especially with so many conservatives whose judicial philosophy is centered around ignoring the spirit of the law in favor of interpreting the letter to best suit their political leanings.

Like the filibuster, gerrymandering is a system that has been tolerated because it had never been abused to the point of being a ludicrous mockery of our system of government; but like the filibuster, Republicans have seized on it as a tool to corrupt on the largest of scales.

So, why don’t we just do what is fair, and change the system so that gerrymandering is illegal, states’ districts are drawn by random assignment, and a president is chosen by the popular vote?

Because it would take a constitutional amendment to make such a change, and Republicans would easily block it. Republicans would find some sham reason to object, and since it would require 2/3rds majorities in both houses to even get an amendment started, the idea would die right there.

Another route to amendment has never been used, and would be just as hopeless: legislatures in 2/3rds of the states would have to call a Constitutional Convention, then pass a proposed amendment, and then 3/4ths of all states would have to approve. Again, Republicans would kill such a movement in its cradle, as they control too many state legislatures.

So, there is no constitutional route to stopping this and imposing fairness, and the Supreme Court is most likely going to add its stamp of approval to the virtual coup d’état.

It is happening now. Virginia is the first to move, with the plan already moving through the legislature. While there is a glimmer of hope as one Republican in the legislature is against the idea, this will not matter long; Republicans in Virginia managed to ram through a non-majority, non-census-cycle gerrymander, meaning in two years, Republicans will have a clear path anyway. The Republican governor has hinted he would not go along with it, but Republican governors opposing their party’s moves in other states have caved in and gone ahead with stridently partisan moves before (e.g., the Michigan law designed to gut unions).

Even if it does not pass in Virginia, Republicans in Pennsylvania have already started moving on their own version, and conservatives in Ohio and Wisconsin are showing signs of moving as well. RNC head Reince Priebus is behind the measures.

With Democrats being weak-kneed and ineffectual, the only thing with a hope of stopping this is the occasional Republican with the slightest shred of moral fiber challenging their political interests.

In other words, we’re screwed.

It is entirely possible that in 2016, Hillary Clinton faces someone like Marco Rubio, wins by 10 million votes—and loses the election.

Any conservative who is in favor of this clearly has no respect for Democracy, no respect for the spirit and values our nation is founded upon, and favors winning by any means possible over the voice of the people at large.

Which is pretty exactly where most conservatives these days appear to stand.

There’s a word for a system of governing where the voice of the people is ignored, and one faction grabs power and imposes their will upon the majority.

It is, ironically, the same system that conservatives have been screaming insanely against for the past several years.

And they are getting very close to implementing it.

Political Culture of War

January 19th, 2013 2 comments

Republicans are trying a new strategy: Democrats must agree to our budget plans, or else we with withhold everyone’s pay.

There are arguments about the plan’s constitutionality, but that’s not the issue for me. The issue I think is more important is that the tactic is being used in an abusive manner—literally, for extortion. Just as they have used other tactics, like shutdowns and defaulting on the debt.

Democrats agreed to a pay stoppage a few years back, but that was supported by both parties, and was a fairness issue—if no government workers got paid during a shutdown, then members of Congress would be no different.

The current plan is different, in that it is being used to extort. Nothing new for Republicans, this has been so for almost 20 years since the government shutdown under the Clinton administration.

The idea of Congress is very simple: if an idea is good enough for half the members to approve, it gets passed. In order to make such deals happen, both houses must agree. Congress was always intended to be a place where compromises took place in the name of fairness and equity, in the best interests of the people and the nation.

Conservatives have taken a flamethrower to that concept. Screw the people. Screw the nation. Give us what we want, or else we’ll burn it all down.

Republicans, unhappy at losing any battle, have defied the system, defied the very concept of Democracy itself. They have made any law they dislike have to pass a 60-vote hurdle in the Senate. In order to get their way, they have started holding hostage everything they can get their hands on, constitutionally or not. If there’s something important to the nation that they can destroy, they’ll hold a gun to its head unless they get what they want. And unlike a criminal hostage-taker, they don’t get arrested and removed from the equation; instead, they get to keep taking the same hostage time and time again, and then released back out to do it all over again.

It’s the same in the states, with votes. Can’t win an election? Then win state houses enough to gerrymander the hell out of those states. Too many Democrats voting? Then limit voting hours and voting resources at times and places they vote. Still losing? Then bring back Jim Crow, bigger and better than ever—pass laws that target Democratic voters under fraudulent pretexts and throw obstacles in their way. Still not winning? Hey, we can game the electoral system, changing how key states apportion their votes in the most extremely convoluted ways so that even if we lose the popular vote by a wide margin, we can still will more electoral votes. Make it so Democrats have to win by 10 million votes to eke out a victory electorally.

For Republicans, it is not about majority rule. It’s not about what the people want. And Democracy? Fuck Democracy.

It’s about what Republicans want, and how they can get it. Bend the rules, twist the rules, break the rules, whatever works for them. Even the pretexts are falling away as Republicans openly gloat about subverting the vote.

For Republicans, governing is war, and you win by whatever means necessary.

The Republican Ideology: Do Not Give, But Take All You Can

January 6th, 2013 1 comment

Guess what? 67 Republican House members voted against federal aid for Hurricane Sandy. Appropriately called “a bunch of jackasses” by former New York Senator Al D’Amato, these pearls of human compassion come predominantly from states that have gotten far more than their share of federal assistance, and many are absolute experts at begging for disaster aid.

The states most heavily represented in the GOP anti-aid block are Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Arizona has made 8 major disaster declarations for FEMA aid over the past ten years, and has requested aid from FEMA on more than 30 other occasions over the same time period.

Georgia, which also made many major disaster and other declarations to FEMA, received $300 million in federal mortgage relief aid, and kept 95% of it, as they have similarly tucked away hundreds of millions of federal dollars which were supposed to have been spent on highway projects.

North Carolina must have forgotten that it begged for and got federal aid after Hurricane Irene hit, while South Carolina, which receives $1.35 per tax dollar paid and has begged for federal relief for droughts and other disasters, has also tucked away hundreds of millions of federal aid dollars intended for mortgage aid.

Tennessee, still the proud home of the Tennessee Valley Authority, gets $12 billion a year in federal spending, ranking 7th per capita, and 12th in federal aid received by state, and has made 12 major disaster declarations to FEMA in just the past three years alone.

Texas, meanwhile, received billions in federal aid after Hurricane Ike in 2008 and blasted the federal government for a slow response. In fact, Texas tops the national list of FEMA disaster applications, with a total of 332.

Not long ago, Republican senators tried to block a larger overall bill for Sandy relief:

…since 1989, states represented by senators who voted against the package have been among the biggest beneficiaries of a similar pot of money: the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which nationwide has provided at least $8 billion to help states recovering from disasters prepare to face future catastrophe.

Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo, meanwhile, who voted against aid for Sandy because it was not “paid for,” just 6 months ago cheered federal aid being granted to his own district in response to Hurricane Isaac.

Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, Colorado, begged the feds for extra FEMA spending following a summer fire in 2012—just two months after he tried to pass legislation limiting the aid, and six months before denying it to Sandy victims.

Many are trying to claim that Democrats loaded the bill up with “pork,” a demonstrably false claim.

Here is a list of the 67 who voted “no,” by state, with contact phone numbers:


Mo Brooks (Ala.) (202) 225-4801

Trent Franks (Ariz.) (202) 225-4576
Paul Gosar (Ariz.) (202) 225-2315
Matt Salmon (Ariz.) (202) 225-2635
David Schweikert (Ariz.) (202) 225-2190

Tom Cotton (Ark.) (202) 225-3772

Tom McClintock (Calif.) (202) 225-2511
Ed Royce (Calif.) (202) 225-4111

Doug Lamborn (Colo.) (202) 225-4422

Ron DeSantis (Fla.) (202) 225-2706
Ted Yoho (Fla.) (202) 225-5744

Doug Collins (Ga.) (202) 225-9893
Tom Graves (Ga.) (202) 225-5211
Paul Broun (Ga.) (202) 225-4101
Tom Price (Ga.) (202) 225-4501
Rob Woodall (Ga.) (202) 225-4272

Randy Hultgren (Ill.) (202) 225-2976

Marlin Stutzman (Ind.) (202) 225-4436
Todd Rokita (Ind.) (202) 225-5037

Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) (202) 225-6601
Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) (202) 225-2715
Mike Pompeo (Kan.) (202) 225-6216
Kevin Yoder (Kan.) (202) 225-2865

Garland Barr (Ky.) (202) 225-4706
Thomas Massie (Ky.) (202) 225-3465

John Fleming (La.) (202) 225-2777

Andy Harris (Md.) (202) 225-5311

Justin Amash (Mich.) (202) 225-3831
Dan Benishek (Mich.) (202) 225-4735
Kerry Bentivolio (Mich.) (202) 225-8171

Steven Palazzo (Miss.) (202) 225-5772

Sam Graves (Mo.) (202) 225-7041

Steve Daines (Mont.) (202) 225-3211

Steve Pearce (N.M.) (202) 225-2365

George Holding (N.C.) (202) 225-3032
Richard Hudson (N.C.) (202) 225-3715
Mark Meadows (N.C.) (202) 225-6401
Virginia Foxx (N.C.) (202) 225-2071

Brad Wenstrup (Ohio) (202) 225-3164
Jim Jordan (Ohio)(202) 225-2676
Steve Chabot (Ohio) (202) 225-2216

Markwayne Mullin (Okla.) (202) 225-2701
Jim Bridenstine (Okla.) (202) 225-2211

Keith Rothfus (Pa.) (202) 225-2065
Scott Perry (Pa.) (202) 225-2565

Jeff Duncan (S.C.) (202) 225-5301
Joe Wilson (S.C.) (202) 225-2452
Mick Mulvaney (S.C.) (202) 225-5501
Trey Gowdy (S.C.) (202) 225-6030

Louie Gohmert (Texas) (202) 225-3035
Michael Conaway (Texas) (202) 225-3605
Randy Neugebauer (Texas) (202) 225-4005
Mac Thornberry (Texas) (202) 225-3706
Randy Weber (Texas) (202) 225-2831
Roger Williams (Texas) (202) 225-9896
Bill Flores (Texas) (202) 225-6105
Kenny Marchant (Texas) (202) 225-6605

Phil Roe (Tenn.)(202) 225-6356
Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) (202) 225-2811
Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.) (202) 225-6831
John Duncan (Tenn.) (202) 225-5435
Stephen Fincher (Tenn.) (202) 225-4714

Bob Goodlatte (Va.) (202) 225-5431

Tom Petri (Wis.) (202) 225-2476
Paul Ryan (Wis.) (202) 225-3031
Sean Duffy (Wis.) (202) 225-3365
Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) (202) 225-5101

Suppressing the Vote

November 5th, 2012 6 comments

In Florida and Ohio, both crucial swing states and both states with Republican governors and legislatures, the lines for early voting are horrendously long, some people waiting as much as half the day to vote (reports range up to six or even nine hours). Some are getting their cars towed while they wait. Many are just being turned away. A lot of people see the lines around the block and turn away, not being able to spare the time away from second and third jobs to vote.

But not everywhere. Primarily in poor, heavily minority areas, it seems.

Apparently, the Republican state governments somehow seemed to forget to give them enough voting machines and other resources to let everyone vote, even though it was obvious more were needed since lines were already too long before Republican slashed the number of early voting days and hours.

Gee, how about that? I’m sure it was an innocent oversight. Because otherwise there would have been intent to deprive tens of thousands of people of their right to vote based upon their political orientation, and that would constitute felony election fraud. And that’s not possible, right?

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Slime Tags:

False Compassion

October 16th, 2012 5 comments

Ryan recently showed up in a photo washing pots at a homeless charity. What a guy, right? Selflessly serving the poor.

But wait—something smells fishy. Ryan is a Rand devotee; serving others like that is an evil to someone like him.

Oh, right. He wasn’t actually helping the homeless, or serving a charity. He was faking it:

The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

Well, at least he washed a few dishes, right?

Um, no. The dishes he “washed” were already clean.

But at least his boss is actually compassionate, right? After all, he instituted that Romneycare program which provided insurance for a lot of poor people. And he’s proud of it. I think. Maybe. Or was that last week? Hard to tell, it’s like the wind direction changing. We need a RomneyVane.

But Obamacare, that’s an abomination. How dare Obama do for the nation what Romney did for Massachusetts! Nope. Obamacare has got to go, and Romney has vowed to deprive tens of millions of Americans of health care the moment he steps in to the Oval Office.

Sorry, poor people. That money is needed to pay for a fraction of the ginormous tax cut for wealthy people. You need jobs, after all, right? And we all know that a five-trillion-dollars-over-ten-years tax cut will create zillions of jobs, right? An accurate statement, as “zillions” is not a real number, just as jobs created by tax cuts are not real, either.

So, what will poor people do for health care? Not to worry, Mitt has a safety net to catch them:

Sunday on CBS’a 60 Minutes, Romney gave a hint about what he would replace Obamacae with. Scott Pelley asked him: “Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?”

Romney replied “Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people– we– if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

Pelley was taken aback. He told Romney “That is an expensive way to do it…. in the Emergency Room.”

Romney responded: “Different, again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, ”You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.“

This idea is not new; one could call it ”The Republican Option,“ as Republicans have been suggesting the ER as a health care option for some time now. Essentially, it says, ”we’re not going to provide health care, and the states may or may not leave you to die.“

Paul Krugman has a little bit of data for Romney. Not to suggest that Romney is interested in data or anything. But you might be interested:

Even the idea that everyone gets urgent care when needed from emergency rooms is false. Yes, hospitals are required by law to treat people in dire need, whether or not they can pay. But that care isn’t free — on the contrary, if you go to an emergency room you will be billed, and the size of that bill can be shockingly high. Some people can’t or won’t pay, but fear of huge bills can deter the uninsured from visiting the emergency room even when they should. And sometimes they die as a result.

More important, going to the emergency room when you’re very sick is no substitute for regular care, especially if you have chronic health problems. When such problems are left untreated — as they often are among uninsured Americans — a trip to the emergency room can all too easily come too late to save a life.

A doctor followed up on that:

It’s true that EMTALA [the 1986 law requiring that emergency rooms treat you regardless of insurance status] requires a medical screening exam and stabilization of any emergency medical conditions. It does not, however, mandate admission to the hospital for treatment of conditions that are not currently emergent (e.g. cancer, kidney disease, and other more chronic conditions except related to certain complications). For example, if someone were to present to one of our emergency departments with some mild bloating and be found to have an abdominal mass, they may very well be discharged home for outpatient follow-up and treatment. If that person doesn’t have insurance, they will likely have difficulty obtaining that care.

So, got it, poor people? You no-good, parasitic 47-percenters? You’re covered for a heart attack, so long as you’re willing to dodge the debt collectors, but if you have anything that is not currently bleeding or gushing, you’re on your own. Cancer? Too bad. Tumor? Live with it. Or not. Liver problems? What, do you think this country is made of money or something? Go to your corner and wither, you pathetic loser. If you didn’t make it in the free market system, you don’t deserve help from it—because America is nothing more than the free-market system.

You should be thankful that Paul Ryan took the time to pretend to wash a few pots for you, you ungrateful wretch.

This Is What Romney Shouldn’t Have Said

September 18th, 2012 6 comments

When Romney thinks you’re not listening—from a video taken in the spring:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them, And they will vote for this president no matter what.

And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49… he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years.

And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in come cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.
[emphasis Romney's]

Hmmm. So, I’m dependent upon government checks, am I? Apparently, I don’t take personal responsibility, and I don’t care for my life. Et cetera.

What is significant about this… well, there are several ways that this is significant. The most obvious is that Romney is bashing nearly half the electorate. Way to win over people on the other side, calling 47% of the people irresponsible moochers.

Next, there’s the “47%” number. These are the non-taxpayers, he claims. He makes the remarkable claim that every single one of them is an Obama voter, while every single person in the country who pays taxes is a Republican or undecided. Every single one of them have no sense of personal responsibility; instead, they lay back, take it easy, and live the high life off of welfare checks, food stamps, and free government health care.

So, no Republican is too poor to pay income taxes? Or too rich? No Republican receives welfare, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits? And people who do are irresponsible, incapable of caring for themselves?

His statement pretty damning evidence that Romney, like many right-wingers, truly has a skewed view of reality.

The 47% he speaks of includes 17 million senior citizens on social security. These are people who paid into the system all their lives, and now use tax breaks to bring their effective tax rate to zero. Does Romney think they don’t deserve those tax breaks? Does he want to get rid of those breaks for seniors? Way to win Florida.

Another huge chunk of people he mentions are not poor, but middle class families taking standard deductions and getting breaks for the care and education of their children. Does Romney want to get rid of those tax breaks? Way to win middle class families.

Besides which, of course, is the fact that the entire supposition about the 47% is flawed: nobody pays no taxes, most pay their share in social security and medicare taxes, most have property taxes, most face state & local taxes, and everyone pays sales taxes. Add those up and you may have close to the 13% that Romney himself paid.

As for “people who believe that they are victims,” that’s a label much more appropriate for right-wingers. The whole canard about the 47% who pay no taxes is in itself a badge of right-wing victimhood—those poor people are victimizing the decent, hard-working, real Americans who vote Republican! The white males who believe that they never benefit due to their race or gender and that when they fail it’s due to affirmative action, these are people who believe that they are victims. The right-wing Christians who think they are persecuted because they can’t have prayer in every last nook and cranny of public life and because a few department stores print ads saying “Happy Holidays,” these are the people who believe that they are victims.

And entitled? How many conservatives get Social Security and Medicare, and would be enraged if they lost these benefits? How many depend on unemployment checks when they lose their jobs? Remember the right-wing crowds bused in to break up Democratic town halls, screaming “Keep your government hands off my Medicare”? These are people who want all the benefits, but only for themselves, and the people who are not as well off—most of whom paid in to these systems and are just as deserving of the benefits—should be cut off. “I’ve got mine, you go screw yourself” is their motto. That’s not a sense of “entitlement”?

There’s so much more to say about that statement, I can’t put it all down here. But above are the key points. Romney and so many conservatives really think this way, that they are the only ones who work hard and pay taxes, and are being victimized by every single Obama voter, who are lazy, irresponsible moochers who demand to suck at the government teat as if it were their god-given right.

Not just Obama, but all Democratic contenders should use this from now to election day in their campaign ads. Romney thinks that if you get Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment benefits, then you’re a bum who can’t take care of himself, you think you’re entitled. Tell Romney that he’s not entitled to the White House,, that’s he’s not entitled to give himself yet another whopping tax cut, that he’s not entitled to raise taxes on the poor and middle class.

Try Something Different This Time

August 25th, 2012 3 comments

Upon the eve of the 2012 elections, the economy is not doing well. Why is this the case?

After Obama’s election in 2008, Republicans announce a policy of obstructing progress and reform, saying that it “works for” them. They fight against the Stimulus, eventually watering it down to the point where it is far too ineffective. They fight against health care reform, watering down that as well, costing billions and offering alternatives that would balloon the budget and cost massive numbers of jobs. Instead of focusing on how to fix the economy they broke, they instead focus on sloughing off blame on Obama for doubling unemployment and losing millions of jobs, while fighting to maintain the policies which decimated the economy in the first place. Republicans fight equal pay, fight minimum wage increases, fight unemployment benefits, fight stimulative spending. Republicans announce that their primary goal is not jobs or fixing the economy, but making Obama fail so they can retake the White House. Republicans force the extension of Bush tax cuts, proven to significantly deepen the deficit while being poison to job creation. Upon gaining control of the House, Republicans fail to act on jobs, instead focusing on things like restricting abortions. Republicans instead push for cuts, admitting that it would kill jobs. Republicans repeatedly put “nuclear options” into play, sometimes over severely ideological issues like Planned Parenthood. Republicans pass budgets that promise job losses. Republicans threaten defaulting on the debt, causing the US credit rating to be downgraded for the first time in history. Republicans kill Obama’s jobs bill, even though it offers $250 billion in tax relief. Republicans finally offer their own “jobs” bill which essentially includes deeper tax cuts for corporations and elimination of regulations governing pollution and corruption, none of which would create jobs.

So now, four years later, the economy has not yet recovered from the devastating effects of the Republican policies that led to the effective depression we suffer from today.

Republicans point at Obama and shout, “Look what he did!!

Yes, the president owns the economy, for better or for worse. All the media plays into this, acting as if Republican policy to essentially sabotage the economy somehow does not exist, and only Obama is to answer for it.

That may be a political reality. But it is not reality.

Had Obama been free to do what he wanted, the economy would look far different than it does today. Obama may own the economy, but he was far from alone in creating it.

The key point: Republicans have been far more destructive to the economy, even openly stating goals which work against economic recovery, again openly admitting their goals in this are to gain political power.

The answer to this is not to reward them with more power.

The answer is to give that power, definitively this time, to Democrats, even just for two years, so we can see what Democratic policies would reap without Republicans poisoning everything.

If, after two years, things don’t improve, we can try something else. But the idea that Democrats have tried and failed, or that Obama has tried and failed, are fiction.

But that’s just reality. My apologies.

Yes, Ryan’s Medicare Plan Would Hurt Seniors Already on Medicare

August 16th, 2012 1 comment

A reader at Sullivan’s blog put it very succinctly:

The Ryan Medicare plan absolutely will effect people currently on Medicare. If you establish that in 10 years the Medicare risk pool will stop growing and start shrinking, you do damage to how the program works. First, you increase the risk in the pool and drive up cost by stopping younger healthier seniors from entering the plan. Second, as the pool shrinks Medicare looses [sic] power to dictate reimbursement rates. Doctors will begin not to accept Medicare patients because not only will the volume of patients no longer justify the low reimbursement rates, but those left in the pool will be older, sicker and more expensive to treat. The program that they say will be in place will not only become much more expensive to maintain then projected, but it will collapse on itself.

Let there be no doubt: that is their ultimate goal. Republicans have made it agonizingly clear over the years: they want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. Not reform, not preserve, not save. They want to fully eliminate these programs, preferably phasing them out by transitioning to private “programs” which will essentially be equal to people buying private-market pension and health care plans by themselves, with private industry skimming a 10 ~ 30% profit (which currently goes to benefits for the payer) right off the top, whilst being mostly unregulated and therefore much more easily able to raid the remaining investments.

The result will be that in the short run, seniors slowly notice their benefits collapsing, costing more and giving less. In the end, we’ll be back where we were 80 years ago: if you’re not wealthy, you’re going to get inferior health care–and even if you were able somehow to save money your entire life after well-paying jobs got shipped overseas and the conservatives lowered your salary to below-poverty levels by abolishing or neglecting the minimum wage, you are liable to lose whatever retirement savings you do have to financial skullduggery of one form or another by rich bankers.

Welcome to the 19th century, folks. Didn’t you know that conservatism is all about driving us backwards? It is right there on the label, after all.

Republican Judge Affirms Vote Suppression Act

August 16th, 2012 1 comment

Welcome back, Mr. James Crow! You now have a wider audience to block, including the poor, the elderly, and students!

Thanks to a Republican judge, the Republican law in Pennsylvania requiring specific types of photo ID to be presented for voting is now sustained, and due to his careful wording, it may be hard to overturn, despite the clear bias inherent in the ruling itself.

Fact: there is no evidence of any kind whatsoever indicating that vote fraud even exists beyond a few scattered cases, while it is a statistical certainty that at the very least, thousands–possibly tens of thousands–of legal, eligible Democratic voters, some of whom have voted regularly for decades, will be unable to vote because of this law.

Fact: as many as 11% of all voters lack the correct ID, and some will be forced to go to unusual efforts to acquire them, while other will have been misinformed, even by the Republican governor himself, as to whether their current ID is valid or not. As many as 1 million voters in Pennsylvania lack the right ID, and 379,000 do not have the documents required to get that ID. Many in the state would have to travel to state offices in other counties which are only open once a week, and there are only funds for 1/10th of the number of people who need IDs–meaning that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians would be subject to a poll tax. The only solution is absentee voting, which would require a visit to a doctor and a doctor’s note and then an application process, clearly an unusual hurdle just to vote.

Fact: the laws disproportionately affect Democratic voters to a great degree, and were pushed through on a wholly partisan basis by the party that stands to win the vote–a party which has already performed heavy redistricting in that state to tilt the vote further in their favor.

Fact: Republican Mike Turzai, Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, stated outright, in a checklist of partisan goals, that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” This bolsters the proof that state Republicans had a partisan goal in pushing through the law.

And yet, the Republican judge ruling on the case decided that none of this “clearly showed” that the voter suppression act “denied voters’ rights.”

Right, judge, it doesn’t deny voters’ rights, except for those tens or even hundreds of thousands of young, elderly, poor, and minority voters which your Republican-tinted goggles make invisible to you. And of course, those same goggles make the clear-as-day partisan vote-rigging going on also invisible to your eyes. Because we all know that Republicans are actually concerned about voter fraud and are completely unaware that the problem is in fact non-existent, and just happened to introduce a law which completely coincidentally disenfranchises hordes of voters from the other party, and statements made about how this will help Republicans win elections were completely honest mistakes and misunderstandings.

Really, how fracking blind do you have to be to take even a cursory, much less a detailed, look at this issue and not see the painfully obvious fact that this is election fraud writ large?

Those are quite some goggles, judge. Quite some goggles, indeed.

Wingnut Filter

July 26th, 2012 Comments off

You want to find knee-jerk conservative wingnut web sites fast?

I figured out a quick way: Google “James Holmes” and “Registered Democrat.” Presto.

I won’t link to the site, but Breitbart is running this headline:

Screen Shot 2012-07-26 At 11.22.03 Pm

Now, I had no idea this headline existed before I did the search. But the search was a natural one, since for the past many years, whenever there is some horrible crime, the worst, most pungent, ultra-right lunatic dingbats immediately start posting about “Registered Democrat [insert villain's name here].”

I expected to get Free Republic posters (they were further down the page of results), but Breitbart is a natural candidate for crap like this, of course.

Categories: Right-Wing Slime Tags:

You Didn’t Invent the Internet

July 22nd, 2012 3 comments

The conservative world is gleefully playing with Obama’s statement, “If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Out of context, just that one bit, is being used endlessly by the right wing to attack Obama, claiming that he denigrates small business owners, as if Obama was saying that no business owner built their own business.

Which, of course, is an outright lie. Obama did not say, “If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build your business. Somebody else made your business happen.” Obama did not even come close to saying that. Every politician and pundit attacking Obama with it knows they’re lying, or are blind and stupidly following the party line without checking. By now, almost certainly the former.

Here is Obama’s complete quote, with relevant parts in bold:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Reading the entire statement, in context, it is very clear that Obama is not saying that business owners didn’t build their own businesses; he was saying, without any doubt, that business owners did not build the support structures that helped them build their business. A business owner didn’t educate himself, didn’t build the country himself, didn’t build the roads and bridges. The society built these things, other people pitched in, and it was the community effort which gave the business owner the vital tools without which that business would not thrive. Obama followed the statement by issuing another example, that a business owner didn’t invent the Internet, which helped their business like a hundred other support structures.

His meaning was clear: we all depend on the community, and so we all owe the community. Instead, right-wingers cut off the beginning and end, and falsely claim that Obama was putting down hard-working job creators. There’s no way you could actually look at the whole context and honestly conclude that Obama was saying that small business owners had no hand in building their own businesses.

It’s complete and utter bullshit they’re pushing–but it’s the kind of bullshit that works, and perhaps can win an election.

If you’re wondering why this sounds familiar, it’s because there was another case, about 12 years ago, of a Democratic presidential candidate making a statement about creating the Internet which was taken out of context in the exact same way–and the result of it was that the American people, to this day, still believe the bullshit lie. And the Democratic candidate lost the election by a few hundred votes. (Well, technically he won by thousands, but that’s another story.)

From my 2006 article:

Let’s get one thing straight: Al Gore never said that he “invented the Internet.”

There are a lot of myths out there perpetrated by conservatives. … This one started on March 9th, 1999, when Al Gore appeared on Wolf Blitzer’s “Late Edition” show on CNN. On the program, Gore made the following statement:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system. [the full context of the quote in the interview can be reviewed here.]

… An unkind (and dishonest) interpretation of Gore’s quote makes it seem like Gore was claiming that he single-handedly created the Internet. But that’s not what he said. He said that he took the initiative, that he took an early leadership role–which, by definition, means that he was not alone in the task, nor does it even mean that he was the only leader.

… The irony here is that Gore, in fact, was instrumental to the creation and popularization of the Internet as we know it today. In the 1980s, DARPA had defunded civilian use of the Internet; it could have died right there had it not been for Gore pushing for funding to restart the Internet as a civilian and business network. That took the form of the 1989 National High-Performance Computer Technology Act introduced by Al Gore. The fact is, all along the way, Gore was behind the growth of the Internet, which in itself was largely responsible for the huge economic boom of the 90′s. Ironically, conservatives who enthusiastically credited Reagan with every bit of good economic news in the 80′s, churlishly denied Clinton and Gore any credit for the boom of the 90′s, claiming that it was the Internet that was responsible.

Gore was instrumental in creating a huge economic and industrial miracle worth countless trillions of dollars to the nation. In return for this, the GOP distorted his rightful claim, mocked him as a liar and made a laughingstock out of him. In an election won by only a few hundred votes, the value of the “invented the Internet” lie could easily have been worth that many votes in Florida.

Good to see that the GOP’s priorities are in order.

To back this up, you can read a letter written by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, the two guys most credited with “inventing” the Internet (more specifically, developing the TCP/IP protocol suite central to Internet technology), in which they praise Gore for his work. Or, if you prefer a more mainstream debunking, see Snope’s teardown of the lies told by the right wing.

Despite all of these facts being available before the 2000 election, people believed the lie. In part it was because the right-wing moved in lockstep to repeat the lie ad nauseam; in part because there was a sound bite which sounded similar to what the lie claimed (people still swear they “heard” Gore say he “invented the Internet”); in part because debunking the lie takes longer than and is more complex than perpetuating it; and in part because the “liberal media” played along with the lie.

Guess what’s happening all over again?

FAIR not only debunks the current lie, but points out how the media is implicit in perpetuating it. Some are calling it out as a “distortion,” but usually in the last line of an article; no one in the mainstream media applies the headline, “Romney and Conservatives Distort Obama’s Statement,” which would be fair and accurate. Instead, they simply report on Romney attacking Obama with it, or worse, that it is a “problem” for Obama–which, ironically, is chiefly because the media is not doing its job in debunking the outright lies.

When reporters do get around to mentioning how the attack is completely false, they usually “balance” the piece with a statement about Obama’s use of Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” line–in effect, excusing Romney’s lie instead of just reporting it. Well, Romney’s remark about not being concerned about the poor was quoted out of context, but it was not distorted in meaning. Romney said that as part of a statement about how he was not concerned about the rich, either, but instead was concerned about the middle class. While that shows he was not favoring the rich over the poor, it does not change the fact that he openly stated that he was not concerned about the very poor, that he believed they were well taken-care of. Obama’s citing that was not a distortion, and did not change the meaning of the words spoken.

In contrast, what Romney and conservatives are doing now is a bald-faced lie; they are distorting what Obama said, they are changing the meaning completely. Obama never did that. So, why are reporters, who already bury the fact that Romney and others are lying, use the story to show “equivalence,” when, in fact, there is none?

Imagine at work, you say something innocent, but another worker, trying to beat you to a promotion, takes it out of context and makes it sound like you were insulting the boss, and then spreads it all around. A coworker who knows all that has happened meets with the boss, and does not tell the boss about the real statement and the lie behind it, and instead tells the boss, “Yeah, it’s a problem for the guy who said it, all right! I can see why you’d be angry about it!” When the boss asks that worker for a detailed report on the topic, the report is titled “Smear Against Boss a Problem for Worker Seeking Promotion,” and only mentions the distortion on the last page, next to an item which points out that a year ago, the person being lied about did something that could, incorrectly, be interpreted as a similar act.

How would you feel about such “fair and impartial” reporting of your actions?

This is money in the bank for the right wing; they will not let up on this. They know, from experience, that lies like this are easy to spread, are very damaging, can have a strong effect, and that the media will let them have it.

The only think to do is to fight the lie. The problem is, that didn’t work before.

If there’s one thing that Republicans excel at, it’s playing dirty.

What It’s All About

July 16th, 2012 Comments off
The Christian Science Monitor, inadvertently, I believe, more or less made clear in their headline what Republicans are doing with their voter purges:

A victory for Republicans, Florida wins use of federal database to purge voters

The giveaway: it’s a victory for Republicans. Not for fair elections, not for democracy, not for the nation. It’s a political victory for a strategy to disenfranchise Democratic voters in an effort to illicitly win an election.

Not what the Monitor meant, I am sure, but I think that everybody pretty much knows it to be a fact. The thing is, if you’re a news agency, you can’t say what is obvious–because if you do, then you’re a stinking lame-stream liberal media elitist, and not a “real” journalist who understands that there are always two sides to any argument and you have to give equal credence to both sides, no matter how obviously stupid and corrupt one of them might be. Unless they’re Democrats, because they suck at demonizing journalists for saying bad things about them.

Florida Republicans Illegally Purging Voter Rolls, AGAIN

June 1st, 2012 1 comment

Yep. Apparently it is now an official Florida tradition. The Florida GOP’s brazen schemes to strip legitimate Democratic voters of their ability to cast their votes comes back, with a vengeance. Republicans claim they are trying to stop voter fraud, something for which there is extremely little evidence–unless, of course, you count the massive voter fraud inherent in repeated GOP attempts to disenfranchise Democrats over the years. But no, they’re not concerned with that. The purge is–surprise!–heavily biased against Democrats, Independents, and Hispanic voters (everyone except Republicans, how strange!), according to a Miami Herald study.

Back in 2000, state Attorney General Katherine Harris, partisan extremist and Bush loyalist, carried out the first politically-directed purge, one which stripped tens of thousands of legal Democratic voters of their right to vote in Florida on the bogus assertion that they were felons. This, in an election which was decided by only a few hundred votes. We have Harris to thank for eight years of G. W. Bush, and, in his wake, a stacked Supreme Court, a bitter partisan divide, a battered Constitution, two massively costly land wars in Asia, and eight trillion dollars of debt.

In 2002, the purge continued, with the company charged to maintain the list claiming that as many as 91,000 of the 94,000 names on the list were not illegal voters. Florida “promised” to clean up the list.

Jump to 2004. Guess what? The voter purge list was still alive, this time even more flawed than ever, and–like all of its iterations–it “accidentally” purged decisively against Democratic voters. Whoopsie! How could that have possibly happened?

Fast-forward to 2008, and we see the techniques to purge Democratic voters continued, albeit in a milder form: meaningless small typos and variations in how names were written (with a middle initial or full name, for example) purged tens of thousands of voters. While this would not target Democrats with the initial purge, it affected Democrats more in the end because elderly and minority voters–heavily Democratic–would be far less able to repair their status. And while ACORN (which legally registered many poor people to vote) was under a vicious attack which would eventually shut down it down, Florida imposed new laws making new registration harder, a move that would disproportionately disadvantage older and minority voters (again, Democrats).

Well, the mild-mannered days of 2008 are out the window, and we see the brazen and corrupt Republican machine surge back into action, this time with an all-new list of 182,000 voters to purge, with easily tens of thousands of them clearly legitimate–and, according to a study by the Miami Herald, “predominantly made up of Democrats, independents and Latinos.” The last groups was famously spared the purge back in 2004, but that was before the numbers shifted from Republican-friendly Cuban-Americans to a current, far greater majority of Democratic-friendly non-Cuban Latinos in the state.

And that really does highlight how this is blatantly political–every single time this happens in Florida, it just “happens” by “accident” that the majority of voters “mistakenly” stripped of their right to vote are Democrats.

Not that any of this is a surprise; Republicans have become more and more shameless and open in their attempts to disenfranchise Democrats. Expect more of this in the months and years to come.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Slime Tags:

Romney’s “Job Creating” Shell Game

May 19th, 2012 12 comments

Robert Reich explains how Romney & friends over at Bain capital got stinking rich. A teaser: they risked not a single dime of their own money and used a bunch of accounting scams, while working Americans paid the price, and footed the bill in the form of taxes and debt to pay for the debris trail they left behind.

The Shearer Is Hostile to the Sheep, Says the Wolf

April 14th, 2012 1 comment

Republicans most recently alienated women by fighting furiously against allowing contraception to be covered under new insurance plans, and famously denying a woman the chance to speak in Congress on the issue, whilst giving their full attention to a panel comprised entirely of men, all of them religious authorities. This was their statement: women’s health is all about religion, which is ruled by men. When the Democrats got their one female panel member to speak separately, Rush Limbaugh, the Voice of the Right Wing, called her a slut and a whore for suggesting contraception be covered by private health plans. Called to denounce the slurs, the presumed GOP presidential nominee only said that “slut” and “whore” were “not the language I would have used,” clearly implying that he supported the general sentiment.

Even more disturbing are recent right-wing efforts to force women, even rape victims, to undergo a form of rape before they are allowed to undergo an abortion, a legal procedure. This as part of a larger campaign to deny women reproductive rights, a campaign with a history of maligning women.

None of this is new. Conservatives have always fought against women’s civil rights, from suffrage to the ERA to the Lily Ledbetter Act. Feminists, who want nothing more than to allow women to choose whatever they want to do–including stay-at-home motherhood–and to receive equal treatment as men in doing so, have found themselves viciously attacked and dehumanized by right-wingers, reduced to an ugly stereotype and cast as villains against many of the very things they fight to defend.

The conservative, Republican “war on women” has been a longstanding, entrenched battle taken up willfully by the right wing, whose policy and language have been filled with rhetoric which, at best, misunderstands women, and, all too often at worst, is openly hostile to them.

So, according to Romney–famous for not understanding women, or taking up their causes, or speaking to them in a non-condescending manner–according to him, the real war on women is coming from the Obama camp. The two main pieces of evidence? A statistic wholly unrelated to Obama’s policies and actions, and a deliberately misinterpreted quote from a woman wholly unrelated to Obama save that she occupies the same half of the political spectrum–a quote which Obama, his administration, and even his wife all immediately condemned, no less.

The statistics? Technically true in that most net job loss has been among women, but false in that Obama has anything at all to do with that. In fact, ironically, most job losses for women have been in education and government–and Obama actually tried hard to save these precise jobs, but Republicans stripped the bill and were the deciding factor in many of these job losses. Not to mention that Republicans have always been hostile to educators and government workers, even attacking Democrats for trying to hire more people in these areas.

And yet, this is not just supposed to be an equivalency, but proof that Obama is more hostile to women than conservatives are.

You have to admire the balls on conservatives, not just to lie, but to lie as big as that.

Apologies and “Apologies”

March 4th, 2012 2 comments

So, Rush Limbaugh realizes that he stepped over a line, and instead of attacking his critics as he usually does when he’s guilty of something, he does the reasonable thing, and apologizes. Or, I should say, he “apologizes.”

This is the kind of situation where you see what a person is made of; whether they are truly penitent and seeking to right a wrong, or if they are just reluctantly taking back something they fully meant, and still mean, and are not really taking any true responsibility for it.

A real apology should hurt. It should hurt you more than it hurt the person you insulted in the first place. It should be unequivocal, should accept full responsibility, and should not include self-exculpatory language. Most of all, it should not continue the attack on one’s critics or be a platform to expound your views.

Here’s Limbaugh’s statement:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Right off, we see that the middle paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with an apology. I teach academic writing; when I see a student spend a whole paragraph writing about something which does not support the thesis (in this case, “I was wrong and I am sorry”), I tell them to strike the paragraph. Limbaugh should have done that here; it means that most of his statement is not, indeed, an apology. Reading the paragraph, you can in fact see that he is re-stating his disagreement with Fluke, and saying that he thinks what she did was wrong. That’s not just off-topic, that’s contradictory.

What remains is equivocal and self-exculpatory at best. “I chose the wrong words, did not mean a personal attack, my choice of words was not the best.”

Really.

He didn’t mean a personal attack?

When he first spoke on this, Limbaugh said:

What does it say about the college co-ed [Sandra] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps — the johns. No, that’s right — pimp is not the right word.

After that, he said:

OK, so she’s not a slut, she’s round-heeled. I take it back.

That’s not a personal attack? Sure sounds like one to me. He’s not discussing the absurdity of this being an issue discussed at the presidential level; he was calling this woman a slut and a whore. He was not saying it in the context of, “hey, I’m just kidding.” He may have been lunging into the absurd, but it was expressed as a heartfelt insult which he did not step back from. Quote the opposite.

In response to the blowback, the next day, Limbaugh reiterated the exact same insults:

If we’re going to have to pay for this — then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke, and that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we’re getting for our money. …

Now what did I say? I said if we’re paying for this, it makes these women sluts, prostitutes. What else could it be? We are buying it.

So, for two straight days, in the face of a storm of criticism, he continued to call Ms. Fluke a slut and a whore. Then he added that she should publish a sex tape so we could all enjoy it. So much for “not meaning a personal attack.”

As for the rest, Limbaugh was suggesting it was an instance of poor “word choice”–but even that is not an apology, because he is clearly saying that he intended the meaning, he just chose the wrong words for his insult.

Apart from that, he claims that he was just was trying to be funny (the “I’m not a commentator, I’m a comedian” dodge he uses but never actually means), and he regretted the “national stir” as much as he did the insult. So he says, and I don’t think anyone buys that for a millisecond.

Surrounded by all of that bullshit, his words “I sincerely apologize” ring hollow at best.

Now, you want to see what a real apology looks like? Try looking at the other side of the political spectrum. Look at Ed Schultz. Back in May last year, he said this on the radio:

Rain, thunderstorms, winds getting whipped into tornadoes of horrific proportions. Hot weather, all of this stuff. And what are the Republicans thinking about? They’re not thinking about their next-door neighbor. They’re just thinking about how much this is going to cost. President Obama is going to be visiting Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday. But you know what they’re talking about? Like this right-wing slut, what’s her name, Laura Ingraham? Yeah, she’s a talk slut. You see, she was, back in the day, praising President Reagan when he was drinking a beer overseas. But now that Obama’s doing it, they’re working him over.

That was just an offhand comment. He didn’t also call her a whore, did not demand a sex tape, and one could even convincingly argue that he did not mean “slut” in a sexual meaning, but rather a metaphorical one, that Ingraham was loose in her morals in terms of talking about politics and society.

Schultz did not attempt to make that argument. He did not equivocate. He did not excuse himself. He did not use an apology as an opportunity to further expound his views. He did not come back the next day and double down, he did not apologize only after a protracted battle to maintain what he said. He, in a word, apologized.

Read this. Just read it. Through and through. And then just try to imagine Limbaugh saying it.

Good evening, Americans and welcome to The Ed Show from New York tonight. Thomas Roberts will be here tonight anchoring the program, but first I want to take some time to offer an apology. On my radio show yesterday I used vile and inappropriate language when talking about talk show host Laura Ingraham. I am deeply sorry, and I apologize. It was wrong, uncalled for and I recognize the severity of what I said. I apologize to you, Laura, and ask for your forgiveness.

It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It doesn’t matter that it was on radio and I was ad-libbing. None of that matters. None of that matters. What matters is what I said was terribly vile and not of the standards that I or any other person should adhere to. I want all of you to know tonight that I did call Laura Ingraham today and did not make contact with her and I will apologize to her as I did in the message that I left her today.

I also met with management here at MSNBC, and understanding the severity of the situation and what I said on the radio and how it reflected terribly on this company, I have offered to take myself off the air for an indefinite period of time with no pay. I want to apologize to Laura Ingraham. I want to apologize to my family, my wife. I have embarrassed my family. I have embarrassed this company.

And I have been in this business since 1978, and I have made a lot of mistakes. This is the lowest of low for me. I stand before you tonight in front of this camera in this studio in an environment that I absolutely love. I love working here. I love communicating with all of you on the radio and the communication that I have with you when I go out and do town hall meetings and meet the people that actually watch. I stand before you tonight to take full responsibility for what I said and how I said it, and I am deeply sorry.

My wife is a wonderful woman. We have a wonderful family. And with six kids and eight grandkids, I try to set an example. In this moment, I have failed. And I want you to know that I talked to my sons especially about character and about dignity and about the truth. And I tell you the truth tonight that I am deeply sorry and I tell them every day that they have to live up to standards if they want to be a successful human being in life. And I have let them down. I have never been in this position before to the point where it has affected so many people. And I know that I have let a lot of people down.

To the staff here at MSNBC, I apologize for embarrassing the company and the only way that I can really make restitution for you is to give you a guarantee, and the only way that I can prove my sincerity in all of this is if I never use those words again. Tonight, you have my word that I won’t. Laura Ingraham, I am sorry. Very sorry. I’ll be back with you in the coming days.

Next to Schultz’s apology, Limbaugh’s comes across as what it is: not an apology, but a self-serving, insincere, pathetic, contemptible excuse for an attempt to escape responsibility for what he did mean and still wants to say but can’t because he’ll lose too much money and stature.

Limbaugh should get no credit–none, zero–for what he said. If he wants to apologize, he should study Ed Schultz’s apology, and then come back and do it even better than that, if such a thing is possible.

But he won’t. He’s toed the line, but only toed it for form, like a spoiled, reluctant child making a sullen apology after being forced to by Mommy and Daddy, and he won’t be back unless taken out to the woodshed again.

He can never say anything as sincere as Schultz said, because you can tell Schultz meant it, and Limbaugh just as certainly does not.

Limbaugh gets no break for this. He was an ass, and still is one. He may be no good at apologies, but he’s good at getting away with stuff.

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