Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Giffords shooting: Taking account

-- by Dave

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In all the discussion of the horrific and tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona today, let's not forget the other victims, particularly Federal Judge John Roll, who, as Dave Weigel notes was also the victim of numerous death threats for his role in a ruling involving ranchers and immigrants:

Hundreds of threats cascaded into the chambers of John M. Roll, the chief U.S. district judge in Arizona, in February after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. "They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they'd come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead," said a law enforcement official who heard the calls -- which came from as far as Richmond and Baltimore -- but spoke on condition of anonymity because no one has been charged.

David Gonzales, the U.S. marshal in Arizona, said deputies went online and found Roll's home address posted on a Web site containing threatening comments. They put the judge under 24-hour protection for about a month, guarding his home in a secluded area just outside Tucson, screening his mail and escorting him to court, to the gym and to Mass. "Some deputies went to church more in a week than they had in their lives," Gonzales said.

It certainly raises the possibility that Roll was also a secondary target of the shooter (witnesses say he clearly targeted Giffords). More on Roll here.

We're still trying to obtain a full list of the names of the victims of today's tragedy. Here's what we have so far, via the the HuffPo:

Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said three Giffords staffers were shot in the attack. One died, and the other two are expected to survive. Gabe Zimmerman, a former social worker who served as Giffords' director of community outreach, died.

According to CNN, one of the victims pronounced dead at the hospital was a 9-year-old girl:

In all, six people died and 12 were wounded in the shooting, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, according to Rick Kastigar, bureau chief for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

President Barack Obama later said Chief Judge John Roll of the U.S. District Court for Arizona was among the dead.

A 9-year-old girl also died in the attack, according to authorities. The child, whose identity had not been released, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

We'll update as the names become available.

UPDATE: KVOA has the names of those killed in today's shooting:

-John Roll, 63, a federal district court judge.

-Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' director of community outreach

-Dorwin Stoddard, 76, a pastor at Mountain Ave. Church of Christ.

-Christina Greene, 9, a student at Mesa Verde Elementary

-Dorthy Murray, 76

-Phyllis Scheck, 79

May they all rest in peace. My condolences and prayers go out to their families tonight.


Pastor Dorwin Stoddard died shielding his wife from the gunshots.

Jessica Knapp, who works with the youth group at the Mountain Avenue church, said Dorwan Stoddard tried to protect his wife during the rampage and was hit in the head.

“He got on top of her and tried to shield her,” said Knapp, relaying information from church secretary Jody Nowak. Nowak and her husband, Mike, the church’s minister, called Knapp from the hospital where Mavy Stoddard was being treated.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords: There were plenty of precursors

-- by Dave

This is video of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on MSNBC on March 25, 2010, after her offices were vandalized, talking about the need for civility in our democratic discourse.

There will be a lot of hand-wringing in the coming days over the shooting of Rep. Giffords this morning at a constituent event -- some of it, almost certainly, from the folks at Fox, who will wonder aloud how this kind of thing could happen.

It can happen, in fact, because conservatives so thoughtlessly and readily use violent eliminationist rhetoric when talking about "liberals" (to wit: anyone who is not a conservative). They will adamantly deny it, of course, but the cold reality is that this kind of talk creates permission for angry and violent people to act it out.

[image display="original" link="source" align="left" alt="Giffords Event.JPG" width="203" height="377" id="8124"][/image] Example A: This summer, Pima County Republicans held a "target shoot" event in support of her teabagging opponent, as David Safier at Blogs for Arizona noted at the time:

There's nothing wrong with having a gun-themed event, if that's what you want to do. Count me out, but if you want to meet at a shooting range instead of a bowling alley or a baseball stadium, that's your right and your privilege.

There's also nothing wrong with having a "Help remove Gabrielle Giffords" event. That's what the R candidates in CD-8 are trying to do.

But to put it all together, starting with "Get on Target," moving to "remove Gabrielle Giffords," then finishing with "Shoot a fully automatic M16" . . .

That goes way beyond cute and clever and moves into a frightening linkage between shooting guns and removing Giffords.

Giffords, as she explained in the video above, was also target in March by vandals.

And Logan warned that it was just a matter of time before we saw this kind of violence last spring, when a gun was found after a Gifford event.

We don't yet know why the shooter -- identified as a 22-year-old man named Jared Laughner -- shot Giffords and a number of other people; we'll learn more as the day progresses. But it's impossible to survey the events so far and not come to the preliminary conclusion that this was yet another awful act inspired by right-wing hate rhetoric.

I warned against precisely this kind of outcome in my book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right. Events like this one, explained then, reflect

a particular trend that has manifested itself with increasing intensity in the past decade: the positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision. This tendency is almost singularly peculiar to the American Right and manifests itself in many venues: on radio talk shows and in political speeches, in bestselling books and babbling blogs. Most of all, we can feel it on the ground: in our everyday lives, in our encounters, big and small, with each other.

When the conservative movement's True Believers are fed a steady diet of extraordinary warnings intended to induce a paranoiac, panicked fear -- They're Destroying America! They Want to End Your Liberty! Health Care Reform is the End of America! -- and simultaneously fed a diet of suggestions that the solution is simply to do away with them (see Sean Hannity's recent bit of eliminationist "humor"), then what other outcome should you expect?

People are acting out in an eliminationist manner because they have been inundated with, and have naturally internalized, a broad range of eliminationist ideas and talking points. Such speech is being bandied about in every cultural bandwidth—from talk radio, to the local press and in letters to the editor, to blogs and national mainstream media.

I've also explained the dynamic at work here:

The critical components that distinguish irresponsible free speech from responsible are interworking pieces: whether it is intended to harm by scapegoating or demonizing, and whether or not it is provably false. In the Goldmark case, the things the Duck Club told Rice not only demonized the Goldmarks, but they were also things that were simply not true -- though the tellers wished ardently that they were, they were purely concoctions of their fevered imaginations.

This is true of so much far-right wingnuttery -- the "Birther" conspiracy theories, the FEMA-camp claims, the "constitutionalist" theories about taxation and the Federal Reserve, to list just a few examples -- and yet people believe them anyway.

This rhetoric also acts as a kind of wedge between the people who absorb it and the real world. There is always a kind of cognitive dissonance that arises from believing things that are provably untrue, and people who begin to fanatically cling to beliefs that do not comport with reality find themselves increasingly willing to buy into other similarly unhinged beliefs. For those who are already unhinged, the effects are particularly toxic.

All of these theories, you'll observe, serve the explicit purpose of supporting a scapegoating narrative. And a number of them have been featured in some shape, form, or fashion, in the mainstream public discourse because they have been presented seriously for discussion by various right-wing talking heads, most notably Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.

But pointing out their ethical and moral culpability inevitably means that they immediately blame it on the "crazy" people, and who can take responsibility for "crazy" people?

Back when Sarah Palin was targeting Democrats by urging her followers to "lock and load" and placing targets on a map for specific Democrats -- one of them being Giffords -- she denied that there was anything wrong with that.

Today, that graphic (which Danny Schecter has preserved) has been taken down.

A little for that, dontcha think?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bill O'Reilly thinks the tides are proof of God's existence: 'You can't explain that'

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly's show is becoming a real snoozefest these days, which may be why I glazed over his discussion of religion with David Silverman of American Atheists earlier this week, which mostly entailed O'Reilly accusing atheists of "insulting" believers by running ads calling religion a "scam." Fortunately, Nicholas Graham at the HuffPo has more patience than I and happened to notice this little exchange:

O'REILLY: I'll tell you why [religion's] not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can't explain that.

SILVERMAN: Tide goes in, tide goes out?

O'REILLY: See, the water, the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always comes in, and always goes out. You can't explain that.

Seriously? I mean, we knew that Bill O'Reilly was fond of pushing around his right-wing prejudices as conventional wisdom, and he's displayed ignorant buffoonery on many an occasion. But this is epic ignorance, the kind you really don't expect from a major TV news anchor. Hell, I bet even Glenn Beck knows that the tides are created by lunar cycles.

So, yes, Bill, we can explain that. Quite scientifically and quite precisely, in fact. From Wikipedia:

Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth.

Most places in the ocean usually experience two high tides and two low tides each day (semidiurnal tide), but some locations experience only one high and one low tide each day (diurnal tide). The times and amplitude of the tides at the coast are influenced by the alignment of the Sun and Moon, by the pattern of tides in the deep ocean (see figure 4) and by the shape of the coastline and near-shore bathymetry.

Most coastal areas experience two high and two low tides per day. The gravitational effect of the Moon on the surface of the Earth is the same when it is directly overhead as when it is directly underfoot. The Moon orbits the Earth in the same direction the Earth rotates on its axis, so it takes slightly more than a day—about 24 hours and 50 minutes—for the Moon to return to the same location in the sky. During this time, it has passed overhead once and underfoot once, so in many places the period of strongest tidal forcing is 12 hours and 25 minutes. The high tides do not necessarily occur when the Moon is overhead or underfoot, but the period of the forcing still determines the time between high tides.

The Sun also exerts on the Earth a gravitational attraction which results in a (less powerful) secondary tidal effect. When the Earth, Moon and Sun are approximately aligned, these two tidal effects reinforce one another, resulting in higher highs and lower lows. This alignment occurs approximately twice a month (at the full moon and new moon). These recurring extreme tides are termed spring tides. Tides with the smallest range are termed neap tides (occurring around the first and last quarter moons).

We've known about this for some time, Bill. In fact, Isaac Newton famously first accurately described and predicted tides by lunar cycles in the Principia, published in 1687.

Next from O'Reilly: The calendar is proof that God exists and religion is not a scam. You can't explain why we have 365 days every year, can you?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Bill O'Reilly doesn't get it: SPJ writer only advised dropping 'illegal' for conscientious journalists

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly has been all worked up about that SPJ column by Leo Laurence advising journalists that they should stop using the phrase "illegal immigrant", first misreported by Megyn Kelly at Fox as an SPJ "campaign".

It's worth remembering, first, the core of Laurence's argument -- namely, that identifying undocumented immigrants as "illegal" prejudges them in a way that can only be determined by a court of law: Laurence calls it the "Constitutional Principle":

One of the most basic of our constitutional rights is that everyone (including non-citizens) is innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law. That's guaranteed under the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, as I learned during four-year post-doctoral studies in appellate law at the California Court of Appeal in San Diego.

The presumption of innocence is an ancient tenet of criminal law. That legal doctrine is basic to our common-law system of jurisprudence. It has also been adapted by many countries following the Na-poleonic, civil-law legal system including Italy, Spain, Brasil, Poland, the Philippines, Russia and the United Nations. It's often expressed by the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” credited to English lawyer Sir William Garrow (1760-1840).

Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal.

So how does O'Reilly respond? With disinformation and disingenuousness:

LEO E. LAURENCE: This is not political correctness. It's a very conservative issue of constitutional law. It just says that in the law and Constitution, everyone is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in the court of law.


LAURENCE: So, it's not a journalist that can say someone is illegal. It's a judge.

O'REILLY: So, therefore, I couldn't call the al Qaeda people terrorists unless they are convicted of terrorist acts. So, I can't really say Osama bin Laden, he's a terrorist because he hasn't been convicted of a terrorist act in a court of law, correct?

LAURENCE: Well, if you change the facts, you change the discussion. I didn't say anything about terrorists.

O'REILLY: No, it's a parallel comparison.


O'REILLY: You are saying that I can't call an illegal alien an illegal alien unless he's convicted of coming in this country illegally and I'm bringing the same scenario to you by saying that means I can't call Osama bin Laden a terrorist because he hasn't been convicted in a court of law. And you say?

LAURENCE: I say that when journalists are in print talking about those who are undocumented --


LAURENCE: -- that's the phrase that they should be using.

O'REILLY: In your opinion and I don't have any problem with that phrase.

Hold it, Mr. Laurence. You dodged my question number one about terrorism. You didn't answer it. So, I assume I won the argument.

Quite an assumption, since as you can see O'Reilly just bullies Laurence here by bringing up a non-sequitur. Moreover, in fact, Laurence's principle still holds: Conscientious journalists who are reporting in good faith will properly describe someone as an "alleged terrorist" until they've been convicted by a court of law or they describe themselves as such (in which case they'll be labeled a "self-described terrorist"); that certainly has been the case for every domestic terrorist who's come down the pike, from Tim McVeigh to Eric Rudolph to James Von Brunn. If you look at news reports you'll see them described as "alleged terrorists" until they are convicted.

It doesn't matter what the authorities say: they are, after all, the ones doing the alleging. And journalists are supposed to be the ones doing the reporting, not the judging. It's odd in a revealing way that O'Reilly assumes that the accusation alone is grounds for the assumption he wants to make.

And that's what really annoys him -- he thinks that Laurence is dictating to him, in some kind of authoritarian fashion, what words he can use:
Number two, I don't mind you calling anybody undocumented. That's fine if you want to use that phrase. I do mind you telling I can't say they're legal aliens when they are illegal aliens as described by the authorities in this country.

LAURENCE: Well, you can under freedom of press and speech.

O'REILLY: They are described that way by the authorities of the country.

LAURENCE: All right.

O'REILLY: OK. Ms. Limor --

LAURENCE: We have a presumption of innocence.

O'REILLY: OK. Again, I go back to the Osama bin Laden argument, OK? Presumption of innocence does not -- does not apply to people who commit and admit to acts, all right, that we know happened. I mean, I'm just saying they are in the country illegally because that's what the authorities are saying.

Equally revealing -- in terms of his monomania especially -- was the bit about how he wanted SPJ to issue him an invitation to join:

LIMOR: You know, we are a society of 8,000 people and 8,000 people will disagree on items.

O'REILLY: How come I've never been invited to join, by the way, Ms. Limor?

LIMOR: He is entitled to his opinion and Mr. Laurence is entitled to his opinion.

O'REILLY: Absolutely, I don't have any problem with Mr. Laurence' opinion.

LIMOR: Others may not agree.

O'REILLY: I don't have any problem with Mr. Laurence's opinion. The problem I have is he's doing it under the banner of so-called group that represents journalists. And Bernie Goldberg and I discussed it last night. Neither of us have been invited to join. We're kind of hurt by that.


Ya see, Bill, SPJ is just a service organization -- always has been, always will be. People join voluntarily because they want to be of service to the profession. Most of the time they get recruited by their fellow employees in the newsroom. Every working journalist has a standing invitation -- you just go to their website and sign up, pay your dues, and you get to go to their events and volunteer for various committees and whatnot. It's all very pedestrian, especially for a bigtime guy like your august self. But hey, you're welcome to join anytime, dude. Bernie too.

And when a writer like Leo Laurence weighs in and suggests, for sound reasons, that thinking, conscientious journalists will want to avoid using terms like "illegal alien" and "illegal immigrant" because of their inappropriate leaps to judgment, well, a lot of those journalists will think it through and agree with him and heed his advice. Some will not, as they're entitled to -- it is, after all, merely advice, and can be accepted or discarded according to each journalist's own standards.

We know what the standards at Fox News are: there really aren't any. Leo Laurence's advice was for journalists with real ethical standards regarding fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, and accountability. Fox News need not bother.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Filibuster rules reform: Here's the package. Now the clock starts ticking

-- by Dave

Well, as we observed this morning, the Republicans are out in force whining about Democrats' plans to reform the Senate's filibuster rules. This morning on Fox & Friends, the usual Doocy-Carlson-Kilmeade trio gave a cursory report -- complete with a chryon describing it as a "power grab" by Democrats -- emphasizing Mitch McConnell's suggestion that this it would hurt Democrats down the road if they "eliminate the filibuster."

Except, of course, no one is talking about eliminating the filibuster -- they just want to make it so you actually have to filibuster if you want to stop the Senate from doing its business. That won't hurt Democrats -- especially because they are so smitten with "bipartisanship" that it's hard to imagine them ever conducting the kind of scorched-earth/filibuster-everything tactics the Republicans have used on an ongoing basis for the past fourt years.

So here, officially, is the package of reforms:
Udall-Harkin-Merkley Rules Reform Package

Blocking a vote with a filibuster used to be rare and reserved for extreme situations. Today, major bills, non-controversial bills, sometimes multiple steps on the same piece of legislation, and even non-controversial nominees face filibusters. There have been more filibusters since 2006 than the total between 1920 and 1980.

Senate rules are supposed to allow for substantive debate and to protect the views of the minority – as our founders intended. Instead, they are abused to prevent the Senate from ever voting on, and sometimes even debating, critical legislation.

Our reform resolution helps increase transparency, restores accountability, and fosters debate.

• Clear Path to Debate: Eliminate the Filibuster on Motions to Proceed

Makes motions to proceed not subject to a filibuster, but provides for two hours of debate. This proposal has had bipartisan support for decades and is often mentioned as a way to end the abuse of holds.

• Eliminates Secret Holds

Prohibits one Senator from objecting on behalf of another, unless he or she discloses the name of the senator with the objection. This is a simple solution to address a longstanding problem.

• Right to Amend: Guarantees Consideration of Amendments for both Majority and Minority

Protects the rights of the minority to offer amendments following cloture filing, provided the amendments are germane and have been filed in a timely manner.

This provision addresses comments of Republicans at last year’s Rules Committee hearings. Each time Democrats raised concerns about filibusters on motions to proceed, Republicans responded that it was their only recourse because the Majority Leader fills the amendment tree and prevents them from offering amendments. Our resolution provides a simple solution – it guarantees the minority the right to offer germane amendments.

• Talking Filibuster: Ensures Real Debate

Following a failed cloture vote, Senators opposed to proceeding to final passage will be required to continue debate as long as the subject of the cloture vote or an amendment, motion, point of order, or other related matter is the pending business.

• Expedite Nominations: Reduce Post-Cloture Time

Provides for two hours of post-cloture debate time for nominees.

Post cloture time is meant for debating and voting on amendments – something that is not possible on nominations. Instead, the minority now requires the Senate use this time simply to prevent it from moving on to other business.

Of course, all of this is eminently sensible. Which virtually guarantees total Republican opposition.

Harry Reid is pushing to make it happen:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on his colleagues of both parties to fix the Senate rules, so that the chamber "can operate in a way that allows the people's elected legislators to legislate."

Greg Sargent has more of Reid's remarks:

In the entire 19th century, the Senate saw fewer than, 12, a dozen filibusters. Now we see that many in a single month...Rather than offer amendments to improve legislation or compromise for the greater good -- as members of this body have done for generations -- the current minority has offered amendments simply to waste time, to delay us from proceeding to a bill or to score political points. The American people love government but they don't like too much politics in government.

These rules are central to the Senate, but they are not sacrosanct. Senate procedures and rules have changed since the Senate was founded at the beginning of this century. Those decisions have never been made without great deliberation, and no future change should be made any differently...

Here's the bottom line: We may not agree yet on how to fix the problem - but no one can credibly claim problems don't exist. No one who has watched this body operate since the current minority took office can say it functions just fine. That wouldn't be true, it would be dishonest. No one can deny that the filibuster has been used for purely political reasons -- reasons far beyond those for which this protection was invented and intended.

As Sargent observes:
The key here is Reid's point that there's precedent for changing Senate rules, and that the primary condition for so doing is that it be done with great deliberation. This is why Reid is negotiating with Republicans in the quest for a possible deal on reform, a senior Senate Dem aide tells me. "This is a major change," the aide says. "Both sides have to have a role in the dialog."

And yet, Reid still reserves the right to pass these reforms by a simple majority in the Senate, the aide says. This would be in keeping with the so-called "Constitutional option," which allows (though there's some dispute around this) each Congress to set its own rules by a simple majority vote on the first day of the session. Here's how this would work: By adjourning today, technically the "first day" of the session continues when Congress returns on January 24th, at which point the Senate could theoretically pass a rules package by simple majority vote.

The bottom line is a simple one: We need to return the Senate to a majority-rule body, as was intended by the Founding Fathers, while preserving the rights of the minority. But it cannot and does not function as a supermajority-only body -- because that, functionally speaking, makes it a minority-rule body. Surely Republicans -- especially those looking forward to seeing the Senate in GOP hands again soon -- can appreciate that too.

Then again, there's nothing rational about today's Republicans.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Moment of truth: Will Senate Democrats show some spine and reform the filibuster?

-- by Dave

Republicans are planning to read aloud the Constitution in both the House and the Senate today as part of their planned homage to the Tea Partiers who freshly elected them.

But if Senate Republicans -- or Democrats, for that matter -- were really sincere about wishing to honor the Founders' intent, they would get behind the effort to reform the Senate's filibuster rules. Because, contrary to that intent, Republicans' ongoing and insane abuse of the filibuster rules has effectively transformed the Senate from a majority-rule body into one that effectively operates only by a 60-40 supermajority.

Today is the day when the Senate, as we've explained, has the opportunity to change the rules with a 51-vote majority. And what has Republicans really worried is that, thanks to their massive abuse of the filibuster in the just-ended lame-duck session, Democrats now are unanimous about wanting to change the rules.

So there was Mitch McConnell whining in the WaPo yesterday about the truck rolling toward their favorite tactic, calling it a "power grab" (as we knew they would):

All of this is newly relevant because some on the left are agitating once again for partisan rule changes aimed at empowering the majority at the expense of the minority. They have peddled the well-worn myth that changes are needed as a way of overcoming partisanship on the part of Republicans. Their evidence: a historically high number of so-called cloture petitions by the Democratic majority to cut off debate. Republicans forced these petitions, Democrats say, by blocking or slow-walking bills.

What these critics routinely fail to mention (and too many reporters fail to report) is the precipitating action: the Democratic majority's repeated use of a once-rare procedural gimmick that has kept Republicans from amending bills that are brought to the floor. This practice, known as "filling the amendment tree," leads to a question that answers itself: Why would Republicans vote for action on a bill that, we've been promised, we'll be blocked from contributing to in any way? If the majority wants more cooperation, it could start by allowing differing views to be heard.

This is, of course, a load of hooey: Democrats' use of "filling the amendment tree" has largely been itself precipitated by the Republicans' abuse of "poison pill" amendments -- and was, moreover, a practice they themselves used heavily when they were in power. As Harry Reid put it: "This isn't a new method that I dreamed up. Anytime there is an election there is not a leader who is dumb enough to put a bill on the floor that is subject to amendments." Here's a guarantee: If Mitch McConnell is ever Majority Leader again (heaven forbid), he will be the first to implement the practice, since it's one that he himself honed over the years prior to 2007.

Moreover, if you wanted evidence of Republican abuse of the rules to prevent the Senate from proceeding as the Founders designed it to, just look at the just-finished lame-duck session. Certainly it's fresh in Democrats' minds.

It seems Lamar Alexander is worried too, because he's appealing to the Senate's inner Beltway Villager:

Senator Lamar Alexander derided Democrats’ efforts to rein in the use of filibusters in the Senate as a “brazen power grab” and warned of “guaranteed” retribution when Republicans return to the majority.

Democrats are expected to introduce rules Wednesday that would require lawmakers to be on the floor to filibuster legislation and lower to 51 the number of votes required to adopt the new rules.

In a speech Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy organization in Washington, Mr. Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, said the changes would allow the shrunken Democratic majority to ram through legislation with little or no input from across the aisle–a tactic Senator Harry Reid himself opposed when Democrats were in the minority.

Yep, conservatives have been awfully certain that Democrats will lack the spine to pull this off. They may well be right. But we all know that this is long overdue.

And if you need a reminder of why, just read your Constitution.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tucker Carlson eats crow over wishing that Michael Vick had been executed

-- by Dave

It's always fun to a smug little prick like Tucker Carlson with his mouth full of crow feathers. Which was what he was munching on last night on Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

Hannity clearly invited Carlson back on, after guest-hosting Hannity last week, so that he could walk back that off-the-wall remark wishing that Michael Vick had been executed for torturing dogs to death. And so he did.

Carlson made clear he meant for it all just to be a big joke -- he was just exaggerating for comic purposes. Which no doubt is why all the guests were just rolling in the aisles after he said it.

HANNITY: All right. Tucker, take one big vacation, a year, just one.

CARLSON: I don't take a lot of vacation like other people.

HANNITY: Some take a ton of it. So, I take one, two weeks off, my big vacation. And what do I have to read on the blogs, is that you are destroying the show. You are absolutely, you're creating controversy. Wanting Michael Vick to get the death penalty. Let's roll the tape.


CARLSON: I'm a Christian, I've made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think personally, he should have been executed for that. He wasn't. But the idea that the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs, kind of beyond the pale.

HANNITY: All right. Do you really want him -- do you really think he should -- I'm asking.

CARLSON: This is what happens when you get too emotional. And look, the bottom line is I'm a dog lover. I've had dogs my whole life, we have three of them now, I love them. And I know a lot about what Michael Vick did, what he admitted doing, and I'm not going to get into it Sean, because it's too upsetting frankly. But if you take some time, anybody who takes some time and looks into how he mistreated these dogs and personally tortured them to death, gets upset. And I, you know, I over spoke. I'm uncomfortable with the death penalty under any circumstances. Of course, I don't think he should be executed. But I do think what he did is truly appalling.

HANNITY: Look, I too -- I mean, I am a dog lover's dog lover. You know, a very few things that made me cry, I lost my dog of 16 years snowball, and it broke my heart, literally.

CARLSON: I know the feeling, yes.

HANNITY: And, you know, if you read Mark Levin's book, "Rescuing Sprite," it really details all the pains and suffering that love and joy that you get from a dog.

CARLSON: Exactly.

HANNITY: Here's -- I'm a Christian too as you said in your opening comments here. He spent a couple years in jail. He lost a huge contract. He's been working, I think he's made 60 appearances with Animal Rights Groups. So, he's working with Tony Dungy. Shouldn't we believe in redemption in the sense that he's showing a level of continued commitment to righting his life?

CARLSON: Yes. Maybe, but as a friend of mine pointed out, I mean, a convicted child molester doesn't get to adopt -- look, I'm just saying.


Look, I'm not comparing him to a child molester. I'm merely saying that because Michael Vick says, you know, I'm rehabilitated now and hires a bunch of pr guys to make that case on his behalf. That he makes donations to a bunch of humane society type organizations doesn't mean the rest of us can't be disgusted by what he did. That's my only point.

HANNITY: I'm disgusted too. I'm torn inasmuch as, only time will tell if he's really the word repentance from the Latin is to change your heart. If he really is sincere and he stays with these groups and he continues down the path that he's on. At some point, I think we got to take our foot off his neck and say, OK, you've proven that you really are rehabilitated.

CARLSON: There's no question. But there is a line of several million rehabilitated people who I would like to see the president congratulate before he congratulates Michael Vick.

Bet Hannity thinks twice before inviting this incompetent boob back to run his show, though.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Right-wingers don't seem to 'get it': Bashing Latinos makes Tea Parties happy -- and is long-term political suicide

-- by Dave

This weekend, Fox News' Julie Banderas featured a segment discussing the way Republicans are gearing up to get nasty and nativist on immigration this coming year -- particularly in state legislatures where a batch of anti-14th Amendment "anchor baby" laws are about to come bubbling up. She invited on Bob Dane, spokesman for the nativist hate group FAIR, and Frank Sharry of America's Voice, who pointed out that Republicans are slitting their own throats politically by taking this route.

Banderas: Bob, what do you make of that? Frank just pointed out that the Republican, they have leaned right -- very hard to the right, in fact, on the illegal immigration issue -- is this going to drive Hispanics into the hands of the Democrats?

Dane: No. You know, look, one of the things the Republicans are going to have to keep in mind, now that they've got the responsibility of the leadership mantle in the House, is they've got to demonstrate to the American public on the immigration issue that they 'get it'. That Americans have had it with the cost and impact of illegal immigration. And Republicans are going to have to be careful that they do not revert to the soft-on-enforcement and teasing-around-with-amnesty policies of '06 and '08 that led to their own demise.

Hmmmm. Maybe Dane has different sets of election results than I do. But the numbers don't lie: In 2008, Latinos provided Barack Obama with the bulk of his electoral muscle. In 2010, they turned back the Tea Party tide in the Senate. And indeed, in the ensuing months since those elections, Republicans continue to do their damnedest to push Latinos into voting Democratic for the foreseeable future.

But Dane made it clear -- especially in declaring that "amnesty is off the table" -- that the right-wing nativist faction now controlling the Republican is only interested in deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants. They have no interest in working out a system under which they can get right with the law. Which means that absolutely NOTHING will get done in terms of addressing immigration reform -- including the ongoing reality that the American economy generates hundreds of thousands of unskilled-labor jobs every year and yet only provides 5,000 green cards to cover them.

President Obama should take note too: Even though his administration has been objectively tougher about enforcing immigration laws than any preceding, the right-wing nativists will ALWAYS claim that he has been lax on enforcement. Maybe he should just give that particular malfunctioning strategy a break -- and put his shoulder to the wheel in getting real reform done. It may never pass this House, but Democrats still control the Senate and can set the stage for an immigration debate there. Obama could and should become a real leader in that debate -- because Americans really do want something done. And deportation isn't it.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Oooooooh. Will the Michael Steele catfight finally expose the Republicans' ugly racial underbelly?

-- by Dave

The whole Michael Steele debacle -- embodied in the RNC debate that took place earlier today -- really underscores, to a large extent, the realities of the 2010 Election. To wit: Why should Republicans be eager to replace their leadership in a year where they made historic gains in the House? Shouldn't they reward the mastermind of such success?

Indeed, that's a point Steele emphasizes in his defense. Indeed, he explicitly takes credit for the outcome in the House: "My record stands for itself. We won."

The answer, as everyone knows, is that Steele didn't mastermind this election at all. He was at best an incidental figure in the outcome. The 2010 results were not the product of anything concocted or engendered by Michael Steele. All he really managed to do was blow a lot of fund-raising opportunities.

So who WAS the mastermind of the 2010 Election? If anyone, it was Roger Ailes -- a reality that hardly anyone seems to want to acknowledge, including Democrats. Indeed, this was the Fox Election in every respect. Nearly every candidate who won got major a push from Fox. The most energy came from a Tea Party "movement" almost wholly engendered by Fox's relentless and unapologetic propagndization campaign.

The GOP owes its House victories not to Michael Steele but to Fox News. That makes Steele utterly dispensable, especially after two years of gaffes and goofiness. So Steele is out there promising to go all-out to defend himself. In RepublicanSpeak, this means he's going to viciously attack his opponents.

Gee, wonder if he'll bring up Saul Anuzis' predilection for mentoring young neo-Nazis. Or if he'll again claim he's being held to different standard as a black man. Get out your popcorn!

Meanwhile, in today's debate, Steele did bring up a point not very popular with the Tea Party set:

Calling the GOP "the party of Lincoln," Steele stressed that Republicans must continue efforts to reach out to non-traditional constituencies, namely Hispanics and African-Americans.

"This country is a lot bigger than we think it is sometimes," Steele said. "We cannot be a party that sits back with a litmus test and excludes. The national chairman cannot go into a state and say, 'You're less Republican than we are, I will not talk to you.'"

No wonder they want to get rid of him.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Huckabee and Hannity proclaim Tea Party's origins without mentioning Fox News' role

-- by Dave

Mike Huckabee featured a canned interview with Sean Hannity on his show this weekend as part of a year-end retrospective in which they discussed the Tea Party. The amusing part came when they discussed Teh Awesome Power of the Tea Parties, which Hannity identified with the American people themselves. Both of them argued vehemently against the notion that the Tea Parties were mere corporate Astroturf.

Completely absent from the discussion, naturally, was any mention whatsoever of the role played by Fox News. And while the role of astroturfers like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity in fact was indispensable, none of them came close wielding the sheer energizing and organizing power that having a national "news" network openly propagandize for a movement can bring.

As John and I explain in Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane (pp. 121-127):

It costs advertisers thousands of dollars to air a single thirty-second commercial on a few cable stations for a week, even in relatively cheap rural markets. To advertise nationally on Fox News – the ratings leader in cable news – costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions if the ads air often enough and in prime-time programs.

So what Fox News offered up the organizers of the tea parties -- and the conservative movement opposing Obama’s presidency -- was something you couldn’t measure in dollars and cents, because not only did Fox air a steady onslaught of “tea party” promotional ads, they embraced the outright promotion of the events in their news broadcasts and on their “opinion shows.” Their on-air personalities as well as their websites took an active role day after day and night after night promoting and urging the Fox audience to join in the tea party protests. Media Matters, a non-profit organization that tracks the conservative media documented 63 instances where Fox News anchors and guests openly promoted the tea parties and discussed them as a legitimate news event.

Initially, there was a lull; there was only passing mention of the tea parties on Fox again for the two weeks after Van Susteren’s show. Then, on March 16, three Fox anchors – Glenn Beck, Bret Baier, and Bill O’Reilly – featured segments discussing the tea parties, again in glowing terms. O'Reilly told his audience that "big government spending protests are taking place all over the country. The latest in Cincinnati, where about 5,000 folks showed up, showed their displeasure with the Obama's administration money strategy. These gatherings are being dubbed tea parties."

But it was Beck in particular who most avidly embraced the tea parties, making them his own pet cause. Some of this had to do with the ease with which the tea-party themes – an embrace of small-government philosophy, with an anti-tax and pro-gun fervor thrown in for emphasis – melded with the populist themes Beck was already exploring in depth on his show. On March 13, he had hosted a special one-hour program themed “You Are Not Alone” that was most notable for some of Beck’s most maudlin crying jags, including his oft-lampooned sob, “I just love my country – and I fear for it!” The show – like Beck’s later Tea Party promotions – featured broadcasts from specially gathered audiences in locations around the country who wanted to join Beck’s cause of “standing up to big government”. Its purpose was to launch Beck’s “912 Project” – named dually after Beck’s wish to bring the country back to “where we all were on the day after 9/11,” as well as the “9 Principles and 12 Values” Beck espoused, drawn from a 1972 book titled The 5,000-Year Leap, by far-right conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen, which Beck promoted on his show and website.

After March 16 – when Beck noted the tea parties mostly in passing – the tea-party themes began to meld seamlessly with Beck’s “912 Project”. On March 18, Beck remarked: "People are starting to get angry. These tea parties are starting to really take off." On March 20, Beck began making the connection explicit. Once again denouncing the Missouri law-enforcement report on right-wing extremism, he connected the “extremists” described therein to the tea partiers:

But if you're concerned about the government, you're considered dangerous now in America. More than 160,000 Americans have already signed up to be part of our 9/12 Project, "," since we launched it a week ago -- 163,000 people have signed up. Who are these people? They're people just like you that are just concerned about our government and they're concerned about our country.

You know, are they militia members? Yes. Yes, sure they are, along with all the other people that are now on the tea parties nationwide. There is one here in Orlando, Florida. Tomorrow is supposed to be huge.

He mentioned the Orlando tea party warmly on March 23 as well, and then on March 24, Beck hosted two of the event’s tea-party organizers, Lisa Feroli and Shelley Ferguson, saying: "I have been telling you for weeks that you've got to stand up. And a lot of people around the country are doing these tea party things. But please, make them about principles, not about the parties. Make them about the principles."

Beck continued promoting the show each night through the rest of March. On his April 2 program, he announced that he would be hosting a special tea-party broadcast on April 15: "Tax Day, two weeks away. All right. More Americans are fed up with the nonsense in Washington both left and right. They are holding tea parties on April 15th. In this show, I can now announce that we're going to have our program live from the only place in America where I think it really, really makes sense - the Alamo. Plant your flag, America. It's in San Antonio, Texas. We will see you there on Tax Day!"

Beck was only leading the way for the other Fox anchors. A few days later, on April 6, he announced that not only would he be hosting his San Antonio “Tax Day tea party” on the 15th, but so would Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren, who planned to do similar broadcasts from respective tea parties in Sacramento, Atlanta, and Washington the same day. Fox was planning to flood the airwaves with tea-party protests.

Beck was prolific in promoting the tea parties. Between March 16 and April 14, Beck urgently implored his audiences to take part in the Tax Day protests a total of 17 times (out of a total of 21 shows). One of the more piquant episodes came when he hired a motivational speaker and sometime actor named Bob Basso to dress up in colonial costume and pretend to be Thomas Paine, embarking on a tea-party-loving rant:

The time for talk is over. Enough is enough. Your democracy has deteriorated to government of the government, by the government, and for the government. On April 15, that despicable arrogance will be soundly challenged for the whole world to see. Our friends will applaud it. Our enemies will fear it.

In an unprecedented moment of citizen response not seen since December 7, 1941, millions of your fellow Americans will bring their anger and determination into the streets.

… Your complacency will only aid and abet our national suicide. Remember, they wouldn't dare bomb Pearl Harbor, but they did. They wouldn't dare drive two planes into the World Trade Center, but they did. They wouldn't dare pilot a plane through the most sophisticated air defenses in the world and crash into the Pentagon, but they did. They wouldn't dare pass the largest spending bill in history, in open defiance of the will of the people, but they did!

Beck’s fellow Fox hosts did their best to keep pace. Sean Hannity featured segments on the tea parties a total of 13 times between March 12 and April 14, while Neil Cavuto’s afternoon business-oriented show featured a total of ten segments devoted to the protests during that same time. Nor were the “opinion shows” the only ones to do so: Another 15 or so tea-party promotional segments ran those weeks on such “news” shows as Fox and Friends, America’s Newsroom , and Special Report with Bret Baier.

Fairly typical was a March 23 broadcast in which America’s Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer directed people to a list of tea party events on and promised to "add to [the list] when we get more information from the New American Tea Party." Likewise, on the March 25 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier said that the tea parties are "protests of wasteful government spending in general and of President Obama's stimulus package and his budget in particular." Another America's Newsroom broadcast on April 6, Fox contributor Andrea Tantaros described the protests: "People are fighting against Barack Obama's radical shift to turn us into Europe." Fox News also aired on-screen text stating that the "Tea Parties Are Anti-Stimulus Demonstrations."

Despite the obvious anti-Obama bent of all these protests, Beck and other Fox hosts worked hard to present the tea parties as “non-partisan,” bringing on guests who were either disappointed Democrats or conservatives still angry with the Republican Party too. Yet the nonstop drumbeat around the protests made clear that they were primarily in response to Obama administration policies.

The March 24 segment of America’s Newsroom promoting the tea parties was a classic instance of this. In it, Hemmer interviewed a man named Lloyd Marcus who was president of the National Association for the Advancement of Conservative People of Color, who told Hemmer that he previously "was on a 40-city 'Stop Obama' tour". Marcus' wrote a song, posted on, which made clear that this was about Obama:

Mr. President!
Your stimulus is sure to bust.
It's just a socialistic scheme,
The only thing it will do
Is kill the American Dream.

You wanna take from achievers
Somehow you think that's fair.
And redistribute to those folks
Who won't get out of their easy chair.

We're havin' a tea party across this land.
If you love this country,
Come on and join our band.
We're standin' up for freedom and liberty,
'Cause patriots have shown us freedom ain't free.

So when they call you a racist cause you disagree,
It's just another of their dirty tricks to silence you and me.

Indeed, Fox News’ website was rich with tea-party promotion, as were its affiliated sites like the new FoxNation site, which tried to act as a sort of “information central” for the tea parties, with numerous links discussing and promoting the protests. One link, titled "Find a Tea Party!", directed readers to a Google Maps page for "2009 Tea Parties." Another link to you to a YouTube video headlined, "The Trillion Dollar Tea Party Video!", which featured Tampa Bay Area Tea Party organizers explaining why viewers should "join your local tea party." For those who couldn’t make it, Fox News announced that viewers could also attend “a virtual tax day tea party” at FoxNation instead.

Sean Hannity’s website at Fox featured a graphic with links to a message board discussion: "This thread is for the sole purpose of getting the word out about organized tea party events around the country. If you know of a planned event, please post the information here." Hannity’s producers wrote a blog post on his site proclaiming, "Get your Tea Party Tees at CAFE PRESS and wear them on April 15!" There were also "some helpful links" to and

Then there were the promotional ads. In the 10 days leading up to the April 15 protests, Media Matters reported that Fox News aired 107 ads promoting them.

At times, Fox tried to deny that this deluge of glowingly sympathetic “reports” and barrage of commercials on the tea parties actually constituted promotion of the event. On the morning of the protests April 15, Fox and Friends broadcast, host Steve Doocy told his audience that “Fox is not sponsoring any of them, but we have been covering them.” This was a peculiar (not to mention disingenuous) remark, considering that Fox had repeatedly run onscreen graphics describing the events at which its anchors were to appear as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.”

Of course, this history will never be aired on Fox -- especially now that Rupert Murdoch denies promoting the Tea Parties.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]