Saturday, November 27, 2010

Limbaugh's attack on Obama's Thanksgiving message pushes the racist envelope even farther

-- by Dave

Heather has already talked about the right's revisionist history around Thanksgiving that cropped up this year, but the story isn't complete without discussing Rush Limbaugh's sneering attack on President Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation:

Every cliche that is wrong about Thanksgiving shows up in his proclamation. The Pilgrims show up at Plymouth. The Indians had been there for thousands of years. We get off the boats. We don't know how to feed ourselves. The Indians show us how. They shared their skill in agriculture, which helped the early colonists survive and whose rich culture continues to add to our nation's Heritage. Is it possible he believes it? I don't doubt that he believes it, and even if he doesn't believe it, he wants everybody else to believe it. Obama believes that this nation is fatally flawed since its founding, even before its founding, so it stands to reason -- you know, a lot of people did not hear the true story of Thanksgiving until I wrote it in my book in the early nineties. I can remember Snerdley and H.R. were stunned when they heard the first story of Thanksgiving, the real story, because we'd all been taught a variation of the Indians saved us. We had to draw pictures of it in school, that's exactly right, art projects of the Indians saving us.

Well, that would be because they actually did save us -- largely through teaching white settlers agricultural techniques:

Time and familiarity has reduced to quaint memory the crucial nature of Indian agriculture for white settlers on the Atlantic coast early in the seventeenth century. Every American school child can recite the story of Squanto and his service to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. It is a charming incident in our historical texts culminating in a grand feast of thanksgiving. The harsh reality of the time, as William Bradford well knew and recorded, inscribed a bleaker circumstance. Without the seed corn and beans Bradford's fellow adventurers unearthed in November 1620, survival of the colony was doubtful. Without Squanto to teach them the arts of New World agriculture the Pilgrims' future was likely to be short indeed. The settlers' failure to master Squanto's teaching forced the colony to rely on food supplies purchased from successful Indian farmers. Not until the second year did the Pilgrims' own fields produce in sufficient abundance to assure survival.

To the south, in Virginia, the Jamestown settlement had already benefited from Indian agriculture. On at least two occasions the imperial chieftain, Powhatan, provided Jamestown with sufficient food to stave off disaster. The Jamestown settlers and later commentators seldom understood Powhatan's motivation and apparent inconstancy toward the settlement. A broader view of the chief's effort to establish an empire in the Chesapeake area might shed some light on the seeming enigma, but for the Englishmen at Jamestown the fact that lie came and with food was enough.

To the good fortune of Plymouth and Jamestown the coastal Indians produced food in quantity. The coastal tribes' ability to feed themselves and the white settlements belied the popular conception of Indian agriculture in that region as bare subsistence. Indeed, where investigators have explored the question a different picture emerged. In southern New England at least, Indian agriculture accounted for over 65 percent of the native population's diet and surplus production for trade and storage was common. In any event, it did not take the Plymouth colony long to discover that their gift from the Indians had a value beyond feeding the settlement.

Within four years after their arrival at Plymouth settlers profited from Indian agriculture and entered into relationships that dominated Indian-white contacts for the next two hundred years and more. In the fall of 1625 Governor William Bradford sent a boatload of corn up the Kennebec River to trade with the interior tribes for furs. His men returned with a store of beaver and other furs that financed the colony's needs for the next year. In later years Massachusetts further developed its fur trade, raised its own corn for export, and purchased corn from the Indians for resale.

You can also read William Bradford's eyewitness account for more.

Now it is true that Bradford's account also details how the Pilgrims discovered that communal farming was a distinctly inferior scheme to private farming, which is where Stossel and Limbaugh obtain their claim that the first Thanksgiving was about the failure of socialism -- which, as Brian at RightWingWatch has detailed already, is a load of bollocks and a deliberate misreading of the history.

As Digby says:

At this point it's clear that according to Rush, there's literally nothing good you can say about a racial minority in America (unless they are dutifully serving as right wing poster children.)

Of course not. Because in Rushtopia, white people are the cream of creation, and any suggestion that their inferiors might actually have helped them survive and thrive is an outrageous slander upon the race.

Karen Famigheti at Media Matters has more.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

'The Washington Hillbillies': Taiwan video satire wonders what our next Palin reality show will be

-- by Dave

This video, produced by Taiwan's NMA (Next Media TV, is good for more than a laugh. It also makes you realize what an international laughingstock Palin's continuing high profile makes of the American political scene generally.

They must think that we're frigging nuts to even allow someone like this the kind of political ascendancy she's achieved. And you know what? They're right.

[Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.]

Right-wingers don't want to admit to harming the economy, so they call pointing it out 'conspiracy theories'

-- by Dave

So Michael Gerson thinks it's beyond the pale for liberals to suggest that Republicans might be planning to sabotage the economy in order to win the 2012 elections, as people like Paul Krugman have astutely observed they obviously are doing.

According to Gerson, people asserting this are indulging in "conspiracy theories":
Yet this is precisely what the sabotage theorists must deny. They must assert that the case for liberal policies is so self-evident that all opposition is malevolent. But given the recent record of liberal economics, policies that seem self-evident to them now seem questionable to many. Objective conditions call for alternatives. And Republicans are advocating the conservative alternatives - monetary restraint, lower spending, lower taxes - they have embraced for 30 years.

Right. Even though liberals don't to resort to the factless fantasies that are the essence of conspiracy theories, they do happen to believe that the preceding eight years of conservative governance in America drove the country to the brink of economic and political ruin -- and their beliefs are very much grounded in real fact. They don't subscribe to the ongoing fantasy by conservatives that "the conservative alternatives - monetary restraint, lower spending, lower taxes" are any kind of solution, because it's been definitively proven that they are not. Conservatives, contrary to reality, do.

That insistence on living in a fantasy world -- which really has come to define conservatism these days -- is also what leads conservatives, not liberals, to subscribe to all kinds of conspiracy theories, ranging from Obama's birth certificate to his supposed plan to grab Americans' guns to the widespread belief, spread by leading right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, that Obama is secretly a radical black America-hater intent on harming white Americans,

Funny that Gerson never seems fit to mention this, eh?

Instead, he informs us that serious Beltway Republicans find such talk unacceptable:

It is difficult to overstate how offensive elected Republicans find the sabotage accusation, which Obama himself has come very close to making. During the run-up to the midterm election, the president said at a town hall meeting in Racine, Wis.: "Before I was even inaugurated, there were leaders on the other side of the aisle who got together and they made the calculation that if Obama fails, then we win." Some Republican leaders naturally took this as an attack on their motives. Was the president really contending that Republican representatives want their constituents to be unemployed in order to gain a political benefit for themselves? No charge from the campaign more effectively undermined the possibility of future cooperation.

This really is precious. Because Republicans' desire to do anything -- anything, even vote against a fundamentally Republican health-care measure -- has led them to simply oppose anything President Obama hopes to achieve. This includes a START treaty that is basic to American security, as well as dealing with the debt limit in a responsible fashion, which Gerson disingenuously depicts as just a matter of conservatives balking at a lack of fiscal conservatism.

But this isn't a surprise to anyone. Republicans aren't interested in helping Americans as long as Obama is their president. They will only act constructively if they are in charge. As Krugman put it:

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

This in fact has been the Republican track record of the past two years -- particularly as they have come under the thrall of the Tea Partiers. Indeed, Tea Partiers have been explicit about viewing compromise of any kind as betrayal.

And Republicans have been explicit from the start -- keyed by Rush Limbaugh's marching orders -- about being united on a single front: making Obama fail. That has certainly been the byword at Fox News in the ensuing years.

Nor has it been any less so among those congressional Republicans whose tender feelings have now been so easily offended by a little dose of truthfulness they are threatening to take their new government ball and go home. Indeed, they've been very explicit about it:

Mitch McConnell: "It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out," Mr. McConnell said about the health legislation in an interview, suggesting that even minimal Republican support could sway the public. "It's either bipartisan or it isn't."

Jim DeMint: "Senators and Congressmen will come back in September afraid to vote against the American people," DeMint predicted, adding that "this health care issue Is D-Day for freedom in America." "If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

Since the election, they've been even more strident, a la Darrell Issa's hasty retreat from talk of "compromise": “You know, the word 'compromise' has been misunderstood."

Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

John Boehner: "This is not a time for compromise."

Then there was Mike Pence, vowing "no compromise" on CNN.

The odd thing about all this is that Gerson insists on calling all this a "conspiracy theory" when in fact all of this is merely a part of the public record, and Republicans have been quite clear -- at least, among themselves -- that they view obstructing Obama in any and every particular paramount, even at the cost of American economic advancement, which they believe must wait until they are back in charge. Otherwise, Americans might view Obama favorably.

This is the opposite of a conspiracy theory, which is always a farrago of paranoid fantasy, conjecture, and half-facts. As Chip Berlet explains:

What Richard Hofstadter described as the “paranoid style” in U.S. right-wing movements derives from belief in an apocalyptic struggle between “good” and “evil,” in which demonized enemies are complicit in a vast insidious plot against the common good, and against which the conspiracist must heroically sound the alarm.

.... Conspiracism is neither a healthy expression of skepticism nor a valid form of criticism; rather it is a belief system that refuses to obey the rules of logic. These theories operate from a pre-existing premise of a conspiracy based upon careless collection of facts and flawed assumptions. What constitutes “proof” for a conspiracist is often more accurately described as circumstance, rumor, and hearsay; and the allegations often use the tools of fear—dualism, demonization, scapegoating, and aggressively apocalyptic stories—which all too often are commandeered by demagogues.

Gerson is looking for conspiracy theories in all the wrong places, methinks.

Meanwhile, both Greg Sargent and Steve Benen have solid responses to Gerson's garbage.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Palin rips Obama for not using 'all this vacation time' to visit ANWR

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin's still pushing hard on her "drill baby drill" mantra hard, especially in terms of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, which she can barely wait to open up for drilling and a new pipeline. She went on Greta Van Susteren's show on Thanksgiving Day to criticize "the extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into those extreme environmentalists who claim that there's no way you can responsibly develop a plot of land that was set aside for oil and gas development" -- particularly President Obama:

SARAH PALIN: Well, Obama needs to get up here. If he has as much time as he has on his hands to take all these vacations, maybe he should vacation in ANWR. At least fly over it, Mr. President, or play -- you know, play golf or do what he does. This is a national security need. This is -- there's that inherent link between security and our own domestic development. I think it's inexcusable that our president won't come up here and look at it.

Does anyone know what Palin's talking about here? Earlier this summer, Republicans tried attacking Obama for taking a vacation, until the WaPo pointed out that Obama at that point had taken far fewer days of vacation than his predecessor, the inimitable proprietor of the Lazy W Ranch in Crawford:

Obama has embarked on nine "vacations" since taking office, bringing his total days off to 48. Some of those trips lasted a day and some, like his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, more than a week.

By comparison, Bush had visited his ranch in Crawford, Tex., 14 times at this point in his administration and spent 115 days there.

Indeed, FactCheck found that Obama also took less vacation time than the revered Saint Ronnie, too -- though more than those lazy liberal Democrats, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Maybe Palin has in mind Obama's trip to Asia, since her pal Michele Bachmann had gone on national TV and lied about its magnitude and cost -- even though its utter falsity was quickly established.

Indeed, the wingnuts of the wingnutosphere have insisted on referring to it as Obama's "vacation" in India. They were helped along in this by Glenn Beck, who described the trip as "$2 billion for ten days so [Obama] can go see the festival of lights."

BECK: All on the heels of his wife's lavish trip to Spain, now our president is planning another lavish trip. And our dollar is losing value and the Chinese are warning us. The media again is missing it. The bickering today back and forth about how many hundreds or maybe -- maybe billions of dollars this is going to cost to insure the president's security but no one is asking, "Wait a minute, it could cost up to $2 billion to make sure he's safe? Then why is he -- has he seen the Grand Canyon?"

From the November 4 edition of Glenn Beck:

BECK: A report came out that has made the rounds on the Internet about the high cost of this trip. Some people say that it is up to $2 billion for 10 days. Is that true? I don't know. The media is bickering back and forth about what the real cost is and how many ships will be there. Thirty-four warships, possibly. I don't know. Two hundred million dollars a day while in India. I don't know. president has blocked off eight hundred hotel rooms. Do we even know if he's traveling with 3,000 people? Do we know if that's true? No one knows any of the details of this trip, the real cost of the trip. One thing we can say for certain is it's going to be quite expensive.

In reality, of course, this is not a vacation at all, but a major diplomatic tour of ally nations, particularly India. And there's a great deal at stake, both in terms of security issue and major business deals.

Is that what Palin means by "all this vacation time"?

If so, it once again demonstrates her utter lack of fitness for the job.

So, for that matter, does her ceaseless attempts to push ANWR drilling, because it clearly displays her eagerness to not only ignore real science but also to essentially open up her entire state to resource extraction without regard to consequences.

To Van Susteren's credit, she did invite Rep. Jay Inslee on to discuss the other side of the issue:

INSLEE: Well, I guess I'd offer three reasons that I think it's unwise for us to move in this direction right now. Number one, the fact is -- and this is just a geologic and economic fact -- is that drilling in this area really is not going to make an appreciable difference for our economy. And the reason is, is that this represents less than half of 1 percent of the world's oil reserves. And according to the energy studies that have been done, even if they prove out, which remains a question, might have -- might have an impact of maybe 3 cents a gallon of our cost of gasoline in the year 2028. So it's quite a minimal amount when you look at the word oil supply.

In fact, the problem is, you know, we've only got 3 percent of the world's oil supply, but we use 25 percent of the world's oil. So it's really not a solution to our problem. That's number one.

Number two -- and I think this is an important fact -- and I appreciate your looking at this issue -- but the fact of the matter is, if we're going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.

China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We've a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.

And third -- and this is an important one, and maybe it's obvious but I think it's worth saying. We've made some national commitments to our grandkids. We've done it in Yellowstone National Park. We've done it in Glacier. We've done it in Mt. Rainier National Park. And we've done it in the Arctic refuge.

You know, a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, started this whole shebang at the Pelican (ph) Refuge, and we've never violated that commitment. This is a special place. We've made a commitment that this is -- this is during the Eisenhower administration, by the way. We made a decision that we were going to make a commitment to our grandchildren that we were going to preserve this relatively small space the way the creator designed it. And I just think that's a commitment that we should keep. It's the right thing for America both economically and as a part of a commitment to our grandkids.

She later brought on Peter Van Tyne of the NRDC to explain that Palin in fact is lying about the impacts of the drilling:

VAN TYNE: I think it is wrong on a couple of points. First of all, the coastal plain of the arctic refuge about 1.5 million acres is considered by the scientists to be the biological heart of that refuge. And think about this -- in a two week period in the summer the porcupine caribou herd calves on the coastal plain, and they have 35,000 babies in that two-week period. On the coastal plain you have over 160 species of birds. In every state of your viewers there's a bird that spends some portion of their life cycle on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain.

And it's also considered by scientists to be the most important land habitat in the United States for polar bears. And scientists say in the entire arctic, circumpolar arctic this place has the most diverse plant and animal species.

You mentioned that there's an idea of drilling being only a small area. That is simply not borne out. You yourself were over in the Prudhoe Bay area and you looked at the development there. This is 1,000 square miles of development, the size of Rhode Island. You can see it from space.

There's no way -- the National Academy of Sciences has looked at these issues carefully. They say that when you drill in a particular place you've made the essential trade off, their words, not mine, where you are necessarily industrializing an area by drilling it for oil and actually undercutting if not completely eliminating the other values of the area.

Maybe Palin needs to take a vacation down in the Gulf of Mexico to see some of the consequences of trusting the oil companies too much, eh?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lou Dobbs a great fit at Fox: Distorting and lying about DREAM Act is part of the job

-- by Dave

Bill Hemmer sure was excited to get to greet Lou Dobbs to the Fox News network yesterday: "What in the world took you so long, man? We've been waiting for ya!" And you could see why, immediately.

Because Hemmer had already given intentionally false information to his viewers about the DREAM Act, which was the segment's real subject: He claimed that it "grants citizenship" to students whose parents brought them here as children.

This is, of course, a lie:

In fact, the versions of the DREAM Act pending in the House and Senate both state that eligible unauthorized immigrants could have their status adjusted to "conditional permanent resident status," which "shall be valid for a period of 6 years" and subject to termination should the immigrant cease to be eligible. Following the 6-year period, Dream Act immigrants would have to meet further requirements to gain permanent resident status and could only apply for citizenship (provided they meet further requirements) after they obtained such status.

Fox anchors, as MM notes, have also been claiming that the DREAM Act would allow some immigrants to "jump right to the front of the line." This too is a lie.

And you see that chryon in the screen grab? The one that describes the DREAM Act as an "immigration overhaul"? Absurdly false: The DREAM Act is only a very narrowly tailored bit of immigration legislation designed to resolve a small sliver of the issue -- a far, far stretch from an "immigration overhaul" as in comprehensive immigration reform.

But none of this bothers Lou Dobbs, who you may recall was vowing to reform his Latino-bashing ways while still between contracts. That was good until he got the Fox gig.

Now he not only is happy to let Hemmer's blatant misrepresentations of the DREAM Act stand, he's happy to regurgitate them and then blame Democrats for even daring to bring the issue up.

Dobbs openly admits he's reading almost directly from the phony talking points being distributed by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-KKKMississippi. But as Jackie Mahendra at America's Voice explains, these talking points are lies mounted upon falsehoods with some distortion thrown in for good measure:
The controversy comes after his office circulated a white paper that is currently reverberating throughout the conservative echo chamber, in which Sessions mixes anti-immigrant fear-mongering (see: “criminal aliens”) with factually inaccurate assertions about the legislation and its implications.

Session's spokesman Stephen Miller told Fox News:

"The scope of this proposal is enormous, extending amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants including a number who have committed serious crimes, incentivizing further illegality.”

In truth, the DREAM Act is a narrowly-tailored and traditionally bipartisan piece of legislation that ensures that only those with strong moral character qualify. As such, it would strengthen the military, bolster future economic competitiveness, and offer American taxpayers a return on their investment in hard-working immigrant kids who want to give back to the nation they love and call home.

There is a wide gulf between extremists like Sessions and sensible Americans who recognize the importance of DREAM. In fact, 70% of the American people support the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act's many champions include Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) has a piece today in Politico, in which he asks:

If you knew that passing legislation to allow 2.1 million American students to pursue higher education or military service, our government could collect $3.6 trillion over the next 40 years, would you do it?

According to The Economist:

The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.

It's a smart piece of legislation, and we're 100 percent behind its passage. Of course, its smartness is a virtual guarantee that Republicans like those at Fox -- and especially Lou Dobbs -- will oppose it.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Tea Party mandate? Most Americans want to keep the health care law -- and expand it

-- by Dave

Here's a poll you won't hear a word about at Fox News:

A majority of Americans want the Congress to keep the new health care law or actually expand it, despite Republican claims that they have a mandate from the people to kill it, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The post-election survey showed that 51 percent of registered voters want to keep the law or change it to do more, while 44 percent want to change it to do less or repeal it altogether.

Driving support for the law: Voters by margins of 2-1 or greater want to keep some of its best-known benefits, such as barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. One thing they don't like: the mandate that everyone must buy insurance.

At the same time, the survey showed that a majority of voters side with the Democrats on another hot-button issue, extending the Bush era tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31 only for those making less than $250,000.

The poll also showed the country split over ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, with 47 percent favoring its repeal and 48 percent opposing it.

The results signal a more complicated and challenging political landscape for Republicans in Congress than their sweeping midterm wins suggested. Party leaders call the election a mandate, and vow votes to repeal the health care law and to block an extension of middle-class tax cuts unless tax cuts for the wealthy also are extended.

That kind of rubs up against the prevailing Fox narrative, to wit, "Republicans won the last election and thus everything the Tea Parties want is what Democrats and President Obama should obediently follow." They keep claiming a mandate for the Tea Parties -- whose candidates couldn't even win most of their elections -- when the evidence keeps piling up that, um, no, there's no such mandate.

Not that it will make any difference. Have you noticed how, if it isn't on Fox, the other networks don't cover it?

Once upon a time, that was the function of the New York Times. Now Fox -- an outright propaganda mill -- is setting the daily news agendas. No wonder we're in the deep kimchee.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck are confused by Jimmy Carter's claims that Fox distorts the news: Who, us?

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly really hates it when people call out Fox News for being the compulsively mendacious and congenitally vicious propaganda organ it's become. The other day on his Fox show, he and Glenn Beck puzzled over why Jimmy Carter would go on CNN and say this:

The talk shows with Glenn Beck and others on Fox News, I think, have deliberately distorted the news and it's become highly competitive. And I have, my Republican friends say that MSNBC might be just as biased on the other side in supporting the Democratic Party, the liberal element.

This had O'Reilly and Beck rubbing their double chins:

O'REILLY: Right. But it's not the first time that he's done this, all right, that intentionally distort the news. What is he talking about? Do you know?

BECK: No, I have no idea what he's talking about. I mean, look, Bill, have you ever made mistakes on the air?


BECK: You correct them?

O'REILLY: Shirley Sherrod.

BECK: Yes.

O'REILLY: I made a mistake. In fact, it's interesting. I mentioned this earlier.

O'REILLY: No, I made the mistake. I didn't check it out.

BECK: I know that. But so did the White House.


O'REILLY: Don't point to other bad behavior to excuse your own. I didn't use the Mrs. Bush sound bite on Sarah Palin tonight…

BECK: Yes.

O'REILLY: …because I don't know what context that's in. I learned my lesson on Shirley Sherrod. You made a couple of mistakes. Van Jones, you said he was a convicted felon. But you corrected it?

BECK: As soon as we found out, I corrected it.

O'REILLY: Right.

BECK: He's not -- he went to jail but he wasn't a convicted felon.

Where to start? OK, first things first: Beck still has this wrong. Jones was mistakenly arrested and immediately released -- he didn't "go to jail" other than a brief stint in a holding cell.

Indeed, his whole narrative about Jones taking part in the Rodney King riots was an utter fabrication, as Eva Patterson explained at the time in the HuffPo:

This is what really happened. On May 8, 1992, the week AFTER the Rodney King disturbances, I sent a staff attorney and Van out to be legal monitors at a peaceful march in San Francisco. The local police, perhaps understandably nervous, stopped the march and arrested hundreds of people -- including all the legal monitors.

The matter was quickly sorted out; Van and my staff attorney were released within a few hours. All charges against them were dropped. Van was part of a successful class action lawsuit later; the City of San Francisco ultimately compensated him financially for his unjust arrest (a rare outcome).

So the unwarranted arrest at a peaceful march -- for which the charges were dropped and for which Van was financially compensated -- is the sole basis for the smear that he is some kind of dangerous criminal.

Note that this was pointed out to Beck in August 2009. Media Matters pointed it out too, and did so repeatedly. We pointed it out in October.

Yet it was actually four whole months after he first said it that he finally corrected it. Four months was "as soon as" Beck knew about it? Only if his "crack" staff refuses to read its most high-profile public critics -- which, truth be told, is conceivable, but unlikely. Not to mention absurdly incompetent.

Sometimes I think Beck is so mentally disturbed he genuinely believes the lies he tells. But this performance was something special: Lying about his lies, lying about the corrections to his lies, and lying even in the act of making a correction. That's what you call the liar's trifecta.

At the time, we pointed out just a few of the corrections Beck could run:

-- That nefarious Diego Rivera painting in the Rockefeller Center? It was removed on Rockefeller's orders. (Heck, just watch Cradle Will Rock sometime; the painting figures prominently in the plot.)

-- Those 1.7 million protesters who showed up for the 9-12 event? Um, dude, it was closer to 60,000. Little bitta difference there.

-- Just like Van Jones, Peter Orszag isn't a "czar." He passed congressional approval.

-- UAW workers do not make $154 an hour.

-- Unions do not, as you've claimed, need only 30 percent approval from employees in order to be established. It's still the usual 51 percent.

-- Those "doors replaced with stimulus funds? They were hangar doors. And they didn't cost "$1.4 million." More like $256,100. Again, bitta difference.

-- Contrary to your claim that "only 3 percent" of the stimulus plan would be spent in its first year, the actual plan calls for closer to 21 percent of the plan spent in the first seven-and-a-half months alone.

-- Just because we can breathe it doesn't disqualify carbon dioxide from consideration as a pollutant -- particularly at high levels. You breathe carbon monoxide in nontoxic quantities all the time, too.

-- Contrary to your sneering claim, Paul Krugman not only didn't miss the housing bubble, he was one of the few to be warning about it long in advance.

That was in October 2009, covering just his first nine months at Fox. Since then, he's expanded the list exponentially.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sarah Palin gets an hourlong Hannity Job: Definitely considering a presidential run, but she won't talk to Katie Couric

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin last night was treated to an hourlong version of that new Fox News tradition, the the Hannity Job: "one of those appearances where Sean strokes you, tosses you a bunch of softballs, and lets you promote your campaign and issue non-answers whenever you like." This meant, of course, that Joe Miller was NOT among the topics of discussion.

It was clear Hannity intended to use the hour as launching pad not just for her new book, but for her all-but-certain presidential candidacy:

PALIN: Well, now I'm thinking about 2012. And I am thinking about it, looking at the lay of the land and trying to figure out if my candidacy would be good for the national debate. Good for my family. Good nor the country.

If so, you know I would be willing to offer myself up in the name of public service. If there are others out there, though, willing to make the tough choices, the sacrifices that a candidate needs to make, then I can -- you know, rest assured that I can be a strong supporter of theirs. So we'll see it who it is who wants to be in the line-up.

And she made it plain that -- while paying lip service to "getting out" and talking to other reports, she fully intends to remain firmly inside the Fox Bubble for as long as possible:

HANNITY: If you were to get back out in the public arena and run for president, I mean would you -- would you then do interviews with the lame stream media figures? Would you even do another interview with Katie Couric?

PALIN: You know I would look forward to being even more open than I already many in speaking to the public. And I do that through social networks today, every single day I'm posting something about the discourse, the debate in the country and driving a lot of that debate. And I'm proud to be able to do that.

But as a candidate for president, if I would chose to do that, yes, absolutely, I would be out there even more. As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say, why waste my time?

No. I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism. Who, what, when, where and why of reporting.

I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us. So a journalist, a reporter, who is so biased and will no doubt spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you I will not waste my time with her or him.

A word about Sarah Palin's journalism degree: She and I graduated from the same school, the University of Idaho. (She arrived at the school a year after I graduated.) The difference is that when I attended there, I was highly active in the communications community, and was editor of the school paper for a year. Sarah Palin, in contrast, never even wrote a story for the Argonaut, let alone for the J school's other chief outlet, the UI News Bureau; no one at the school's TV station remembers her or has any record of her doing work there. Indeed, the professor who signed her degree barely remembers her, as she was one of those students who simply showed up for class, got a grade, and went home.

Given that kind of background, Palin was lucky to even get a shot at sports reporting for a small Alaska TV station, which was the extent of her actual experience as a journalist.

So it hasn't been surprising to watch Palin attack the "lamestream media", because she is obviously someone whose understanding of modern communications is eggshell-thin, and whose insights are about as deep as Bristol Bay at a minus-5 tide. The idea that this woman considers herself capable of reforming the media is enough to give any professional journalist the shudders.

The hour also featured some prime Palin fearmongering/Obama-bashing that actually raises serious questions about her national loyaties:
HANNITY: You actually used the phrase, I fear for our democracy. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: I do. I fear for our democracy because I recognized and I know you did, too, Sean, and you tried to sound a warning bell through your commentary. Through the campaign, as I was nominated for VP and running with one of my heroes, Senator John McCain.

As we were witnessing what the other campaign was actually telling the American people, warning them what they were going to do to America. They warned -- Barack Obama did as candidate -- that he would fundamentally transform America, that he would redistribute somebody's wealth, he would take it and he would give it to somebody else.

Those things that do erode our free market and our freedoms and our disincentive to a strong work ethic and to productivity. And now what we see are some manifestations of what he had warned that he would do in the campaign.

We are seeing that come home to roost now with the quantitative easing of the Feds that Barack Obama has now come out and supported as the Fed says that we're going to print more money out of thin air, and we're going to incur more debt, and we're going to devalue our dollar and we're going to mess with China's currency.

We're going to preach to them that they can't be messing with it, but we'll be messing with our own. All these things that are taking place right now especially the incurrence of this huge debt, Sean.

Well, as Barney Frank points out, this means Republicans like Palin are siding with the Chinese central bank over the United States. Who exactly is the Manchurian candidate here?

This is the kind of nonsense that leads to poll numbers showing President Obama destroying Palin in 2012. And it's been clear Palin doesn't care -- after all, she and her Tea Partier cohort actually hurt the GOP considerably in 2010. There's no reason yet why 2012 wouldn't be a repeat.

And that was very much her tone last night:

PALIN: Well, you know, if we go down, we are going down swinging. We're going to down with that message that I believe a lot of Americans can be empowered to hear. When we talk about individual rights and states' rights and opportunities that God has created and provided the people and then we have government policies trying to strip away those opportunities.

So we're going to fight a government poll say this would strip away opportunity and be in a position of eroding our freedom. Even if we go down, we're going go down swinging because we are going go down fighting for what is right.

Even if they have to burn down the whole country to do it.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A report on the symbiotic relationship between far-right extremists and the Tea Parties

-- by Dave

A couple of months ago I traveled out to Montana as part of a project examining how the extremist right -- particularly the Patriot movement -- has embedded itself within the Tea Party movement, particularly on a local level in rural areas where elements of the 1990s militia movement were still lurking. This includes Hamilton, Montana.

The piece is now up at AlterNet:

"We Are at War": How Militias, Racists and Anti-Semites Found a Home in the Tea Party

Maybe it's the gun-making kits that are being raffled off as door prizes. Or maybe it's the fact that nearly everyone inside this hall at the Ravalli County Fairground is packing heat. But most of all, it's the copy of Mein Kampf sitting there on the book table, with its black-and-white swastika, sandwiched between a survivalist how-to book on food storage and a copy of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

It is obvious: This is not your ordinary Tea Party gathering.

Mind you, they don't explicitly call themselves Tea Partiers. Their official name is Celebrating Conservatism. But their mission statement is classic Tea Party -- "to restore our country, counties, and cities back to the Republic and the Constitution of the United States" -- and Celebrating Conservatism is listed as a member of the national Tea Party Patriots organization. Everyone in Hamilton, Montana -- the whole of Montana's Bitterroot Valley, for that matter -- knows them as the Tea Party's main presence in town. Once a month or so, the group holds a potluck dinner at the county fairgrounds that typically attracts a couple hundred people, which in a place like the Bitterroot is a sizeable presence.

Of course, you should read the whole thing.

To accompany your reading, you can view the above video, which I shot at the gathering as I covered it.

A big shout-out to The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund, which financed the project.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yes, the TSA scanners and gropedowns are outrageous. No, they are not an excuse to revert to ethnic profiling

-- by Dave

What is it about conservatives that they manage to take every real and legitimate issue Americans face and not only propose, but adamantly pursue, policies that reflexively rely on lizard-brain idiocy guaranteed to make things worse?

Take as the latest example the TSA scanner/patdown controversy, which raises real and very legitimate civil-liberties concerns (the ACLU has much more on this). Yet in joining in with the raised voices, right-wingers are using the controversy as an opportunity for pushing forward one of their favorite xenophobic tropes -- namely, that we should instead institute ethnic-profiling measures to deter acts of terrorism.

Leading this particular parade has been the reliably execrable Ann Coulter. This weekend, Charles Krauthammer codified it:

We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

Today on Fox, Neil Cavuto hosted famed lizard-brain Bo Dietl to give the boot-camp sergeant version of this. Later, Cavuto added: "Should we get back just to profiling? ... El Al, if you think about it, that's what they do."

As we've explained several times, this is a load of bollocks. In fact, it's a recipe for disaster:

If you want to profile every "known Muslim," you're going to have a hell of a time in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, considering that their populations are a mix of the world's religions, and any Muslim who wanted to pose as a member of, say, a Christian church in order to fool authorities could do so with ease.

This just underscores how foolish the whole notion of racial profiling actually is, because when you embark on such policies, they actually make you more vulnerable, not less.

That's because terrorists are not that stupid. If you begin profiling for Middle Eastern men, they will find Indonesian or African or European operatives to perform the same task. If you begin profiling for Muslims, they will find ways to conceal their religious preferences.

We know two things about profiling, especially ethnic, religious, or racial profiling: 1) These policies expose the profilers to being gamed by terrorists; and 2) They are always a tremendous waste of resources and inevitably are counter-productive.

Sounds like your classic conservative solution: Hey, let's just make matters worse!

They're actually quite gifted at it.

Meanwhile, Bruce Schneier has a rundown of the non-lizard-brain discussions of the problem. I especially noted this piece of advice from the Netherlands:
The security boss of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is calling for an end to endless investment in new technology to improve airline security.

Marijn Ornstein said: "If you look at all the recent terrorist incidents, the bombs were detected because of human intelligence not because of screening ... If even a fraction of what is spent on screening was invested in the intelligence services we would take a real step toward making air travel safer and more pleasant."

Schneier also wrote this awhile back:

"Security theater" refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards.

Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at U.S. airports in the months after 9/11 -- their guns had no bullets. The U.S. color-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.

... Our current response to terrorism is a form of "magical thinking." It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.

... It's not security theater we need, it's direct appeals to our feelings. The best way to help people feel secure is by acting secure around them. Instead of reacting to terrorism with fear, we -- and our leaders -- need to react with indomitability, the kind of strength shown by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The lessons of 2010: Dems need to forgo the Blue Dog short-cut. What we need are genuine Common-Sense Liberals

-- by Dave

Now that progressives have licked their wounds from the 2010 Elections -- especially the 60 House seats won by Republicans -- it's time to turn our attention to the real task at hand: Getting a large chunk of those seats back.

And if there's anything we should have learned from 2010, it's this: The Blue Dog short-cut -- that is, propping up conservatives who don't really believe in progressive values at all as Democrats, simply as an easy way to put swing districts into Democratic hands -- is a short-term winner and a long-term disaster.

This was really on display Friday on Sean Hannity's Fox News show when he interviewed outgoing Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a classic Conservadem who thinks President Obama pushed a "liberal" agenda too hard.

HANNITY: Well, look, I would argue and I have argued that Bill Clinton changed after '94 and the Republican Revolution. I contend, and my analysis of President Obama is that he is a rigid, left wing, radical ideologue.

And I've said it many times on the program. I've never seen any inclination in his adult professional life that he has a willingness to be pragmatic to move to the middle to change.

Do you see that in him? Because I don't see it.

BAYH: Well, I actually do, Sean. And I'm glad you're sitting down when I say this. Believe it or not there are some people out there in my party who are attacking the president for being insufficiently liberal.

They think he didn't go far enough. Believe it or not, they're out there because I hear from them, too.

This kind of idiocy is exactly the reason Democrats lost so badly in the House, and had to concede seats like Bayh's in the Senate. Because -- Bayh's protestations to the contrary -- it's been painfully evident to everyone except the Tea Parters, Fox Talkers and Blue Dogs (that is, blinkered conservative ideologues) that the path Obama has followed has been anything BUT that of a "rigid, left wing, radical ideologue".

As John Nichols says, Bayh was a big part of Democrats' problem -- and his willingness to be a tool for Hannity to bash Democrats only hints at how deep that problem is.

Think about the two chief initiatives for which guys like Hannity and Bayh regularly attack Obama: the stimulus, and health-care reform. In each of these instances, Obama actually undercut his own efforts, particularly with his base, by scaling back and moderating the policies -- often to the point that, as with the stimulus package, it ultimately came up short (at least from an economic recovery standpoint) because it was so "moderate." Indeed, Obama bent over so far backwards on health-care reform that he essentially presented a Republican plan -- which Republicans, of course, unanimously rejected.

That's because Republicans really don't care about the nation's well-being: they only care about how right-wing conservatives fare politically. It didn't matter WHAT path Obama followed policy-wise: they were determined to portray him as a "rigid, left-wing, radical ideologue" no matter what he did or said. A REAL Democrat, instead of a fake one like Evan Bayh, would have pointed this out.

The reason they were able to turn this around with such ease, though, has less to do with the electorate's actual sentiments, and much more to do with the kind of Democrats who helped sweep to victory in 2006 and 2008 -- particularly those in rural and suburban swing districts.

Those people were actually elected on the basis of voters' disgust with misbegotten conservative rule -- even though they themselves were fundamentally conservative. So, rather than go out and build on their victories as Democrats by elucidating common-sense explanations for Democratic policies, these politicos essentially went out and acted like Republicans Lite, trying to convince people who would never vote for them. Along the way, as we observed in Walt Minnick's case, they gutted the own original supporters -- the common-sense liberals who are also part and parcel of rural and suburban communities, if in the minority:

Perhaps more impressive, in a positive way, is Patricia Bauer, the psychologist and health-care professional who is like so many other Idaho Democrats I know: self-possessed, assured in her own good common sense, and dismayed at watching Walt Minnick betray her and the people like her who worked to elect him. ...

You get the feeling, watching people like Patricia Bauer, that a lot of these Blue Dogs, by pursuing this kind of "bipartisanship," are leaving behind the very people who put them into office while pursuing the chimera of conservative votes. Which means that come the next election, they'll find a lot of their old organization having peeled away lots of its original support and picking up very little new. Lots of luck with that.

Given the choice between Real Conservatives and Fake Conservatives, most voters are eventually going to go with the genuine article. It's not so much that they're all conservative, but rather, voters can't stand phonies who won't stand up for themselves or the principles they're supposed to represent.

Ari Melber had some thoughts along these lines too, examining the election results:

But there is surprising news for the Beltway: 11 of the 14 Wave Democrats who won backed health care -- a higher share than Democrats who lost wave districts. About 79 percent of Democratic victors in these tough areas took the tough vote with Obama. 71 percent of losing Democrats backed health care.

This data undercuts the idea that all Democrats in competitive areas have to oppose government, or Obama, to win.

At a minimum, it suggests they can win regardless. While one midterm does not make a trend, the results show that in these wave swing districts -- in contrast to McCain Country -- new Democrats can do better by standing strong than splitting differences.

This granularity is usually lost in our political narrative. That's because many commentators lump all swing districts together, though the numbers suggest subtle, diverging politics.

When Democrats go recruiting political candidates in the next go-round, they need to be much more thoughtful and selective. Going with unknown newcomers with little political experience is always a big risk, but it's much more harmful to go in the long run with well-connected businessmen who really are conservatives but are willing to don the Democratic name to win election -- which is what the vast majority of the Blue Dogs were.

The profile of the kind of candidate Democrats should be seeking as they work to return to full power in Congress should be someone modeled after a politician like Cecil Andrus rather than a Walt Minnick: A proud liberal who was skilled at explaining and standing up for liberal positions and policies to rural and suburban audiences because he understood that, at the bottom, these are common-sense positions -- and, if explained and marketed to voters that way, will win voters over to supporting Democratic positions instead of regurgitating Fox propaganda talking points, which is about all Republicans are capable of these days.

That way, when the Tea Partiers and Fox Talkers start mau-mauing them en masse, we won't have a bunch of Democrats who run and vote with Republicans and act and talk like them on the campaign trail. We need candidates who will stand strong with their own party and give voters something to actually believe in. Otherwise, it's just going to be lather, rinse, repeat.

[FWIW, a lot of what John Nichols wrote at The Nation back in 2004 still holds true today.]

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]