Saturday, September 18, 2010

300 Economists Agree: We Really Do Need A Second Stimulus And Infrastructure Investment. But Right-Wingers Just Say No

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It was kind of a shock to see Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future actually make it onto Fox News yesterday to talk about that statement from 300 progressive economists urging Congress to proceed apace with President Obama's infrastructure-investment stimulus proposal, because such views so rarely get aired on Fox.

Of course, they brought on right-wing economist Peter Schiff -- an Austrian-school economist long associated with Ron Paul -- to argue that the reason George W. Bush's economic approach failed was that he was too much of a socialist. Right.

Moreover, Schiff's solution to everything is "free markets" and ending all government intervention. Which, in reality, is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place: The GOP's "small government" mantra, after all, led to the massive deregulation and breakdown of economic firewalls that produced this ongoing recession. If anyone listened to Schiff, we'd essentially be taking a big dose of PCBs to cure our cancer.

Here's the economists' statement:

Today there is a grave danger that the still-fragile economic recovery will be undercut by austerity economics. A turn by major governments away from the promotion of growth and jobs and to premature focus on deficit reduction could slow growth and increase unemployment – and could push us back into recession.

History suggests that a tenuous recovery is no time to practice austerity. In the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal generated growth and reduced the unemployment rate from 25 percent in 1932 to less than 10 percent in 1937. However, the deficit hawks of that era persuaded President Roosevelt to reverse course prematurely and move toward budget balance. The result was a severe recession that caused the economy to contract sharply and sent the unemployment rate soaring. Only the much larger wartime spending of the early 1940s produced a full recovery.

Today, the economy is growing only weakly. 7.8 million jobs have been lost in the recession. Consumers, having suffered losses in home values and retirement savings, are tightening their belts. The business sector, uncertain about consumer spending, is reluctant to invest in expansion or job creation, leaving the economy trapped on a path of slow growth or stagnation. Over 20 million American workers are now unemployed, underemployed or simply have given up looking for a job.

The President and Congress should redouble efforts to create jobs and send aid to the states whose budget crises threaten recovery by forcing them to lay off school teachers, public safety workers, and other essential workers. It also makes sense to invest in public service jobs – and in infrastructure projects for transportation, water, and energy conservation that will make our economy more productive for years to come.
Be sure to read the whole thing [PDF file].

Borosage also wrote a piece outlining the statement and the reasoning behind it:
None of this is radical. Even the market fundamentalists at the International Monetary Fund are warning the U.S. against a premature turn to deficit reduction. Any honest investor would agree that this is a great opportunity to rebuild America. No one with any familiarity with the federal budget would disagree that it is health care costs that drive long-term deficits and terrifying debt projections.

And America's watchword is optimism, a belief that we can forge our own future. Have we become so timid or confused that we will now lower our sights, concentrate on balancing our books, and forgo making the reforms vital to creating an economy the works? I don't think so. It is a measure of how distorted our political debate has become that common sense is so rare. But what's the alternative? "Hell no, you can't," taunted Republican House minority leader John Boehner in the health care debate. Good theater—but it won't take us where we need to go.
We can't expect Republicans to listen: They're too intent on proving their broken and misshapen ideology right even after its gross failures have been manifested. But Democrats better listen up.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sheriff Joe's Plan For Armed Immigrant-Hunting Posse Mirrors Neo-Nazi Pals' Patrols

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Neil Cavuto had on Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona to talk about his plans to form an all-volunteer, fully armed posse whose job is hunting down illegal immigrants -- and of course tossed him a load of softballs.

The local news account is fairly glowing too:
Sheriff Joe is always talking about his department’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration but now he wants to commission a posse whose only job will be to enforce illegal immigration and human smuggling laws.

The sheriff explains, “We have 57 different posses. I want 58.”

Arpaio says posse 58 will be devoted solely to illegal immigration. “I want a little specialized unit. I think it's time to do that.”

Details are sparse but, like the sheriff's other posses, this one will be made up of armed volunteers who will patrol rural areas looking for border crossers and human smugglers.

The sheriff explains, “I want to concentrate more in the desert, maybe that’s where our air posse helicopters can help out because a lot of smugglers are crossing the desert. I like to get to them before they get to Phoenix.”
Funny thing about that: Maricopa County is not adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. Border crossers would have to pass through adjacent counties first.

But you'll notice that both Cavuto's softballs and the friendly local press are missing something -- namely, how closely Arpaio's citizen immigrant hunters resemble the vigilante patrols being organized by neo-Nazi J.T. Ready -- who recently announced that he would be seeking to obtain official sanction for his program.

At least Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times noticed:
Looks like Sheriff Joe is ripping off an idea from none other than Arpaio supporter and committed neo-Nazi J.T. Ready.

In a press release published today by the MCSO, Arpaio says he intends to commission a volunteer vigilante force to hunt illegal aliens.

The release states, "The Sheriff will soon implement his plan to commission a volunteer armed posse force outfitted with appropriate hardware and gear to assist in the enforcement of illegal immigration and human smuggling laws."

... In any case, an "armed" vigilante force "outfitted with the appropriate hardware" to "assist" in the enforcement of immigration laws could well be a description of swastika-licker J.T. Ready's U.S. Border Guard, which has been operating in Pinal and Maricopa Counties since at least June.
As Lemon notes, it already appears that Arpaio has a working relationship with Ready and his acolytes.

Somebody needs to ask Arpaio if the "screening" process he promises for these armed volunteers will include screening out neo-Nazis and violent radicals.

In the meantime, anyone of Latino descent -- citizen or otherwise -- may want to avoid Maricopa County's rural areas. They may soon become hazardous to your health.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Palin's Advice To O'Donnell: 'Speak Through Fox News'. Hm. Sounds Familiar.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly consulted the wisdom of the Oracle of Wasilla last night on the civil war that's erupted on the Right between the Tea Birchers and the Establishment GOP. And -- I know this will be a shock -- she sagely advised O'Donnell to be just like Sarah Palin:
O'REILLY: Look, Ms. O'Donnell could be on here tonight, could be presenting herself in front of the nation. Her people don't want her to be, because this is a tough--

PALIN: Okay, I grant you that. No, I grant you that. She's going to have to learn very quickly--

O'REILLY: Right.

PALIN: --to dismiss what some of her handlers want. Remember what happened to me in the VP.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

PALIN: Remember, I used to have to sneak in my phone call to you guys--

O'REILLY: I remember getting the call from you--

PALIN: --and say hey, I'm here.

O'REILLY: -- like 11:30 on a Sunday night. I thought it was a prank call, but it was you. Absolutely. I know exactly what you're talking about.

PALIN: So she's going to have to learn that, yes, very quickly. She's going to have to dismiss that, go with her gut, get out there, speak to the American people. Speak through Fox News and let the independents who are tuning in to you, let them know what it is that she stands for, the principles behind her positions.
Yes of course -- don't bother with the "lamestream media," because they'll just ask you tough question you don't want to answer. Far better to go to the Propaganda Channel, because they'll just toss you softballs all day and let you spin uninterrupted.

Karl Frisch has an excellent column
about that:
Since prematurely leaving the Last Frontier State’s governorship in 2009, Sarah Palin has avoided potentially devastating repeat performances of her sit-down disasters from 2008 with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson by rarely if ever subjecting herself to questions from serious journalists.

Insulated by her role as a Fox News contributor, Palin instead turns to Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the legitimate media. Rather than tearing down the walls that shield the powerful, the medium is instead being used as a cudgel of self-preservation by Palin.


When Palin does avail herself for an interview it’s usually with the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, or Greta Van Susteren — her Fox News colleagues. Lord knows they’ve never pitched a softball she wasn’t able to hit over right field.

Laughably, Palin had the gall to attack the “lamestream media” recently for supposedly failing to ask President Obama “those basic questions” by which I’m assuming she means the press hasn’t been hard enough on him. The irony of such a charge was obviously lost on her.

Palin often tells her followers “don’t retreat, instead reload!” Perhaps she should take her own advice and “reload” for another round of interviews with real reporters who will ask her “those basic questions.”

Of course, I’m not holding my breath. Palin prefers to hide behind her keyboard, showing her cowardice 140 characters at a time.
Lamestream indeed.

This, by the way, has also been Jan Brewer's strategy in Arizona: appear endlessly on Fox and refuse to do any interviews with real reporters, local or otherwise.

The Smell Of Schadenfreude In The Morning: Christine O'Donnell Sparks All-out Right-wing Civil War

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

One of the reasons the GOP has become the Party Of No is because conservatism is fundamentally a negative thing -- it's not so much for anything as it is against All Things Liberal. This is why right-wing pundits' chief skill is less in proposing or promoting things but in tearing things (and people) down.

This is never more evident than when they start turning on each other, as they have this week in the wake of Christine O'Donnell's GOP primary victory in Delaware. We've gotten a brilliant display of the viciousness of Republican infighting that just makes you want to pop a big batch of popcorn and pull up a chair to watch.

There's nothing more amusing, really, than seeing Michelle Malkin -- without a hint of irony -- viciously attack Karl Rove for his on-air criticism of O'Donnell's victory ... by calling it "vicious."

And then to watch Rove furiously defend himself by making a very clear-cut case against O'Donnell's lack of ethics ... and then suggest that Republicans might want to steer away from someone who refuses to be held accountable. Of course, we all remember just how accountable Rove has been for his various near-criminal activities in the White House.

My absolute favorite read today, though, is Oliver Willis' compilation at Media Matters of the outbreak of hostilities around O'Donnell, particularly fomented by Mark Levin, who until he grew a beard was movement conservatism's version of George Costanza. Levin has been castigating everyone in sight who questioned O'Donnell, particularly the folks at the Weekly Standard. They've been firing back, which means that everyone's private opinion of Levin (he is reputedly one of the nastiest characters you'd ever have the misfortune to encounter in person) is now bubbling to the surface.

I dunno about you, but I've popped about a week's worth of popcorn for this. I'm skipping the butter, though.

UPDATE: Here's Rove this morning on Fox's America's Newsroom, backing down.

I guess the might of the Mighty Limbaugh is too much even for Karl Rove.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ah, The Schadenfreude: There's Nothing Quite Like Watching Republicans And Tea Partiers Rip Each Other Up

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

This is one makeover that's starting to look like something the cat dragged in.

We all know that the Tea Parties are conservatives' attempt to rebrand themselves in the wake of eight disastrous years of Republican governance, and of course Republicans have largely up to now eagerly embraced the effort.

But TeaBircher candidate Christine O'Donnell's upset victory in the Delaware Republican primary last night seems to be pitting Republican Party operatives against the Tea Partiers -- and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

The wingnutosphere is particularly worked up into a froth after Karl Rove's O'Donnell-bashing appearance last night on Sean Hannity's Fox News show. Rather typical was Michelle Malkin's lament:
Expect more Washington Republicans to start sounding like Tea Party-bashing libs as their entrenched incumbent friends go down.
Then there's the Instawanker, who writes that "the real question is whether people will pull together and strive for harmony now. Will they? That’ll be a major test for the opposition’s seriousness this election cycle."


You add that to the ongoing drama in Alaska, where now-outgoing Senator Lisa Murkowski may actually be poised to come out and support the Democrat, Scott McAdams, and in Washington state, where the results were reversed -- losing Tea Partier Clint Didier has pointedly refused to endorse GOP Establishment candidate Dino Rossi -- and the GOP's hopes of taking over the Senate in November look pretty grim.

Indeed, I wager we'll see this same dynamic playing out in a number of House races too. Because one thing the makeover artists failed to take into account is the reality that, while there are very few real Republican moderates left among the political class, there are many millions of moderate Republican voters who are not going to be coming out to vote for these nutcases.

I dunno about you, but I'm actually starting to look forward to November.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Newt Gingrich On The Economy: Is There Any Politician More Congenitally Dishonest Than This Cretin?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Ya know, in a lot of ways, I really hope that Newt Gingrich runs for president, as we keep hearing he's threatening to do. (Thus the book tour, the wife's movie, etc. etc.) Because he really does represent the REAL Republican Party: the festering, corpulent, bloated, gaseous, slimy, and congenitally dishonest side of the GOP that guys like Mitt Romney are good at disguising.

With Newt, it's really on display, and pretty hard to miss. Like yesterday with Chris Wallace -- who actually displayed some smidgens of integrity with some tough questions -- on Fox News Sunday, talking about the economy:
WALLACE: Let me ask you another aspect of this, though. If you extend, as you want, as Republicans want, all the Bush tax cuts, that is going to blow a $3 trillion...


WALLACE: ... hole in the deficit. I thought your party was so concerned about debt and the deficits.

GINGRICH: Look, when you have a -- when you have a 16-year-old with a credit card who doesn't think the bills come due, you can never get caught up, because they'll just charge more.

The president of the United States has radically increased the size of the federal government since Bush left office. John Boehner has correctly proposed -- the Republican leader in the House -- let's go back to Bush's 2008 budget and you can save like -- something like a trillion, 300 billion dollars just by not spending the money.

So when we balanced the federal budget in the 1990s, which we did for four years, we controlled spending and we cut taxes simultaneously, and we reformed government. There's no reason...

WALLACE: But taxes were higher in the 1990s than they are now because you've got the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and '03. What about the argument -- I mean, John Boehner -- the House Republican leader's idea was go back to the last Bush budget and keep all the Bush tax cuts.

Isn't he making the Democratic argument that your party's idea is let's go back to Bush?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, if you want to go back to the world before Pelosi and Reid of December of 2006, there was a lot higher employment, a lot higher income. The middle class was much better off. That would not -- I think most Americans would...

WALLACE: Well, you can't blame the whole financial crisis...


WALLACE: ... on Reid and Pelosi.

GINGRICH: No, but you could -- you can blame the level of failure for the last two years and the level of spending for the last four years on the liberal Democrats both in the Congress and in the White House.

I'd make a -- I'd make a deeper argument here. You show -- you do an economic run of what this country would be like at 4 percent unemployment, with 5.5 percent of the country back to work full-time, with bringing down the under-employment number from 16 to 17 percent to about 7 or 8 percent, increase in revenue because people are back at work, decrease in food stamps -- this president's set an all-time record for the number of Americans on food stamps. I mean, that's not where you want to go. You want to go to a paycheck, not a food stamp.
It just doesn't get much more dishonest than that. After all, when we talk about George W. Bush's ability to deal with unemployment, we're talking about the worst job-creation record of any president since World War II.

Oh, and let's not forget this little chart, courtesy Ezra Klein:


You tell me who we should be blaming for the lost jobs.

Or there's this chart, from Steve Benen:


The economy hasn't improved at the rate it might've had Obama listened to some actual progressives (e.g., Paul Krugman) at the outset of his recovery plan. But no matter how you cut it, Obama has decidedly improved the economy, stopped the bleeding, and started to dig us out of the hole we're already in.

Newt? He just wants us to jump back in and keep digging. All the while whistling those dog-whistle tunes.

Will Arizona Give Neo-Nazi Border Vigilantes An Official Blessing?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Those armed neo-Nazis out running vigilante border patrols apparently now want to obtain official status for their group:
J.T. Ready, a neo-Nazi who recently began conducting heavily armed desert patrols in search of “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants in Pinal County, told The Kansas City Star that he was working on a proposal seeking state approval for his group, the U.S. Border Guard.

“I’m putting together a package and presenting it to the Arizona Legislature and saying, ‘Why don’t we go ahead and make the border rangers official, or completely reactivate the Arizona Rangers and we’ll work together,’ ” he said.

The Arizona Rangers were created in 1901 to protect the territory from outlaws and rustlers. The group was re-established in 1957.

But watchdog groups say Ready’s patrol illustrates why states should not sanction defense forces.

“We know that the neo-Nazis carry guns, but here’s an example of neo-Nazis with guns trying to position themselves to become an instrument of state policy,” said Leonard Zeskind, the president of the Kansas City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
They're also reaching the level of being a private army:
Ready, a neo-Nazi, says his border guard includes heavily armed militias that search for “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants in Pinal County.

“We have fully automatic weapons — legally registered — grenade launchers, night vision, body armor,” he said. “We’re definitely going out there fully armed and equipped. When you’re going up against people with AK-47s and grenade launchers, you don’t want to go out there with a slingshot.”
In most states, you'd assume that Ready's campaign to obtain official status would naturally die a-borning. But in Arizona -- which has a predilection for inverting reality when it comes to border violence, not to mention an ongoing white supremacist problem -- there's always a chance.

Especially when you consider that Ready has friends in high places -- including State Sen. Russell Pearce, author of SB1070, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Indeed, Ready has been working tirelessly at making himself a familiar presence on the Arizona landscape.

Of course, it's always amusing when conservatives write op-eds for the Washington Post complaining that liberals outside of Arizona perceive a lot of racism in the state's anti-immigration hysteria -- as though somehow that perception is mistaken.

You'll also note that none other than the Instapundit approves of these groups:
But Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and an expert on militias, said he saw no problem with such groups being involved with state defense forces.

“It’s not some crazy idea that someone has come up with out of the blue,” Reynolds said. “Historically, that’s how militias were organized. It’s sort of back to the future.”

Reynolds, the author of the widely read political blog Instapundit, said the state defense force has operated in Tennessee for many years.
Back to the future indeed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kurtz Calls Out Hannity For His 'Deceptive' Editing Of Obama's Speech -- But That's Nothing New For Fox

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Of course, Jon Stewart had already called out Sean Hannity for his selective edit of President Obama's speech Monday -- making it sound as though Obama uttered the opposite of what he actually said. But Howard Kurtz noticed it too, and remarked on it today on CNN's Reliable Sources:
KURTZ: Here's what I didn't like.

Sean Hannity is no fan of Barack Obama, and he's perfectly entitled to bash him night after night. But here's how the Fox News host analyzed Obama's recent speech in Ohio.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Now, the president did have a rare moment of honesty during his speech, and I hope voters around the country are watching this --

OBAMA: Taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year for everybody.

HANNITY: All right, that's right. I know the anointed one will make sure that that happens.


KURTZ: But just a second. Here's a little bit more of what Obama said.


OBAMA: Under the tax plan passed by the last administration, taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year for everybody. By the way, this was by design.


KURTZ: So Hannity's careful editing just happens to leave out Obama's explanation that the Bush administration had arranged for the tax cuts to expire in 2010, not to mention that Obama wants to extend the tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans while ending them for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Isn't that kind of editing -- what's the word -- deceptive? A tip of the hat to "The Daily Show" for catching that one.
Well, we're glad Kurtz has finally noticed. Because this has been going on for a long time at Fox.

Remember how Glenn Beck did the same thing to Anita Dunn?

Beck did this repeatedly to Dunn -- as did, indeed, Sean Hannity, who ran the same truncated quote. So did Special Report with Bret Baier.

Hannity and Beck use this technique often and repeatedly. Hannity, for instance, has repeatedly run a deceptively edited video of Obama speaking abroad in order to smear him as being a president who presents a weak American face. It's almost a nightly feature of Beck's show, who uses selective edits to smear everyone from Van Jones to Jim Wallis to President Obama.

Indeed, selectively cropped video has been a specialty of Fox News generally for some time now, and it has been long remarked.

It's such an obvious and flagrant violation of the basic rules of journalistic ethics that it's surprising that Kurtz hasn't noticed it before. But at least he has now.

Because this kind of flagrant and standard-MO violation of basic standards really gets to the matter of a news organization's accuracy and truthfulness. And when it's this common a behavior, it makes clear that the organization is not a serious news organization but a propaganda outlet.

One would hope that, eventually, Kurtz would figure that out too.