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Why the Turnout?

November 26th, 2012 Comments off
One reader at TPM pointed this out:
I think there is one point to remember when Republicans keep saying that they are so surprised that core groups in the Obama electoral coalition, like African Americans, young voters, etc., were able to match or even exceed their 2008 turnout: Republicans did some pretty unbelievable, disrespectful and frankly unconscionable things to this President that JT’s cites: shouting “You Lie!” to him during the middle of his State of the Union address (something that was frankly never contemplated to be done to Clinton or Bush, despite rapid opposition), challenging his birthplace and religion, or Governor Brewer pointing her finger in his face on the tarmac, much of which was repeated nightly on places like Fox News. Regardless of whether these things were done because of the President’s race (and I think that a pretty convincing argument could be made that a lot of what happened was at least partially due to his race), the fact of the matter is that Republicans who engaged in this type of behavior honestly shouldn’t be surprised now that there was some consequence to their actions, and by this I mean that the President’s supporters, who felt and understood this disrespect, would be extra-motivated to support him in response to these antics.
I would agree with that, but would say it's not the whole story. I think a good deal of it was also the awareness that, despite any and all of the left's disappointments about Obama not being lefty enough, we were strongly aware that there was a huge difference between Obama and Romney. This was our bane in the 2000 election—too many people, especially the 2.74% who voted for Nader, felt that there was little or no difference between Gore and Bush, only to be horrified at how wrong indeed that was. Our budget surplus wrecked and exploding deficits like none we had seen before, rampant partisanism and legislative bulldozing from the right, two massive land wars in Asia—I could go on, but you probably remember the highlights. These voters realized that Gore would not have instituted full-on class warfare and while the surplus may have evaporated, it would not have changed to trillion-dollar deficits. That even if Gore had let 9/11 happen, he would have been reserved in Afghanistan and never would have gone into Iraq. That Gore would never have been the simple-minded sock puppet Bush wound up being. This realization of differences only became more sharply defined in 2008, when McCain started kowtowing to extremists, and then chose Sarah Palin, who was Bush on steroids, in all the worst ways. We had seen moderate Supreme Court Justice O'Connor replaced with an ideological soulmate of scumbag Antonin Scalia, and the Chief Justice replaced with a young staunch conservative, and realized that had things gone differently, the court could have transformed into a body that would never have sunk to the rank political depths of Bush v. Gore. Romney only continued to sharpen the distinction. Like McCain, he was a flip-flopper bowing to the extremists, a rich, privileged white man—but this time one who represented the worst of the Wall Street excesses that we recoiled from so violently in 2007 onward. And he chose as a running mate a poster boy for the dismantling of Social Security and Medicare. That, with four septuagenarians on the bench. Yeah, I would say there was motivation from that direction as well.

Categories: Election 2012 Tags:

Owning Your Leader

November 26th, 2012 Comments off
A whole lot of Republicans are now falling all over Romney with recriminations about how he threw the election. Here's a news flash, kiddos: you chose him. And not only did you choose him, you knew who he was when you chose him. You knew that he was an out-of-touch plutocrat. You knew he was a major-league flip-flopper. You knew he was an awkward, goofy gaffe machine. You knew that his ideas and policies were vague, inconsistent, and unworkable. What I'd like to hear is a Republican who is saying, “Man, we really screwed up. We should have gone with Huntsman.” Maybe someone out there is saying it, but I haven't heard it spoken very loudly. The thing is, Republicans tend to do this—run away from their choices after they fail. Remember the George W. Bush administration? Most Republicans don't seem to have. A pet peeve of mine is all the Republicans who are now claiming that they not only disagreed with Bush when it came to his deficit-busting spending and other bad choices, but they claim that they spoke out against him while he was in office. I have heard so many Republicans make that claim, you would think that 2001-2008 was a time thick with right-wing complaints against Bush. Funny, I don't remember any of their voices saying that back then. Maybe they were whispering. Whenever a Republican makes that claim, they should be required to provide sources. They never do. And I bet it's because, if you looked up those sources, you'd find them as small caveats or minor quibbles within a greater text of praise and support for Bush. As in, “Well, I love the president's budget and I heartily approve all his policies, but we will, at some point, have to deal with the budgetary impact.” Which, of course, is not “opposing” or “speaking out against.” Of course, we'll never see those sources referenced. These are people who screwed up big time; the whole point of the exercise is to lie. A related point is when Republicans appear on talk shows and try to sound reasonable. “You don't know it,” they say, “but not all Republicans are like that. Many of us are [insert reasonable stand on a specific policy here].” Many of these are people who are staunchly conservative on most issues but have one where they are moderate, and so try to paint themselves—and the party as a whole—as reasonable and mainstream. A good example is Bill O'Reilly, who makes a point about how he is for gun control, as if that makes him a moderate or something. A few of these people actually are moderates—but they are such a minority that they never have an impact within their party. And that's the real test: if you can not or will not advance your moderate views within the Republican Party so they have any chance of moving the dial even a tiny bit, then your moderate leanings are meaningless. What matters are the policies which get presented, advocated, and passed—not the policies that a few wish for but never do anything about. You can't take credit for things that never materialize. Now, this may not be the fault of the true moderates, as they are marginalized by the extremists in their own party. Which brings us back to how Romney won the nomination. Virtually everything the Republican Party puts forth these days must pass extremist muster—which is why only a bunch of clowns were potentially successful candidates this year. I remember seeing a Hispanic Republican on a talk show recently, who claimed that she was offended by a lot of stuff that Romney said, and didn't like him—but supported him wholeheartedly because he was the GOP candidate. However, you can't do that: the only way he'll stop being offensive is if you criticize him for it when it matters, not afterwards. Criticizing him now helps neither you nor him at all. It's pointless, self-serving criticism, like saying, “I didn't say it at the time, but I knew you should have taken the left turn at Main Street, we would have gotten here much faster. I was right and you were wrong.” Nor did I feel that this person could claim much credit for being so reasonable. It comes down to this: if you march in the Clown Parade, then you belong to it. If you come over to the sidelines and tell me, “Man, I wish they'd stop wearing so much makeup and piling into Volkswagens all the time,” I am not going to be impressed if you then step right back into the Clown Parade and fully support their actions. If you back someone without making your reservations known when it matters, then you own their whole deal, whether you like it or not. Sure, Republicans can be disappointed with Romney. But they can't act like they didn't make him what he was—which means they have to be disappointed with themselves as well.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags:

Merry War on Christmas!

November 22nd, 2012 1 comment
Yes, it's that time. Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is yet to come, so it's time for Fox News to put up the decorative articles of outrage and sing carols of victimization. It has become a tradition unto itself, in a way; it is now years old, as certain to come as death and tax revolts, and has a central theme: to establish the dominance of Christianity and integrate as much as possible the institutions of Church and State. What's the latest outrage that allows the ruling class with the most power and privilege to feel like they are discriminated against and trampled upon? What else? A fight over a public nativity display! Did those nasty Grinch-like Atheists wage a war to bar them again? Well, no, it is established law that you can have nativity displays on public grounds—but only if all belief groups are also allowed similar displays! What's this? Equality of expression? In the two months preceding Christmas? How vile! The evil Atheists did not take down the Nativity in Palisades Park in the city of Santa Monica, but they did something even worse: they displayed their own holiday message. The message of spite and hate? “Religions are all alike - founded on fables and mythologies.” What an outrage! A quote from Thomas Jefferson, here in America? Jefferson is supposed to stand in the background and pretend to be a fundamentalist! The real problem came when nasty secularists submitted more than one proposal for a spot in the park's display, and the rules of the lottery system granted them 18 of the 21 spaces (or 11 of 14, reports vary). Well, random chance (or possibly the lack of submissions by Christians, but let's not focus on that) is obviously at war with Christianity! Christians among the Santa Monica officials, in the meantime, decided that if the Mean Evil Nasty Atheists got more than they did for one year, they would scrap the whole game and take the ball home with them. So, under the excuse of turf erosion and obstructed views, which were never problems for the 60 previous years when Christian messages dominated, they shut down the whole display. The Atheists did it! By expressing themselves!! To the point where Christians couldn't stand it and shut down everything!! How dare they!!! As Fox nobly reminds us:
“It's a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.
Yes, religious groups have no choice but to “hunt for a home” for their nativity displays. But where? Where could these poor, down-and-out, rich and powerful victims possibly move their displays? After all, they are limited to ONLY 12 other parks in the city, or on the front lawns of dozens of churches in the immediate area, or in any of tens of thousands of private lawns or open spaces. Or even in the same park where the nativity displays have traditionally been, so long as the park is open and the displays are attended. But not in that one park, at least when it is closed! Christian voices are being STRANGLED!! Atheists are killing CHRISTMAS!! Coming up next on Fox's hit series War on Christmas: “We find something to bitch about in the Obama White House 'Holiday' cards!” There are only wrapped presents, a poinsettia, and a Christmas wreath! No tree! And they don't use the word “Christmas”! And they don't write “We hate Muslims and Atheists!” on the card! Don't they know that the whole idea of Christmas Spirit is to exclude everyone else?!?

Categories: People Can Be Idiots, Religion Tags:

Well, That Didn’t Last Long

November 21st, 2012 1 comment
Dean Chambers, the guy who ran that “UnSkewedPolls.com” web site, was unusually rational for a Republican after the election was over. He admitted that he read the polling data wrong, and congratulated Nate Silver on calling it right. At the time, I ran a blog post noting this unusual case from within the right-wing bubble of a Republican recognizing the obvious. Well, it didn't last. Turns out Chambers was probably just nursing a hangover or something, because he got right back up and started “BarackOFraudo.com” (um, that would be “O'Fraud-A, because his name is Obam-A; at least get your vowels right, dude), a web site dedicated to ”exposing how they stole the 2012 election.“ Out of curiosity, I clicked on the state of Ohio on his map, a map (obviously stolen from RealClear Politics) which claims that Obama won four states—Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida—through vote fraud. Under the title ”Vote Scamming in Cleveland,“ Chambers notes that ”Democrats are known for years for stuffing the ballot boxes in the city of Cleveland“ (They are? Care to cite any actual evidence, like Bush's comprehensive 5-year investigation that found essentially nothing?), and boldly claims that ”This was true with the state of Ohio in the 2012 presidential election.“ Yes, we know that because of the huge piles of No Evidence. Then he backs it up with, well, very ambiguous reporting of numbers with no explicit conclusions. He indirectly cites that Obama won by wide margins in Cuyahoga County, ”including 9 voting divisions where Romney received zero votes and many more voting divisions where Romney received fewer than a half percent of the votes.“ He notes the same in Philadelphia. Huh. Some of the poorer urban areas of Cleveland and Philadelphia had no votes for Romney. Gee whiz, I wonder how on earth that could have possibly happened? Nothing occurs to me. I will have to carefully think about this, because that sounds oddly suspicious. I cannot imagine any scenario of events or, I don't know, demographics or stuff, that could possibly account for this. He links to a right-wing web site where they sense the same curious voter fraud, which, like Chambers, they seem to feel is a sure thing because, well, after all, there was a mural of Obama in a voting precinct somewhere. OK, the mural was in Washington D.C., but apparently it caused massive voter fraud across the entire region. All this even though they link to a Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article which explains how such vote counts are, in fact, completely possible:
It's one thing for a Democratic presidential candidate to dominate a Democratic city like Philadelphia, but check out this head-spinning figure: In 59 voting divisions in the city, Mitt Romney received not one vote. Zero. Zilch. ... In a city with 1,687 of the ward subsets known as divisions, each with hundreds of voters, 59 is about 3.5 percent of the total. In some of those divisions, it's not only Romney supporters who are missing. Republicans in general are nearly extinct. Take North Philadelphia's 28th Ward, third division, bounded by York, 24th, and 28th Streets and Susquehanna Avenue. About 94 percent of the 633 people who live in that division are black. Seven white residents were counted in the 2010 census. In the entire 28th Ward, Romney received only 34 votes to Obama's 5,920. Although voter registration lists, which often contain outdated information, show 12 Republicans live in the ward's third division, The Inquirer was unable to find any of them by calling or visiting their homes. Four of the registered Republicans no longer lived there; four others didn't answer their doors. City Board of Elections registration data say a registered Republican used to live at 25th and York Streets, but none of the neighbors across the street Friday knew him. Cathy Santos, 56, founder of the National Alliance of Women Veterans, had one theory: ”We ran him out of town!“ she said and laughed. James Norris, 19, who lives down the street, is listed as a Republican in city data. But he said he's a Democrat and voted for Obama because he thinks the president will help the middle class. A few blocks away, Eric Sapp, a 42-year-old chef, looked skeptical when told that city data had him listed as a registered Republican. ”I got to check on that,“ said Sapp, who voted for Obama. Eighteen Republicans reportedly live in the nearby 15th Division, according to city registration records. The 15th has the distinction of pitching two straight Republican shutouts - zero votes for McCain in 2008, zero for Romney on Tuesday. Oh, and 13 other city divisions did the same thing in 2008 and 2012. Three of the 15th's registered Republicans were listed as living in the same apartment, but the tenant there said he had never heard of them. The addresses of several others could not be found.
Some conservatives are noted as claiming voter fraud is behind some of this and cite it as evidence that there should be voter ID laws in place. The Inquirer points out that ”[t]he absence of a voter-ID law, however, would not stop anyone from voting for a Republican candidate.“ Essentially, any fraud would have to include removing any votes for Romney from the ballot boxes, something not claimed and certainly something not supported by evidence. Nor would ”stuffing the ballot boxes“ in districts amounting to a few thousand votes sway things in a state Obama won by hundreds of thousands. What we have here are small areas of solidly black, Democratic voters voting en masse for Obama. Which, apparently, is enough to trigger claims of ”vote fraud“ by conservatives. The right-wing web site amusing concluded, in some of the very small, solidly Democratic districts:
...political uniformity may indeed have been achieved.
Yes. Achieved. It's a nefarious Democratic plan to get all the low-income black people to gather together in small urban districts so that no one in a few blocks' radius votes Republican. Yes, that's the reason things turned out that way. Such an ingenious, insidious plan! Back to Chamber's web site, I was amused to find that the pages for Pennsylvania and Florida had the exact same text as the one for Ohio:
Vote Scamming in [state name] Democrats are known for years for stuffing the ballot boxes in a number of heavily Democrat leaning [area type] in [geographic area name]… This was true with the state of [state name] in the 2012 presidential election.
Essentially, what these people are getting down to is simple: black people voting for Obama in heavily black areas is equivalent to voter fraud. That's why we need to stop them from voting with Voter ID laws. Perfectly logical.

Categories: Republican Stupidity Tags:

On the Practicality of Reason

November 21st, 2012 3 comments
Marco Rubio has been in the news recently for equivocating on the age of the Earth:
I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
Translation: “I can't have science which contradicts fundie beliefs! I'm running for president, for Pete's sake!” A lot of apologists for this kind of young-earth creationism try to make it seem like there is no real-world impact for denying the science on this. A lot of people who know science disagree, saying that, for example, believing evolution is false will have a real impact on a student's understanding of biology and other aspects of science. However, it is sometimes hard to see exactly how that works. After all, most people don't learn enough about biology or science in general for the difference between believing or not believing in science to have any real impact on their lives. As a result, the effects of fundamentalist denial of science remains distant. One conservative, not necessarily religious, form of science denial is starting to break through to people's lives: the denial of climate change. Seeing Rhode Island-sized chunks of ice break off the polar caps every other month are one thing, but storms the size of Hurricane Sandy now pounding our shores on a regular basis have made things even more plainly obvious. But what about the age of the universe? The age of the Earth? How does that effect us on a daily basis? Paul Krugman took a stab at it recently, noting: “If you’re going to ignore what geologists say if you don’t like its implications, what are the chances that you’ll take sensible advice on monetary and fiscal policy? After all, we’ve just seen how Republicans deal with research reports that undermine their faith in the magic of tax cuts: they try to suppress the reports.” In essence, denying science begets denying facts, an excellent point in light of current and recent conservative beliefs, policies, and actions. However, that is still indirect, and therefore relatively difficult for many taken in by the fundie narrative to internalize. How can we state in more concrete terms that denying the science on the age of the Earth as well as a variety of fossil life consistent with that age has real-world impacts? How can we show in better kick-to-the-gut terms that accepting evolution is in fact an important thing? One attempt was antibiotics, and how the microorganisms we fight with them are rapidly evolving, making more and more of our medicines ineffective. However, fundamentalists have a workaround: that kind of evolution, the kind we can observe in real life, we'll call that “micro-evolution,” which yields only small changes in organisms over short periods of time, and accept it because it can be consistent with a young earth; but it is different from “macro-evolution,” the kind which says all life evolved over billions of years. Have you ever seen a giraffe evolve into a hippo in a laboratory? No? Then I will smugly not believe in this “macro-evolution” kick you're on because you have no evidence that is easily digestible in sound bites a layman can discern without trying too hard. Now, don't get me wrong, all of these arguments are dead wrong, in any number of ways. But you have to remember that the problem lies in getting non-scientists to understand, and answers like the one above, as clearly wrong and flawed to a scientist as it is, is nevertheless more than enough to assure a fundie who, after all, wants to believe in whatever supports their religious beliefs. What we need is an argument which is not too technical, but which shows clearly that young-Earth creationism simply can't be right. Just today, I found a great example of just that. Alex Knapp at Forbes does it:
Now, Marco Rubio’s Republican colleague Representative Paul Broun, who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology, recently stated that it was his belief that the Universe is only 9,000 years old. Well, if Broun is right and physicists are wrong, then we have a real problem. Virtually all modern technology relies on optics in some way, shape or form. And in the science of optics, the fact that the speed of light is constant in a vacuum is taken for granted. But the speed of light must not be constant if the universe is only 9,000 years old. It must be capable of being much, much faster. That means that the fundamental physics underlying the Internet, DVDs, laser surgery, and many many more critical parts of the economy are based on bad science. The consequences of that could be drastic, given our dependence on optics for our economic growth. Here’s an even more disturbing thought – scientists currently believe that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old because radioactive substances decay at generally stable rates. Accordingly, by observing how much of a radioactive substance has decayed, scientists are able to determine how old that substance is. However, if the Earth is only 9,000 years old, then radioactive decay rates are unstable and subject to rapid acceleration under completely unknown circumstances. This poses an enormous danger to the country’s nuclear power plants, which could undergo an unanticipated meltdown at any time due to currently unpredictable circumstances. Likewise, accelerated decay could lead to the detonation of our nuclear weapons, and cause injuries and death to people undergoing radioactive treatments in hospitals. Any of these circumstances would obviously have a large economic impact. If the Earth is really 9,000 years old, as Paul Broun believes and Rubio is willing to remain ignorant about, it becomes imperative to shut down our nuclear plants and dismantle our nuclear stockpiles now until such time as scientists are able to ascertain what circumstances exist that could cause deadly acceleration of radioactive decay and determine how to prevent it from happening.
That is an excellent point. Dating techniques are based upon the science of understanding the decay of atoms. This decay is directly linked to both the measured age of objects far older than the supposed creationist age of the universe and to the stability of nuclear power and weapons. If it is unreliable, then so is everything based on atomic decay. Atomic decay is used to regulate time, for crying out loud; the time you set your watch by is determined by atomic clocks. The chemotherapy for cancer treatments someone in your family is bound to have undergone, or is undergoing, is also directly related to this—that person could die if the science on radioactive decay is wrong. So! Hearing this, fundamentalists will give up and concede the earth is 4.54 billion years old, right? Yeah, I know. That's the thing—if a person wants to believe something without having to pay the price for it in some other way, they'll always find a way. One way is what a lot of these fundies do: simply ignore the effective arguments and facts. Pretend they don't exist. They already do this, relying on a host of bogus arguments “proving” “evil-ution” is wrong, despite a mountain of science, collected here, for instance, proving their arguments are rubbish. Other forms of denial exist, up to and including the “nuclear option” of denialism: God created the universe to seem like it's old so as to test our faith. Yeah, that must be it. God created a vast universe full of carefully crafted and fully-consistent deception all for the benefit of our tiny race on on our tiny planet, to see if our love of Him is great enough that we will believe more in the science gleaned from an ancient, error-filled, inconsistent philosophy text written by people who did not know about and were not writing about science than we will believe in the actual universe in front of our eyes. Yes, that's reasonable. Aside from the fact that this supposition is ludicrous, there is another key flaw: it presumes that virtually all of creation is a lie intended to deceive us. It assumes that God created us flawed so we could be deceived, then deceived us, and then punishes the deceived with an eternity of pain and horror. Again… yeah, I know. Making these arguments won't shift the beliefs of the deeply committed. So, why argue any of this? Because there are many on the fringes, especially the young ones who have not heard these arguments before, the ones whose “hearts have not been hardened,” who will hear the arguments and will perhaps succumb to reason. Reason, which Martin Luther himself identified as “the greatest enemy faith has.” And it is working. The number of those not affiliated with an established religion is growing. As Rick Santorum pointed out recently, many young people going to college and learning this satanic “critical thinking” hogwash are coming out of college less convinced about fundamentalist denialism than they were going in. He called it “indoctrination.” Which is the opposite of the truth, of course. “The indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned.” That kind of goes against the entire idea of critical thinking—but “indoctrination” describes perfectly what fundamentalists want their kids to stick with. What we need is more exposure to the idea that, in Genesis, the Hebrew word “yom”—as in, the six yom of creation—can mean “era” just as legitimately as it can mean “day.” Once people realize that they can believe in the Bible and in science, things will go a lot smoother. The problem: organized religion. You see, it has been insisting for quite some time that the translation of that word is a 24-hour “day.” And these people claim to directly represent God. They claim that they are the dispensers of High Truth. Realizing that Genesis could refer to “eras” makes a lot of sense and would allow for believers to believe that the Bible was never in error on that point. But it would mean that the church which pushed the 24-hour day interpretation was in error, and we can't have that. But there is hope. It took the Catholic Church just four centuries to “forgive” Galileo for being right. So, all we have to do is wait several hundred years. Maybe they'll come around on this, too.

Categories: Religion, Science Tags:

Scrolling

November 19th, 2012 1 comment
On a less serious topic: what the hell is with Apple and scroll bars? Actually, I like the new, slenderized scroll bars Apple started using with the last OS. The problem is, their implementation of them sucks. Big time. If you use a recent version of Mac OS X, you probably know what I'm talking about. The scroll bars stay visible too long when you don't want them to, and disappear frustratingly when you need them. Two cases in point. First, when you have a file & folder window which has files that equal or exceed the height and width of the window, the bottom scroll bar uselessly appears. Not a problem—unless you happen to want to select the file at the bottom of the window, which I frequently do. In which case, the bottom scroll bar, for moving horizontally, which I almost never use, annoyingly persists. I have to first realize that I have to move the cursor away, and then wait a moment before it disappears—and then when I try to click on the item, the bar reappears and persist even longer. I am constantly blocked from clicking on that last item. What the frack, Apple. If you don't like the appearance of the bar, fine, but in such cases, make the last item in the list pop above the scroll bar, or else leave an empty gap at the bottom for the bar to inhabit. Whatever, just stop blocking icons. Second, when you want to scroll up or down a very long list, as I frequently do in Apple's Mail app, the vertical scroll bar disappears too readily—the exact opposite of the above problem. I use Mail to keep all my email, over many years (I find it a useful way to find records and even files), but that means long lists. I often find myself needing to scroll longer than is feasible by trackpad, so I need to go to the scroll bar and click-and-drag the tab—the entire reason it becomes visible in the first place. But Apple seems to want to play “keep-away” with the tab. Instead of it persisting—a stupid action when it is blocking an item—the right scroll bar far too easily disappears, despite the fact that it blocks nothing at all and there is no reason whatsoever for it to quickly disappear. Quite the contrary, there is every reason for it to stay put! I find myself having to scroll the list up to make the bar appear, and then scramble my fingers to a one-finger controlled hover over the bar once it appears, something not always easy to do. It's bad enough that Apple made the keyboard command for jumping to the top of the list impossible to guess. (Fn-Left Arrow, really? In an environment where Command-Up Arrow is the standard?)

Categories: Mac News Tags:

Benghazi, Part II

November 18th, 2012 1 comment
This seems to be the core outcome of Petraeus' testimony, at least as far as Republicans are concerned:
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), exiting yesterday from a closed door meeting with Petraeus, said the retired general told the House Homeland Security Committee that the original CIA-drafted talking points named two militant groups — Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — but that those references were removed from the version ultimately used by Rice. King, recounting Petraeus’ testimony, said, “It was a long process, an interagency process and when they came back it had been taken out.” There was instead only a passing reference to “extremists” in the final draft. Petraeus reportedly told the lawmakers he wasn’t sure which agency replaced the groups’ names with the word “extremist” in the final draft. “The fact is, the reference to al-Qaeda was taken out somewhere along the line by someone outside the intelligence community,” King said. “We need to find out who did it and why.”
Ah. So, in an intelligence report which informed the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., the names of groups seen as responsible were scrubbed somewhere along the line. Let me see, where did we see this before? Oh, wasn't that is the Bush administration, when Colin Powell went before the U.N. with all that fake info? Gee, what was Congressman King's reaction when he discovered that Powell's information was entirely wrong? Apparently, he was not very concerned and did not call for an investigation. In fact, King was later a vocal supporter of Colin Powell when there was speculation that Powell would Run for Hillary. Instead, King among others is calling Rice incompetent, apparently for reporting what she had been told. Whatever the case, incorrect information about security affairs was publicly given by the Obama administration. So, should I be condemning them the way I would equally condemn the Bush administration? Let's see. Powell's testimony was slanted, but we now know it was intentionally slanted by those inside the Bush administration. That testimony helped start a war which cost the lives of thousands of U.S. troops, tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, and helped bankrupt the nation. There is no outcome in the current case which is even remotely similar. No decade-long ground war in Libya or anywhere else that will begin as a result. With Powell's testimony, there was a clear motive for releasing false information. With Rice's testimony, there was no motive—Obama stood to gain nothing from misrepresenting the cause of the attack. In fact, he may be lauded for not crying terrorism—we recall that Bush, in 2004, did exactly that, inflating claims of imminent terrorism to make people more aware a policy area that favored Bush, just as that exact same policy area now favors Obama. Obama, however, was cautiously quiet, where he would have benefitted to make a big deal out of it. The opposite of a scandal. In the case of Powell's testimony, it was clear that the data was intentionally altered in order to promote an agenda of war. In the case of Rice's testimony, there was no motive for anything; it appears to be nothing more than a bureaucratic or clerical screw-up at least, or some minor intrigue within the intelligence community at most. We still do not even know how the names were taken from the reports, or even if there was any intent to do so. But even assuming the worst, there is nothing more than a need to fix that cog in the machine. So King, who overlooked an intentional intelligence scandal when his party was in charge, will likely be trying to invent an equivalent scandal where none exists. As will McCain and the rest of the GOP. Because, you know, they're all so bipartisan and stuff. America First. Reaching across the aisle to strangle the opposition.

Benghazi

November 17th, 2012 4 comments
Having heard about an unholy amount of chatter about Benghazi for the umpteenth time, I decided that I'd better inform myself about it. All I knew was that there was some uncertainty after the fact about what the cause had been, that the Obama administration had given mixed signals as to whether it was a planned attack or a spontaneous event triggered by the anti-Muslim video. I knew that Romney had tried to zing Obama in the debates about whether he had identified it as a terror attack or if he had blamed the video, but that was obviously a trifle. I mean, conservatives are talking about this being worse than Watergate; that rises to a pretty serious level. It suggests that the government did something illegal and, knowing this, Obama tried to have it covered up. So, what was the illegal action? I had heard people talking about botched security, either a lack of overall preparedness, or a decision at some level to withhold rescue for the diplomats. As far as I can tell, this is pure speculation. I also heard something about there being two prisoners held at the CIA annex in the consulate, and the attack was a mission to break them out. The CIA denies that such prisoners were held there. Fox is trying to sell the narrative that the White House dawdled and delayed at the time of the attack, painting a picture of the embassy staff repeatedly pleading for permission to escape or getting military assistance while Obama and his staff coldly told them to sit and wait and did nothing. Reading the article, it appears to be the usual Fox combination of unnamed sources, cherry-picked information, and directed conclusions. The most central claims, it seems, appear to focus simply on the reporting of the facts by the Obama administration; McCain, for example, called it “a cover-up or the worst kind of incompetence,” and demands investigations—but seems to focus only on how it was reported by Obama and U.N. Ambassador Rice. The thing is, none of what is being reported rises to the level of an illegal action, so far as I can tell. The mixed messages seem to be the result of scattered intelligence and possibly poor coordination, but that's not illegal. If prisoners were being held at the CIA complex, was that illegal? I wouldn't think so, and certainly I don't hear that being held as the center of the scandal. If the White House failed to react in a timely or effective manner, that might be a black eye for them, but it's not illegal. And if there is no illegal action, then a “cover-up” is also not illegal. Who knows. Maybe there is something here, but it sure as heck doesn't look like it. What it looks like is what we've seen several times before: the conservative bubble seeing an event or crisis that could harbor some kind of wrongdoing by the Obama administration, so they immediately claim there is a scandal, while they flail about with any variety of conspiracy theories that, of course, “demand” full investigations with committees and prosecutors and such, while the right-wing media does everything it can to make it appear that there is something actually going on. Paul Waldman at The American Prospect seems to sum it up best:
So what's going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with “Fast and Furious,” but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn't produce the criminality they hoped for either. Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely livid, and they're going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there's no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it's all they have handy.


An Ungracious Exit

November 16th, 2012 5 comments
Usually, when a candidate loses an election, he makes a gracious concession speech and then, in a dignified manner, retires from public attention for a while. We may hear from him later on, but we do not hear him grousing about how the other guy illicitly won the election. Even Al Gore, who lost because the other guy actually did steal the election, in the most galling ways, even Gore did not complain about how the election was lost. He commented on other stuff, like how Bush ignored the warnings before 9/11, but that was years later. After November 2000, he gracefully conceded and faded away for a few years. Not so Mitt Romney. Barely a week after he loses the election, he's still grousing to other rich people about how Obama stole the election from him by promising poor people, minorities, and women “free stuff.” He bitterly suggested that Democrats try to give away free dental care in 2016, suggesting that trillion-dollar unpaid-for giveaways are nothing to liberals. You see, we Democrats are immoral here. You should never win elections by providing things to the electorate. You should win them by providing things to your patrons, in particular wealthy people and corporations. That's the only moral way to win an election. So, what was the “free stuff” Obama bribed voters with? According to Romney, it was Obama's healthcare law and support for comprehensive immigration reform. The problem is, neither of these things really have a significant impact on the budget, but they do help remedy serious problems we face today. In truth, we need better. Single-payer would be more cost-effective still, as would controls on health care prices—but both are fanatically opposed by conservatives like Romney. Immigration needs to be fixed, but “self-deportation” is as ludicrous and insulting as Romney's pipe dream that he would solve the trade war he'd start with China by looking at them sternly. So, reasonable and economically feasible plans that address social needs, that's “free stuff” which costs trillions of dollars a pop. Unlike Bush's Medicare plans, which cost vast sums of money and were actually unpaid for, which acted as “free stuff” for seniors, a powerful voting bloc, and was a payoff to Big Pharma to boot. That, apparently, was OK. Same with Romney's tax gifts. Apparently, a 20% tax cut across the board, which Romney vigorously tried to frame as being for the middle class, would have cost nearly $5 trillion over ten years, and was unpaid for. That was not “free stuff”? It would provide a huge slice of what government does for free, so I think that qualifies. And, like Bush's Pharma payoff, Romney's tax plan would have been a ginormous gift to the rich. Corporate taxes slashed by 30%. Marginal tax rates for the wealthy slashed by 20%, and if, like many wealthy people—including Romney!—you could engineer your income to be capital gains, that would be slashed to zero! And no taxes in death, either. Yeah, that's definitely not “free stuff.” What this shows, more than anything else, is that Romney's 47% speech that was released on video was not some aberration. It was not something that just “came out wrong.” It appears that this is, in fact, exactly what Romney believes to be true. Remember how Romney kept saying stuff during the election which was based on far-right-field stuff from extreme web sites? Like the idea that Obama did not use the word “terror” to describe the Benghazi attacks? More and more, it is apparent that this is who Romney is—a guy who reads Newsbusters and Red State, believes them literally, and uses them as sources for his claims. We thought he was a cipher, a blank slate, a flip-flopper who would say or do anything but in fact represented nothing. We were wrong. He's a wingnut. A Freeper. And he's a sore loser.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

All or Nothing

November 14th, 2012 4 comments
It's been said of late that conservatives are so patriotic that they want to secede from the union. They love the Constitution so much, they want to rewrite it. They love Democracy, but hate when people they disagree with vote. They love America, but clearly hate most Americans. They want to do away with government handouts, but will cry havoc if anyone threatens to touch their Social Security or Medicare checks. They denounce government pork, but take the lion's share. They seem to think that the central theme of a nation which calls itself a “union” is “every man for himself.” And now that their extremism has truly begun to marginalize them despite every game and trick they can imagine to inflate their influence, more and more of them are having tantrums. A Republican woman in Arizona was so distraught after Obama won, she ran her husband down with her car because he failed to vote. She claimed that “she believed her family would suffer under a second term of President Barack Obama.” The Republican county treasurer in Hardin, Texas, made public his opinion that Texas should secede, saying that “in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic.” He claimed to just want to “avoid this gut-wrenching spectacle every four years.” One presumes he did not feel this way in 2004, nor would he have if Romney had won. However, it is no longer just scattered nutballs at the fringe. It is, instead, a growing conservative movement. Petitions have begin to grow for secession. At the White House web site, there are petitions for 35 states to secede from the union. Seven have grown to over 20,000 signatures; Texas is at 85,000. Each petition reads the same: “Peacefully grant the State of [state name] to Withdraw from the United States of America and Create its own NEW Government.” West Virginia, apparently, wants to form its own “NEW Govern.” On the one hand, it's relatively easy to dismiss: I see no filter which would prevent people from other states or even other countries signing the petitions. I am not sure, but doubt there is a limit to home many petitions one person may sign. Nevertheless, the disparity in numbers for each suggests at least that it's not an automated con job. The greatest caveat is sincerity; perhaps most people doing this individually are doing so as a form of protest. However, you know that with many—who knows, maybe more than half the numbers—they are sincere. Maybe not very knowledgable, maybe not aware what secession actually means, but sincere nevertheless. And you can bet that the sincere ones essentially want to leave the table and stick the remaining parties with the check. Take Texas, for example. You think they want to take their share of the national debt with them? By population, it's nearly $1.3 trillion. I almost signed their petition. All of this is not about what is claimed. When the debt was skyrocketing under Bush, no one was clamoring for secession. Had Romney been elected and had he been able to institute his policies, the debt would have shot up (instead of having gone down under Obama); in that case, again, you can be assured there would have been no such outcry for secession. Despite their claims, the secessionists are not about the debt; they are fine with it when their party is in power. Nor do I think it is mostly about race. For some, yes; there is undeniably a racist tinge to much of the discontent. But I believe that were it Hillary or Biden instead of Obama, we'd be seeing the same thing. No, I think this has more to do with simply being in control. Fully in control. Getting everything that you want. What summed it up best, in my opinion, was a small story from 2005, just a few months after Bush was re-elected. Republicans owned the White House and controlled both houses of Congress. The Supreme Court was deciding cases more conservatively than not. Fox News was the loudest voice out there, MSNBC not having yet found its voice. Most pundits were conservatives, as were the loudest and the most often heard. Sunday talk shows predominantly featured Republicans. Conservative views and policies ran over liberal ones. At that time, Starbucks had a little campaign called “The Way I See It,” in which quotes, often political, were printed on the cups. Most were from liberal personalities. A Republican woman in Florida lamented, “I'm not surprised. I'm used to being under-represented.” Now, think about that. “I'm used to being under-represented.” For the previous two years, her party had full control over the entire government, and for almost all of it for more than four years, and had just won re-election and control for another two. In her state, her party controlled the governorship and the legislature, and had for some time. How exactly was this woman “under-represented”? We see this many times in conservative culture. White males dominate in virtually every manner of success and benefit from widespread racial preference, and yet whine about “reverse discrimination.” Christians see their religion and beliefs dominate the nation in almost every single respect, but literally throw themselves on the ground in lamentation over a “war on Christianity.” It seems that the more conservatives get, the more they feel victimized when the last scraps are still held by someone else. This is how many conservatives see politics: as an all-or-nothing game. Either we get everything we want, or it's never enough. We win, we get to do anything we want. We lose, and we wreck the game and scatter the pieces. This is precisely what Republicans in Congress have been doing: overrunning when in power, obstructing when not. I hate to use the old cliché, but there is no better analogy for what we are seeing than a spoiled-rotten three-year-old throwing a shrieking, foot-stamping tantrum because he can't have everyone's cake. It is simply far too apt. Tell you what. Take a few southern states, give them to the hard-core right-wingers, make sure they take their portion of the debt (they did, after all, incur most of it, but let's divide it evenly anyway), and let them build their 20-foot wall around their new country. We'll be far better off without these people. Just make sure they don't take any nukes with them.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

GOP Cooperating? Isn’t That Like Sharks Hugging?

November 12th, 2012 3 comments
Bill Kristol himself is noting that Republicans will have to actually act in a bipartisan way and compromise, instead of being totally obstructionist and just pretending to be the bipartisan ones:
“I think Republicans will have to give in much more than they think,” Kristol said. He believes Obama will be able to pass major, consequential legislation in his second term. “Four presidents in the last century have won more than 51 percent of the vote twice: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Obama,” Kristol said. “I think there will be a big budget deal next year. It will be an Obama-type budget deal much more than a Paul Ryan-type budget deal.”
This seems to hold with Boehner's apparent “maybe we could possibly see our way towards some kind of compromise perhaps” attitude as of late. So, is this a Charlie-Brown-and-Lucy football-kicking fakeout? Are Republicans just acting in a compromising and bipartisan fashion only so they can later bug out, but claim it was Obama who bullied them into it? Or have conservatives actually figured out that their demographics are sinking, their histrionics are getting old and worn, and that maybe obstructionism isn't working for them as well as they thought? I think that, in private, they did not miss the fact that they not only lost the presidency and the Senate rather significantly, but they also lost the House—a trend that will only intensify. And that in order to keep even the House, they are going to have to start rethinking this whole batshit-crazy let-nothing-pass crap that's been sinking the economy—now that the electorate has given them a not-so-gentle nudge to say, “Stop fracking around and start getting some work done.” Of course, I am ever the optimist.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Why Romney Lost

November 11th, 2012 3 comments
Conservatives are suggesting lots of reasons. The media was in the tank for Obama. Hurricane Sandy robbed Romney of his “momentum.” Romney did not vilify Obamacare enough. Obama and/or pollsters “suppressed the vote.” And so forth. Of course, that's all crap. The media, as always, tried as hard as possible to make the election a horse race, which gets them ratings. Romney's “momentum” had died well before Hurricane Sandy, and was not his momentum but instead Obama's self-injury in Denver, from which he recovered. Romney could not vilify Obamacare more than it had been vilified, and people were beginning to tire of the claim, not to mention Romney's case was weak because of Romneycare. And as for suppressing the vote, that's a contemptible fabrication from a party that put forth the most powerful drive to suppress the vote in living memory. So, why did Romney lose? To me, the reason was simple: Republicans didn't have anyone competent who could pass through their sickeningly twisted nomination process, and once Romney was through it, it turned out that he was a rich, elitist, out-of-touch, lying, flip-flopping Mormon Gordon Gekko who spat on poor people (the “47%”), proposed raising taxes on everyone but the rich (for whom he would cut taxes deeply, again), gave no details on any of his ludicrous and fraudulent plans, and chose an extremist VP candidate famous for idolizing an radical atheist and wanting to kill Medicare and Social Security. I mean, seriously, what does it take to lose a presidential campaign nowadays? It's not surprising at all that Romney lost. What was amazing is that he came as close as he did to winning. Not too close, but enough to make your hair stand on end when you think about what people could see he was and yet voted for him anyway. Is it just my imagination, or do politicians in the GOP have to regularly say and do things today which would have destroyed the career of any politician just thirty years ago? Update: This helps make the case. I am pretty certain you could not make a video like this of Obama, not without using selective editing to fake half the stuff, and even then the video would only be about 20 seconds long and still not half as damning as this.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Aftermath Analysis

November 10th, 2012 3 comments
Jeesh, have I been busy. Have been putting in 10- to 13-hour days this week, only to get home needing to do another 2-3 hours before getting to bed. The weekend is for catch-up. However, I want to comment on some of the post-game analysis going on regarding the election. Many on the left are saying now that all that Super PAC spending “didn't matter,” and that attempts to suppress the Democratic vote failed. I am not so sure. I have serious trouble believing that, had the spending been equal on both sides, and had there been no attempts to suppress the vote, that the results would have been exactly the same, or almost so. It's hard for me to accept the idea that Obama did not lose a fair amount of the popular vote, maybe as much as a few percent, as a result of the GOP's more extreme efforts. It's possible that the electoral outcome would have been the same, because Romney had no close-call states. The closest margin Romney won by was 2.2%, in North Carolina; in all other states he won, he won by an 8% margin or higher. Obama might possibly have won North Carolina, but he could not have gone so far as to get Georgia. On the other hand, Obama could have easily lost Florida, and perhaps Ohio and Virginia, had Republicans gone even further. If, say, the courts had not backed Democratic efforts to open polling places, or had they allowed voter ID laws to stay in effect. What's interesting—and what one could easily point to to suggest a mandate for Obama—is that in almost all other states, Obama also won by significant margins. While Florida might have been a squeaker, and Ohio & Virginia were around 2%, every other state he won by nearly 5% or better. Almost no amount of additional Republican election fraud (possibly not even including extreme hacking of computerized vote counts) would have pulled those states into Romney's column. Even if Obama had lost Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to Romney, he still would have had 272 electoral votes—still more than enough to win. In a fascinating turn of events, Ohio was, it turns out, not the key state—Colorado was. And Obama won it by 4.7%, meaning Romney would have had to push the dial that far back in the other direction in order to win the White House. So, Obama did not just win by 2.6% of the popular vote, nor did he win by getting Ohio by a margin of 1.9%. Effectively, Obama won by a 4.7% margin. Nationwide, that represents 5.7 million votes, close to double the 3.2 million popular votes Obama received. This election was not a squeaker, not by a long shot. Nor was Obama's lead one that he could have easily lost. While not a landslide, it was a solid, insurmountable win for the president. As a result, we can conclude that the GOP's efforts failed not because they were ineffective, but because Obama simply had so much support that he won by a wide margin. Which is why Nate Silver's forecast never had Obama drop below 280 electoral votes; no matter how “close” things seemed in the polls, Obama had a very strong electoral position from day one.
Now, Republicans are already trying to wring the numbers to make it look like Obama's support is weak, or that their own policies were somehow affirmed. Mitch McConnell even suggested that voters did not “endorse” the president, but instead the mandate was to not raise taxes on the rich. Let's take a quick look back to 2004, shall we? Bush won 286 electoral votes, compared to 332 for Obama this year. Bush won by a 2.4% margin, compared to Obama's 2.6% win. At that time, conservatives across the board proclaimed a Bush mandate, followed by Bush himself. Well, if Bush had a mandate with 2.4% and 286 electoral votes, how does Obama not have one with 2.6% and 332 electoral votes? Republicans hang on to the thread that is their House majority, claiming it shows that Americans want them there, or at least that Americans don't want change. However, along with picking up two seats in the Senate, Democrats won the House as well—or, they would have won the House, had Republicans not gerrymandered the hell out of more than half the states. Democrats, in fact, beat Republicans in House races in the popular vote by half a percent; that this led to a 35-or-so-seat margin of victory for Republicans, despite Republicans have deep support in limited places and not broad support overall, can only be explained by gerrymandering. Think about it: Obama won by 2.6% to 4.7% in terms of actual people voting. Democrats picked up 2 extra seats in the Senate. Why would people vote for Democrats at the presidential and Senate levels, but switch to Republican in local districts? The answer: they didn't. They voted Democratic. That was their choice. The only reason it is not reflected in the election results is because the Republicans engineered districts to allow them—in a more traditional, time-honored way—to steal votes.
Of course, that fact does not stop the Republicans from coming up with various excuses as to how Obama's win was illicit, and the people really voted for them all the way. Fox's favorite is now almost a cliché: to suggest that The Liberal Media bought Obama the election. The Liberal Media blamed Bush too much for the current state of things. The Liberal Media failed to report enough of “the numbers” that showed Obama to be a failure.The Liberal Media glossed over Obama's scandals. The Liberal Media gave unfairly lopsided fact-checking against Romney. And The Liberal Media focused too much on little stuff like Chris Christie's positive comments. As one conservative summed it up:
The media lauded Obama no matter how horrendous his record, and they savaged Obama’s Republican contenders as ridiculous pretenders.
Yeah, they never said anything bad about Obama, and never stopped bashing Romney unfairly. That was it. What that really means is, the non-Fox media outlets didn't go completely Fox on Obama. Which is equivalent to being in the tank for Obama and throwing the election his way. Another Fox analysis was more in-depth, which is fun to pick apart:
The Media’s Biased Gaffe Patrol Hammered Romney: The media unfairly jumped on inconsequential mistakes — or even invented controversies — from Romney and hyped them in to multi-day media “earthquakes.”
Laughably, they equate Romney's “47%” remarks with Obama's “The private sector is doing fine,” as if these were equal gaffes that should have gotten equal criticism. In response, Andy Borowitz said it best: “BREAKING: Man Who Told Half the Nation to Fuck Themselves Somehow Loses Election.” Number 2:
Pounding Romney With Partisan Fact Checking: There’s nothing wrong with holding politicians accountable for the honesty of their TV ads and stump speeches, but this year the self-appointed media fact-checkers attacked Republicans as liars for statements that were accurate.
Yeah, not really. I posted on that here, the upshot being that the fact-checkers drowned themselves in false equivalencies; Romney demonstrably lied 3 or 4 times more than Obama, but the “fact-checkers” worked hard to make the truth levels seem the same. As bad as that was, it wasn't nearly enough for Fox & Family. Number 3:
Those Biased Debate Moderators: Upset liberals scorned PBS’s Jim Lehrer for taking a hands-off approach in the first debate on October 3, with MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman slamming him as “practically useless” for not jumping into the debate on behalf of President Obama.
Yeah, how dare those other two moderators actually note Romney's lies, right there in front of everyone. Moderators are not guardians of truth or fact, they're supposed to sit still and shut up when a candidate spouts outrageous lies. How dare they. Number 4:
The Benghazi Blackout: Right after the September 11 attack in Libya, the networks proclaimed that the events would bolster President Obama — “reminding voters of his power as commander-in-chief,” as NBC’s Peter Alexander stated on the September 14 edition of “Today.” But as a cascade of leaked information erased the portrait of Obama as a heroic commander, the broadcast networks shunted the Benghazi story to the sidelines.
Here we see classic conservative projection: as happened with 9/11 and other tragedies, right-wing media rush to politicize events as they claim their competition did for Obama. This is kind of similar to the anguished cry of the late 90's right wing, Where's the outrage that the president got a hummer and lied about it? Can't you see that children are being traumatized by our endless splashing of lurid details in the media? Sometimes, manufactured outrage is so hard to generate and so often unappreciated. Benghazi was, at most, a wash. That Obama did not transform the diplomatic bureaucracy into a fast-acting juggernaut of security-wielding effectiveness is not a valid criticism, nor is it really credible to suggest that withholding judgment for a few weeks till the facts were straight, and only indirectly noting the incident as terror-related was more than a PR bumble at worst. On the other hand, Romney's instant and fact-poor attack before the facts were in were hardly a bright spot, and easily matched whatever mistakes Obama made. Citing poor security also paled in light of Ryan's vote to defund diplomatic security. In the end, all Fox has is an opportunistic smear exploiting a tragedy neither candidate would have been able to avoid. The rest of the media not jumping on the partisan attack wagon is hardly proof that they engineered a whitewashing of the affair in Obama's favor. Number 5:
Burying the Bad Economy: Pundits agreed that Obama’s weakness was the failure of the US economy to revive after his expensive stimulus and four years of $1 trillion deficits. But the major networks failed to offer the sustained, aggressive coverage of the economy that incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush faced in 1992, or even that George W. Bush faced in 2004 — both years when the national economy was in better shape than it is now.
“Pundits agreed”? Which ones? And why should we listen to “pundits”? Granted, you could classify it as a possible “weakness,” but only if you looked at facts from certain angles. This analysis, for example, assumes that the stimulus failed, and it was Obama's fault. However, one of the more cogent arguments Obama made, most pointedly put forth by Bill Clinton, was that Obama stepped in as the economy was collapsing, headed for a new Great Depression—and Obama quickly turned that around and brought us into job-creating territory, with 32 straight months of private sector job growth. The stimulus didn't fail, but it was too weak. Why? Because there were too many tax cuts, and not enough infrastructure spending—Obama tried to pass a better plan, but Republicans blocked him. We know that the stimulus brought an abrupt change for the better, and the amount it failed was minor—if critical—compared to the overall improvement. We also know that tax cuts are ineffective at stimulating job growth—meaning that it had to be the spending that improved the economy. Meaning that had Obama's original plan passed, we'd have stronger growth. Meaning that the failure was more a Republican one—and although the media, especially Fox, did repeatedly bring up the economy and point out it was owned by Obama, nobody mentioned the dragging effect that Republicans had had, and during the six months leading up to the election, few even pointed out the game-playing the GOP did with the debt default, and very little was mentioned about the Republican obstructionism that prevented further reparative efforts on the part of the president. As for the relatively “aggressive” economic criticism in the MSM in 2004, I somehow doubt that this Fox analyst actually relied on facts to support his claim. Nor, I think, would the claim hold water if a review of media attention of the 2000 election were to be included.
What Fox's entire criticism boils down to is that the rest of the media did not follow Fox News' partisan attacks. Some are going a bit further, predictably:
Karl Rove told Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Thursday that President Obama won re-election “by suppressing the vote” with negative campaign ads that “turned off” potential voters, citing a victory that carried a smaller percentage of the popular vote compared to that of the 2008 presidential race.
…Which is record-breaking irony, as Rove's own Super PAC was responsible for the lion's share of negative campaign ads. As for Rove's and other conservatives' use of the specific expression “suppressing the vote,” it is a blatant attempt to smear the other side with the crime rather egregiously committed by themselves. Seriously, when you unilaterally target battleground states with initiatives to obstruct voting by requiring extra effort to obtain IDs, and shut down polling places at specific times, all orchestrated to hinder voting in ways that specifically target voters belonging to the other party... to go around saying the other side is “suppressing the vote” because they ran one negative ad to your four… that's pretty damned egregious. You could even call it “breathtaking.” It is like a corporate raider who legally stole billions from seniors' retirement funds whining that he was overcharged when he paid a buck and a half for a 12-ounce Diet Coke. At least one guy on the right gets credit for not staying on the Kool-Aid IV drip, and that's Dean Chambers, the guy who started the “Unskewed Polls” web site when Romney was closer to his actual popularity levels before Obama screwed up royally in Denver. Chambers, in face of facts, actually owns up honestly and makes no excuses:
I was wrong on that assumption and those who predicted a turnout model of five or six percent in favor of Democrats were right. Likewise, the polling numbers they produced going on that assumption turned out to be right and my “unskewed” numbers were off the mark.
He even went on to congratulate Nate Silver for getting the numbers right better than anyone else. Now, in one sense, this is not a big thing, recognizing the facts. But in light of the fact that nearly every other right-winger in the “Liberal Media” is still in denial, it's rather significant. As unreasonable as Chambers' assumptions were during the campaign, he can at least face facts when they are incontrovertibly placed in front of him. If more conservatives were able to do this, we'd be much better off.

Obama Wins Second Term

November 7th, 2012 10 comments
Well, Thank God. Really. If Romney had won, … well, you get the idea. It would have been bad. As it stands, the Dems have won control of the Senate, and the GOP will almost certainly control the House… putting us back where we have been for the past two years. My guess: the GOP will continue with obstructionism. The question: will Dems be smart enough to limit the filibuster to, say, 5 or 10 per year, or else make it a talk-and-then-vote deal, with the cloture vote going the way of the dinosaur. Not the nuclear option, but enough for Democrats to actually start passing stuff finally--they have been blocked for two years, and hamstrung for four. Side note: already Fox is coming up with excuses. Current headline: “How Media Tipped Scales in Obama's Favor.”

Categories: Election 2012 Tags:

Divided Realities

November 7th, 2012 6 comments
Pop quiz: can you see anything in this screenshot from their web page which looks like it might be biased? Foxhl-1 The real question is, do you see anything that's not biased? Seriously, I think the red banner citing closing times for polls is maybe the only content on that page that's not laughably prejudicial. In particular, note the photo: Fox seems to have found the only image of a line of voters which doesn't have a single black person in it. Not only that, but note the lawn chairs—meaning that this photo was taken before the polls opened, meaning that it was not a problem where people had to wait for 6 to 9 hours, but instead just a lot of people getting ready early in the morning. Two solid bets: one, that the line shown here abruptly ends just out of frame on the right, and two, that once the polling place opened, the line quickly disappeared. Looking back at their web site, they show similar photos in place of that one—but all are of whites only, and all photos are only of small segments of lines, obviously from short waits made to look long. The headlines are almost comical. Three stories on how a voting place in Washington D.C. has a mural of Obama on the wall, as if it's some vast conspiracy to sway voters… when it's an elementary school in a predominantly African-American district, the mural (along with another of Oprah Winfrey) having been voted for by students three years ago. The image of Obama was covered, but Fox, which minimized the fact that it was a school to make it sound more like someone had just painted a mural on a stark municipal building wall or something, made a huge deal about how, at least at one point, the Obama logo was still visible. As if this, and not tens of thousands of legitimate voters illicitly knocked off voter rolls, was the big story of the day. Then there's the massive invasion of marching armies of Black Panthers intimidating voters… no, wait, in fact it's one guy, and he's a duly appointed poll watcher. Definitely worthy of national headline news. Then there's a story on union shenanigans, alongside a story about how Super PACs really aren't so bad. Like I said, comical… and yet, not so comical once you realize that millions of people look at this site and somehow come away feeling that they are being given unbiased news coverage. I've known people like this, people who look me straight in the eye and insist that Fox's coverage is, in fact, fair and balanced, not a hint of bias. Nbchl1Here's the thing: when I visit sites like Talking Points Memo or Washington Monthly, I know they're biased to my point of view. I can also tell that sites like Five-Thirty-Eight are not biased. If I see the headline lineup, shown at right, from NBCNews.com, I can tell there's a left-leaning slant due to the specific positive quotes for Obama and Biden, the neutral story about Ryan, and the story on corporate money in the race. It's easy to tell that NBC is not nearly as slanted as Fox, but I can see and freely admit that there is a slant, and take that into account when trying to register what's what. Too many right-wingers, however, seem to take the slant as truth. They have real problems admitting there's a bias at work. You see the right-wing talking heads on TV confronted with this, asked to admit that there's even a little bias, and they immediately shift focus and start talking about something on a tangent, or else they get this sudden inability to talk, as if they know they should say something to sound like they are at least open-minded, but can't find any words to express such a thing. It's like a very specific kind of aphasia. But the fact remains that there is a very significant Reality Distortion Field at play here. Fox News is weighing down the scales on the right so much, it really has created a separate, artificial reality, a lens through which tens of millions of Americans now see the country and the world. There is a liberal false reality as well, but let's face it—it is nowhere near as pronounced. There is no equivalency here; the difference is as stark as PBS pledge drive and a Ted Nugent concert—where the people getting the tote bags understanding fully well how dorky and stodgy they're being, while the Nugent fans think it's perfectly defensible to publicly suggest the president suck on a machine gun.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Election 2012 Tags:

Ponta Calls the Election

November 6th, 2012 3 comments
I asked. He answered.
Categories: Election 2012 Tags:

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:

The Weak Point

November 5th, 2012 2 comments
Obama holds a lead among women. He leads among blacks and Hispanics. He leads among young people. In fact, he carries a lead amongst most demographic groups. His weak point is, pretty much exclusively, married older white men from the South without graduate degrees and who go to church regularly. They pretty much hate Obama. Hmmm….

Categories: Election 2012 Tags:

Governance by Extortion

November 4th, 2012 1 comment
“The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.”Mitt Romney, Nov. 2, 2012
This expresses, in crystalline form, how the Republicans have practiced politics over the past many years. It boils down to, “If we are in control, we run over you and give you nothing; if you are in control, we set fire to the house.” In 2006, Democrats took control of Congress. According to Republicans, they are bipartisan and would reach across the aisle. They didn't. They began to use the filibuster in record numbers, blocking everything that came down the pike. Trent Lott, then Minority Whip, made the strategy very clear:
“The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail… and so far, it’s working for us. Democrats are the ones taking the blame for not getting anything done.” Trent Lott, July 2007
Immediately upon Obama's election, Republicans, in what they claim was a bipartisan attempt to reach out, made persistent announcements that they hoped Obama would fail to stimulate the economy, create jobs, and bring the nation back from the brink of depression:
“I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail….” --Rush Limbaugh, January 21, 2009 Question: “Do you agree with Rush Limbaugh that we shouldn’t hope for President Obama to succeed?” Tom DeLay: “Well, exactly right. I don’t want this for our nation. That’s for sure.” --Tom Delay, former House Majority Leader, February 2009 “Absolutely we hope that his policies fail.” … “I believe his policies will fail, I don’t know, but I hope they fail.” --Rick Santorum, February 2009
In fact, it was Obama who was bipartisan—literally to a fault. He set the tone at his inauguration, inviting conservative evangelical Rick Warren to give the invocation, and then expanded from there. As I wrote in February 2009, “Obama went way out of his way to include Republicans; he even left pride behind and showed up at the Republicans’ doorstep, gave them large amounts of face time and more than a little respect; he quickly eliminated programs from his stimulus that Republicans complained about, like family planning provisions, and gave Republicans several key elements they demanded, like increased tax cuts, despite their limited effectiveness in situations such as this.” Republicans responded to his overtures by harshly criticizing him, and despite multiple concessions on Obama's part for a plan already conservative in nature, they rewarded him with zero votes for his proposals in the House, and nearly unanimous votes against in the Senate—the only crossovers being Specter (who soon after became a Democrat), and Snow & Collins (the two Maine centrists); virtually a solid wall of Republicans slapping Obama in the face. This pattern continued for most of Obama's term: He begins by issuing proposals which are already compromises (for example, his health care plan was one created by conservatives in the 1990's, and instituted by none other than the Republican nominee when he was governor), and then makes steady compromises, taking away things liberals want and adding things conservatives want. Throughout the process, conservatives call him vile names, and in the end, they vote in lockstep against Obama. Again and again--even on policies which just years or even months before were policies championed by conservatives themselves. Their goals were not only clear, they were clearly stated:
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” --Mitch McConnell, October 23, 2010
Note that this was their first priority, more important than creating jobs or helping the economy. As evidenced by the fact that, while Democrats in 2008 hastened to pass a stimulus and many other bills to help the economy, Republicans, taking control of the House in 2010, did nothing on jobs or the economy at all. Unless reciting the Constitution—badly—is a “job creator.” Republicans have made repeated claims of bipartisanship, and similar claims that Obama is harshly partisan. Bipartisanship requires compromise. It requires the agreement or cooperation of both parties on issues they disagree on; that is, in effect, the definition of the word. Obama has begun, continued, and ended with compromise and cooperation, much to his detriment amongst his own party. Republicans?
“This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles.” --John Boehner, October 27, 2010.
Rush Limbaugh laid out the new conservative meaning of bipartisanship without the window dressing:
“To us, bipartisanship is [Democrats] being forced to agree with us after we politically have cleaned their clocks and beaten them.” Rush Limbaugh, at CPAC, February 28, 2009
This is not just a fad with them; when they sense a winning strategy, it becomes their core strategy, more or less permanently. In the 1990's, they discovered that engineering language helped them; they have stuck with it ever since. In 2006, they discovered that filibusters and obstructionism worked for them; it is now their primary method of governance. Compromise? That too has gone the way of the dinosaur; no matter how hard Democrats try—and they have been trying, even after it was proven more or less hopeless to do so—Republicans refuse to compromise. And now, they have taken on a new strategy: holding America hostage. They did it last year by threatening to default on the debt, and as a result, severely damaged America's credit and good standing. Despite that, they are threatening it again. Nor is it to bring down the deficit or erase the debt; their own policies would add trillions to the deficit. The threat of default, just like the excuse of things having to be “paid for,” only apply to things Democrats try to pass. If it is a Republican measure, it does not need to be paid for—on the claim that all of their policies are so beneficial, that somehow, down the road, they will magically pay for themselves. Which goes contrary to established fact. They do not even stand by their own promises. They sign pledges against any tax increase—and then propose a spate of tax plans that would indirectly and directly increase taxes on the poor and the middle class. They complain about the “47 percent” as if they paid no taxes, put forth proposals to make the poor pay even more, and then lay out plans to cut taxes for rich people to zero. And for these “principles,” there is no compromise; “bipartisanship” means that Democrats do whatever Republicans want. The primary task is not helping America or Americans, but achieving political mastery, even if it means bringing the economy crashing down. This is the modern Republican Party. That anybody votes for it is a monument to the audacity of propaganda and hate, to the victory of repeating lies and blaming the other guy over the attempt to govern by the traditional system, however faulty the system may be. The policy is simple: if we win, give the other side nothing. If they win, set fire to the house and let them wallow in the blame. If you vote Republican—at the local, state, or federal level—this is what you are voting for. Scorched Earth. Lies. Hate. Because, as Trent Lott pointed out, it's working for them.

Categories: Election 2012, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Unemployment

November 4th, 2012 Comments off
Well, my streak ended. Unemployment ticked back up a point this month. So, while I was right much of the time, I was wrong on this one. Still, not bad for someone who knows next to nothing about economics. All this means, however, is that the three-quarters lag is not the only variable; people re-entered the workforce in enough numbers to bring the rate back up. As a result, it's not necessarily bad news for Obama—in addition, the jobs number were much higher than expected, and previous month's numbers keep getting bumped up. This, plus Obama's performance governing during Hurricane Sandy will likely help him this Tuesday. In the meantime, Obama seems to have solidified his place in the battleground states; it is looking less and less likely that Romney will pull a victory out of this.

Categories: Economics, Election 2012 Tags: