Saturday, March 05, 2011

CNN Tries To Tackle White Anxiety -- By Treating White Nationalists As Credible Sources

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

[Louis C.K.answers CNN preemptively. Warning: NSFW.]

This was the headline yesterday at CNN:
Are whites racially oppressed?

"We went from being a privileged group to all of a sudden becoming whites, the new victims,'' says Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at La Salle University in Pennsylvania who researches white racial attitudes and was baffled to find that whites see themselves as a minority.

"You have this perception out there that whites are no longer in control or the majority. Whites are the new minority group."

Call it racial jujitsu: A growing number of white Americans are acting like a racially oppressed majority. They are adopting the language and protest tactics of an embattled minority group, scholars and commentators say.
Considering the racial angst that underlies so much of the Tea Party movement, this actually might have been an interesting and worthwhile subject to tackle. And it starts out promisingly, with quotes from smart people like Tim Wise, discussing the role of economic insecurity in these fears.

But then it devotes a great deal of space to the views of people like the Political Cesspool's James Edwards and VDare's Peter Brimelow -- hate-group leaders who are allowed to basically spew their venom as though their ideas were worth considering in the first place. And there's not a word devoted to discussing the hatefulness of the core ideology they promoted.

As Todd Gregory at Media Matters notes:
The most glaring problem with CNN's treatment of Brimelow and Edwards is that it presents the nature of their views as a he said/she said matter -- i.e., the Southern Poverty Law Center says they run hate groups, but they deny that. Any fair-minded look at their public statements would show that they espouse the view that minorities are inferior to white people.

Another important point about this treatment of white racial anxiety: It is completely unfair to white people who don't hold hateful views of minorities. If you are seeking perspective on "what white people think about race," you have committed journalistic malpractice by quoting people like Brimelow and Edwards. They can't be said to be in any way representative of what white people think.

Treating Brimelow and Edwards this way has the same effect as treating the New Black Panther Party as representative of black people. They're not. Plain and simple.
It's one thing to lend space to the views of racial hatemongers. It's quite another to do so without any kind of countering opinion. Yet the closes the CNN piece comes to doing that is to simply mention that the SPLC considers the subjects to be extremists -- as if that bit of proxy is all that's needed to explain to readers that no, really, white people are the opposite of being oppressed.

Gregory also observes:
Even if your goal is to accurately report on the views of people who hold "pro-White" views or sympathize with "white nationalists," setting up interviews with them and disseminating their message to a wider audience is the wrong way to go about it. People who are openly bigoted make plenty of statements about what they think, which could easily be quoted. Allowing them to offer fresh thoughts through your reporting presents them an opportunity to promote their views.
This is, of course, always a danger when it comes time to report on white supremacists of various stripes: In order for your readers to understand them, you have to present their views. But to do so without explaining to those same readers why these views are misbegotten and grounded in misconceptions, lies and pure bigotry is, in fact, profoundly irresponsible.

Sarah Palin Gets Snippy When O'Reilly Tries To Press Her On Aid Cutbacks To Alaska's Poor

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It's hard to say why it happened, but all of a sudden Bill O'Reilly decided last night to stop tossing Sarah Palin the usual softball questions and Hannity Jobs she's become accustomed to during her tenure at Fox News. He asked her to finally get specific instead of bloviating in vague generalities about where and how she's achieve the budget cuts she's calling for.

It made for the entertaining sight of the Mama Grizzly growling growling at the Poppa Bear:
O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait, wait I just want to be very clear. So 55, anybody over keeps the social security that they have coming to them, but younger --


PALIN: When we --


O'REILLY: -- or whatever the revision is?

PALIN: -- when we talk about increasing -- when we talk about increasing the retirement age, there is a good proposal on the table, a good idea to look at age 55 that all of this does have to be looked at.

But we need to quit assuming that government can, better than we as individuals, plan our retirement for us than our security they're stating - -


O'REILLY: Ok, I got -- I got all that.


PALIN: -- and we need to --


O'REILLY: -- but I got to get specific here, Governor. All right, so what you're saying is instead of 52 it goes to 55. So you can't draw on it until 55. Some people want mandatory retirement age where you would have to take it raised up to about 67.

Are you for that? Do you want to raise that mandatory age to 67 retirement? Is that --


PALIN: Everything -- everything is going to have to change for those who are enrolled in the program now and will be enrolled in the program now. But we do not change the pension benefit --


O'REILLY: I -- I agree. The people who --


PALIN: -- of those who are receiving it now and that what's people care --

O'REILLY: -- brought in and the people who need it --

PALIN: And I really apologize that up here in Alaska we have the four second delay. So it's -- it's not an easy exchange --



PALIN: -- to try to -- to try to get my point across to you if you interrupt.
I gather that O'Reilly can interrupt President Obama 48 times in 10 minutes, and it's OK, but Heaven help the man who dares interrupt the Shrilla From Wasilla.

If there's anything O'Reilly hates, it's being lectured to by his guests -- that's his job, after all. So after Palin kept spouting meaningless, vague talking points, he kept going after her. In the end, he finally produced Palin's acknowledgement that she's in the "So Be It" camp when it comes to taking care of America's poor and unemployed:
O'REILLY: Ok. That's -- I -- I'm for that private thing and I'm for raising the ages.

Now, in your state, a lot of people depended on Medicaid, particularly people in the sub Arctic region up there and they're dependent on these government checks. You had to deal with that when you were the governor of Alaska.

So we're going to have to cut back there. Poor people are going to get hurt, poor people are going to get hurt, in the Medicare and Medicaid range. Are they not?

PALIN: Everything is going to have to change. Look, how can Michael Moore, for instance, as -- as you had said in your introduction, tell Americans that we're not going broke? We take in $2.2 trillion a year and yet we're paying out $3.5 trillion a year. What's in the water there in Hollywood and in DC for people to not want to understand or believe -- or trust what the reality is --


O'REILLY: Oh he's just not a truthful -- they are just not truthful people -- they're just not telling the truth.

PALIN: They're not truthful so we have to be truthful. And we have to deal with the reality --


O'REILLY: Ok but let's get to the poor people.

PALIN: -- and reality is we are going bankrupt and the only way that we're going to get out of the problem that we face is to cut, is to cut budgets --


O'REILLY: But let's --

PALIN: -- is to reform entitlements, and then to start a pro-growth agenda that's based on cutting taxes and incentivizing production and tapping our energy sources and again stop assuming that government can plan our economy for us.

O'REILLY: Ok. But what about the poor people who absolutely need the entitlements they get? You know in your state there are a lot of people on the dole, a lot.


PALIN: There will -- and there will always --


O'REILLY: So are you going to cut -- are you going to cut the subsidies going to people earning, say less than $15,000 a year? Is that going to happen?

PALIN: There is a need -- there is a need for a safety net for those who are disadvantaged and in some of the rural communities in Alaska where there's 80 percent unemployment, there is a disadvantage and there needs to be a safety net.

But you know why there is a disadvantage here in Alaska? Because the federal government has locked up our lands and not allowed us to tap into energy sources so that we can create more jobs. Less than one percent of Alaskan land is in the private sector hands.

Now, we asked the federal government and I've sued the federal government for allowance to be able to develop more so that people aren't of this entitlement mentality where they believe that the only way that they can get out of a disadvantaged stage is to have government provide for them.

If we had a robust economy here and all across the country, then we wouldn't have to be looking at these insolvent entitlement programs that yes, when -- when we start pulling the plug on some of them, there is going to be a shared burden across our country.
I just love those shared burdens, don't you? Especially when -- as always seems to be the case when Republicans talk about them -- working-class and poor people are the only ones doing all the sharing.

In the meantime, you have to wonder how much longer Palin is going to enjoy her free ride at Fox. If O'Reilly is toughening up on her, that probably means Roger Ailes is getting close to throwing her to the wolves.

UPDATE: Conservatives4Palin is claiming I "lied" in presenting a slightly faulty transcript. And indeed the transcript is slightly off. However, since it is a Lexis/Nexis transcript, I'm not really sure how this constitutes "lying."

Of course, even more interesting is that they seem to think that Bill O'Reilly was "destroyed" by Palin. I'm sure O'Reilly and the Fox execs who pay her will be interested to hear that too.

Might be time for someone's contract to end, I suspect.

How Right-Wing Hysterics Keep Danger Levels High For The Nation's Law-Enforcement Officers

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Scott Noll at WREG-TV in Memphis had a fascinating story earlier this week, following up on last summer's deadly rampage by two sovereign citizens, Jerry and Joe Kane, that left two police officers dead and several other wounded:
Tonight there are new questions about how much the feds knew about an anti-government activist, accused in the deadly attack against police officers in West Memphis.

WREG On Your Side Investigators have uncovered the secret FBI files showing Jerry Kane was the target of a federal investigation five years before that deadly day last May.

The 19 page file was released this week, following our Freedom of Information Act request last June.

Tonight, West Memphis's police chief believes if his officers had known what was inside last May they'd still be alive today.

"I felt like I let this department down May the 20, 2010 when I didn't have the information I should have had," said Paudert recalling the shooting that left his son, Sgt. Brandon Paudert, and Officer Bill Evans dead.

The chief finds it disturbing to know the FBI knew about Jerry Kane years before that deadly day.

Paudert had no idea what was in the file until we showed him.

"You could become very angry very quickly when you lose your son and a fine officer like Bill Evans thinking this information was stored away someplace in someone's file and they didn't want to share it," explained Paudert.
The incident was yet another reminder that one of the most significant ongoing threats to law enforcement officers in this country comes from right-wing extremists of the Patriot/"sovereign citizen" variety -- people who take Republicans' government-bashing rhetoric to its illogical extreme and declare themselves free of federal laws and functionally laws unto themselves. There are constant reminders of this threat -- from the Hutaree Militia to the Richard Poplawskis out there.

Of course, we all were witness to the right-wing shrieking over that Department of Homeland Security bulletin warning police officers around the country about the nature of this resurgent threat. That's because conservatives are more concerned about whitewashing away these embarrassments than they are with the lives of police officers. They like to use dead cops as props to attack liberals while loudly arguing, as Glenn Beck did a couple years ago, that even paying attention to such right-wing threats is a smear of mainstream conservatives.

Ironically, Glenn Beck was nattering at length on his Fox News show this week claiming that left-wing extremists are about to start killing police officers en masse, which is why they need to destroy their unions. Right.

The unfortunate reality is that federal officials are almost certainly not sharing this vital intelligence with police officers because, whenever they do, they're viciously and loudly attacked by right-wing pundits for allegedly smearing mainstream conservatives. Amazingly, no one in the mainstream media seems to have yet cottoned to the fact that this really is a near-outright confession of complicity.

Indeed, domestic terrorism is sharply increasing in the past two years, as evidenced by the 22 incidents and counting we've documented involving right-wing extremists committing acts of violence against "liberals" and government targets.

But because right-wing talkers only want to discuss terrorism as a "Muslim" phenomenon, we're getting a badly skewed understanding of the nature of terrorism. As Rep. Bennie Thompson explained in Politico a few weeks back:
While I agree that homegrown terrorism and the jihadist threat deserve continuing attention, a single-minded approach ignores all other threats.

Today’s terrorists do not share a particular ethnic, educational or socioeconomic background. Recently, when state law enforcement agencies were asked to identify terror groups in their states, Muslim extremist groups ranked 11th on a list of 18.

Law enforcement agencies identified neo-Nazis, environmental extremists and anti-tax groups as more prevalent than Muslim terrorist organizations. The sophisticated explosive device found along a parade route in Washington on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an act of domestic terrorism clearly motivated by racist ideology, should prove that other groups are just as willing and able to carry out horrific attacks on Americans.

In addition, terrorist groups are not our only threat. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “lone wolves and small terrorist cells” may be the single most dangerous threat we face. Attacks are just as likely to come from lone-wolf extremists — like James Wenneker von Brunn, the Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter, or Jared Lee Loughner, who is charged with the tragedy in Tucson, Ariz. — as they are from Muslim extremist groups.

And what do von Brunn and Loughner have in common with Muslim extremists like Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, and Colleen LaRose, also known as Jihad Jane? All allegedly espoused radical views on the Internet through extremist websites, chat rooms and popular sites like Facebook.

This starkly illustrates what should be common sense: The most effective means of identifying terrorists is through their behavior — not ethnicity, race or religion.
But that was all washed away by the right-wing shrieking over the DHS bulletin, even though the report was an important heads up about the very real danger for law-enforcement officers out there posed by right-wing extremists:
The Department of Homeland Security more than likely couldn't give a rat's patoot about today's right-wing Tea Tantrums, because they're mostly exercises in futility and stupidity anyway.

But I'll tell you who they do care about: the people in uniform who go out every day and put their lives on the line to keep you and I and our families and neighborhoods safe -- that is, the men and women in law enforcement. People like those three officers in Pittsburgh, who had no reason to suspect a killer was about to ambush them.

A recent study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism lays out in painful detail the very real threat that right-wing extremists pose to people in law enforcement:
Research led by Dr. Joshua D. Freilich (John Jay College, CUNY) and Dr. Steven Chermak (Michigan State University) and funded by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has revealed a violent history of fatal attacks against law enforcement officers in the United States by individuals who adhere to far-right ideology.

* In the United States, 42 law enforcement officers have been killed in 32 incidents in which at least one of the suspects was a far-rightist since 1990.

* 94% of these incidents involved local or state law enforcement. Only two events—high-profile attacks at Ruby Ridge and at the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City—involved federal agents. Much more common are events like the tragic Pittsburgh triple slayings.

* Attacks on police by far-rightists tend to occur during routine law enforcement activities. 34% of the officers killed by far-rightists were slain during a traffic stop, and a number of law enforcement officers have been killed while responding to calls for service similar to the domestic violence call that precipitated the Pittsburgh murders.

* Firearms were the most common type of weapon used during these fatal anti-police attacks. 88% of the incidents involved guns, while only 6% involved explosives and 6% involved knives. 81% of the victims were killed by guns.

* Only 12% of the suspects in these attacks were members of formal groups with far-right ideologies. The vast majority—like Poplawski—acted alone. This greatly complicates law-enforcement efforts to anticipate which individuals might pose a threat to police officers.

* Beyond these law enforcement murders, far-right violence presents a broader threat to national security and American citizens. Since 1990, far-rightists have been linked to more than 275 homicide incidents in 36 states. These crimes have resulted in the more than 530 fatalities, including the 168 victims murdered by Timothy McVeigh when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The vast majority of these suspects are white and male, with almost 70% being 30 years old or younger.
Back then, Beck and Malkin and the rest couldn't be bothered to express even a scintilla of concern about the safety of law-enforcement officers:
This is where I wonder about the grotesquely skewed priorities of the conservative movement and its leading pundits. Because all the yammering has been fearmongering about the DHS potentially targeting ordinary conservatives -- especially VETERANS!!!! -- when in fact there is not a scintilla of evidence they have done so or are considering it.

Yet in the meantime, as we just pointed out, these right-wing extremists who are the subject and the raison d'etre of this bulletin are also known lethal threats for the men and women who work in law enforcement ...

So while the folks at Faux News fearmonger for the sake of yet-unharmed veterans and conservatives, they're completely turning their backs on the interests of the men and women who risk their lives each day serving as law-enforcement officers.
But if you can convince them instead that the real threat they face is the fact that they belong to those creatures of progressivism, the unions -- well, that would be right-wing nirvana right there.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Fox Talkers Are Shocked That Obama Privately Sees Racism Lurking In The Tea Parties

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The folks at Fox News were all worked up yesterday about an excerpt that slipped out from Kenneth Walsh's new book, Family of Freedom:
...But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent "Tea Party" movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn't helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to "take back" their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn't dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a "subterranean agenda" in the anti-Obama movement-a racially biased one-that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.
Everyone from Hannity to Bret Baier ran segment expressing shock and horror that, in private, Obama recognizes what he's declined to say in public -- namely, the stone cold truth that a large chunk of the Tea Parties' ranks are filled with people who despise the idea of having a black man as their president.

The funniest was Megyn Kelly's segment with Michael Reagan, who adopted the standard storyline at Fox -- namely, that the Tea Parties are filled with nothing but Real Americans, and therefore dissing them is tantamount to attacking sacred Americanhood itself.

Of course, they never really explain why Obama should pay any respect whatsoever to a fake "movement" ginned up for the sole purpose of opposing every single policy he intends to try enacting. The Tea Parties were expressly anti-Obama affairs from the start, and indeed their earliest organizers were outfits like Our Country Deserves Better PAC, set up explicitly with the purpose of stopping Obama and his agenda.

Yet Reagan even tried pretending that the Tea Parties were full of people who voted for Obama:
REAGAN: Now it's interesting, that same Tea Party went out there and elected Allan West in Florida, the same Tea Party goes to Herman Cain to speak at so many of their events across this country. Many of those people in the Tea Party probably voted for Barack Obama back in 2008 -- not knowing that when he went into office he was going to take over General Motors, he was going to destroy the economy of the United States of America and make the government the big grand poobah, if you will, of creating jobs, not the public sector.
Some quick factual points:
-- Only 5 percent of the Tea Partiers polled in 2009 identified as former Democrats. The rest identified as Republicans or Independents. (No one seems to have ever polled Tea Partiers to ask them how they voted in 2008, but having attended many Tea Party events, I would guess that the 5 percent who identified as Democrats in those polls are probably the sole Obama voters at best -- since a number of them include disgruntled Hillary supporters.)

-- The GM bailout has in fact proven a real success story -- not to mention that this is some "takeover": the feds are selling off their shares of GM stock as quickly as they can, actually.

-- George W. Bush and the Republicans who ran Congress from 2001 to 2006 destroyed the economy. It collapsed in September 2008, two months before Barack Obama was elected president.
Not that facts matter much to propagandists like Michael Reagan and Megyn Kelly, or for that matter the ignorant and frequently racist boobs who largely populate the Tea Parties. But we thought you might find them handy.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Huckabee Just Digs That Hole In Kenya Deeper. Why Not Just Admit He Got His Misinformation From Fox?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly had on Mike Huckabee last night to explain his bizarre gaffe in which he described President Obama as having grown up in Kenya.

As he has been ever since the gaffe, Huckabee explained that this was a simple slip of the tongue -- that he simply meant to reference the president's four childhood years spent in Indonesia.

And of course, O'Reilly gave him plenty of slack with which to make this claim:
HUCKABEE: Well, honestly, it was about the 40th media interview of the day -- you've done these things. Uh, if I'd read from my own text, page 183 of my book, I clearly said he grew up in Indonesia. It was a verbal gaffe. I immediately apologized. But that's not enough for the left-wing media --
The reason it's not enough for any sentient being is that it doesn't jibe with what Huckabee originally said, to wit:
HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits --

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.
How could Huckabee have been referencing Obama's Indonesian childhood while nattering at length about his grandfather and father and the Mau Maus, who lived half a world away in Kenya? And the bust of Winston Churchill? How does that have anything to do with Indonesia?

Ah, but Bill O'Reilly can explain all:
O'REILLY: You actually made a point about his outlook on the world because his father and grandfather are from Kenya and they have a very different view of the British and Kenya because of the Mau Mau uprising against the British colonists there who were running the government. And so, I mean, that's legitimate. It's just that he wasn't in Kenya.

HUCKABEE: And my point, really, about talking about him being raised in a different country -- actually, Indonesia, not Kenya -- as I do understand, again, it's right there in the book for me to read and everybody else, if they care to -- but, but the point that I do want to make is that creates a different worldview. This is not a kid who grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and playing Little League Baseball in a small town.

O'REILLY: He's not a traditional -- he is not a traditional guy, he is a guy who's had a lot of life experience that is different from the, you know, Mom and apple pie offering.
Yeah, he's like a freak alien from another planet, ya know? He's FOREIGN!!!

Except, of course, that Obama in fact did belong to a Scout troop (in Indonesia) and played basketball and soccer in Hawaii.

And moreover, he in fact wrote an entire book dedicated to the fact that he barely knew his father or grandfather, was little influenced by either of them, and hardly knew anything about them -- because he didn't even visit Kenya until the late 1980s.

Best of all, it turns out Huckabee is lying about the "Page 183" citation -- it simply doesn't exist!
On page 183 of his book, Huckabee references the Churchill bust and the Mau Mau rebellion, but does not say that Obama grew up in Indonesia. In fact, neither that page (nor the rest of the chapter) references Obama's childhood in Indonesia. And based on a search of the Kindle version of his book, Huckabee makes no mention of Indonesia (or Indonesian, Jakarta, and Menteng).
Perhaps the most comical part of all this is that Huckabee's source of misinformation is clearly none other than Fox News itself. Their employer is the chief purveyor of the very same false "facts" that Huckabee so faithfully (if convolutedly) regurgitated on the radio.

Most recently, it was peddled by Stuart Varney on Megyn Kelly's show:

Varney's source, meanwhile, was almost certainly none other than Glenn Beck, who first concocted this theory back in June 2010:

As Matt Gertz at Media Matters observed at the time:
First of all, Obama never met his paternal grandfather, and met his father only once, when the president was ten. The idea that Obama's grandfather's torture 60 years ago would have triggered a deep-seated hatred of the British just doesn't make a lot of sense.
Second, Beck's evidence that Obama hates Britain is mind-numbingly weak -- all he points to is that Obama supposedly returned the Churchill bust after he became president. If Obama really hated Great Britain, shouldn't he be, I don't know, declaring war on them or something? What's more, Obama reportedly keeps on his desk a wooden penholder given to him by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; the penholder is "crafted from wood taken from the HMS Gannet, the sister ship to the Resolute, a British naval vessel whose wood was used to make the presidential desk."

Third, Beck's sole piece of evidence that Obama hates Britain doesn't add up: Both the British Embassy and the White House have said that the Churchill bust had not been a gift, but rather a loan that expired with Bush's presidency.
It's a classic example of how pull-it-out-of-your-butt theories cooked up by yobs like Glenn Beck, even when laughed out of the room, manage to have a long half-life, bobbing up whenever right-wingers open their mouths and start gushing out the things Fox fills their brains with.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Wide-eyed Megyn Kelly Is Wowed By Sketchy Moonie Times Report Blaming '08 Economic Crisis On (Chinese?) Terrorists

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Probably the greatest blunder of the Obama White House over the past two years has been its abject failure to make certain the public understood that it was conservative misgovernance that was at the root of the great economic meltdown of 2008 -- especially because it was that very downturn that propelled him into office.

That failure has functionally given conservatives -- the architects of the disaster -- the ability to cover their tracks by erecting a narrative in which the blame was instead laid at the doorstep of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and minority-lending programs. And that narrative is now widely believed by over half the country.

Now the Washington Times is trying to muddy the water even further, running a bizarre and thinly sourced piece claiming that perhaps terrorism -- maybe even Chinese terrorists, colluding with radical Islamists, perhaps? -- were actually behind the meltdown.

Here's the piece.

Evidence outlined in a Pentagon contractor report suggests that financial subversion carried out by unknown parties, such as terrorists or hostile nations, contributed to the 2008 economic crash by covertly using vulnerabilities in the U.S. financial system.

The unclassified 2009 report “Economic Warfare: Risks and Responses” by financial analyst Kevin D. Freeman, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, states that “a three-phased attack was planned and is in the process against the United States economy.”
But as you can see from reading the piece, Freeman presents no evidence other than the economic catastrophes themselves that these were terrorist attacks. Indeed, it's nothing but unadulterated wild speculation from start to finish.

Nonetheless, Megyn Kelly invited Freeman onto her Fox News yesterday and treated it as if it were potentially the biggest story in the whole wide world. She was duly wowed -- even though, as you can see, Freeman couldn't even tell her whether these were Chinese terrorists or Islamic radicals, or mebbe they were working in collusion! (As if!)

No wonder everyone involved in analyzing the markets is pretty much laughing at Freeman and the reporters who gobbled up this nonsense so gullibly.

Then, of course, Kelly capped it all off with the classic "minority lending programs did it" narrative as the safe story everyone believes:
KELLY: But how could they have done it? Because, you know, I think the conventional wisdom in this country is, uh, you know, you had Fannie and Freddie giving out tons of mortgages that never should have been given out, then you had the Wall Street folks trading these so-called credit default swaps, basically doubling down on the bad investments, and ultimately things just started to implode in a way where, you know, we had to step in, the government bailed out those banks, and we all know the history that happened after there.
That's a pretty remarkably dense thicket of lies that have little or no relationship to reality whatsoever.

Let's try to unpack it a little:

-- Fannie and Freddie's role in the economic crash was so minor as to be nearly farcical. As McClatchy explained at the time:
As the economy worsens and Election Day approaches, a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail.

Commentators say that's what triggered the stock market meltdown and the freeze on credit. They've specifically targeted the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the federal government seized on Sept. 6, contending that lending to poor and minority Americans caused Fannie's and Freddie's financial problems.

Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis.

Subprime lending offered high-cost loans to the weakest borrowers during the housing boom that lasted from 2001 to 2007. Subprime lending was at its height from 2004 to 2006.

Federal Reserve Board data show that:

* More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.

* Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year.

* Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that's being lambasted by conservative critics.

The "turmoil in financial markets clearly was triggered by a dramatic weakening of underwriting standards for U.S. subprime mortgages, beginning in late 2004 and extending into 2007," the President's Working Group on Financial Markets reported Friday.

Conservative critics claim that the Clinton administration pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make home ownership more available to riskier borrowers with little concern for their ability to pay the mortgages.

"I don't remember a clarion call that said Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster," said Neil Cavuto of Fox News.

Fannie, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., don't lend money, to minorities or anyone else, however. They purchase loans from the private lenders who actually underwrite the loans.

It's a process called securitization, and by passing on the loans, banks have more capital on hand so they can lend even more.

This much is true. In an effort to promote affordable home ownership for minorities and rural whites, the Department of Housing and Urban Development set targets for Fannie and Freddie in 1992 to purchase low-income loans for sale into the secondary market that eventually reached this number: 52 percent of loans given to low-to moderate-income families.

To be sure, encouraging lower-income Americans to become homeowners gave unsophisticated borrowers and unscrupulous lenders and mortgage brokers more chances to turn dreams of homeownership in nightmares.

But these loans, and those to low- and moderate-income families represent a small portion of overall lending. And at the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, Republicans and their party's standard bearer, President Bush, didn't criticize any sort of lending, frequently boasting that they were presiding over the highest-ever rates of U.S. homeownership.
The "Fannie and Freddie did it" narrative has been ridiculed from a number of market and economic experts. As Barry Riholtz put it:
Some people (especially the political hacks) are focusing their energies in the wrong places. According to a recent investigation by Barron’s, Fannie’s biggest problem was not the subprime mortgages they bought — it was the better quality Alt A mortgages that caused their demise ...

The folks who want to place the entire crisis at FNM/FRE ‘s doorstep miss the point — and let me hasten to add that I was never a fan of the company, and we were short FNM from over a year ago, at $42+ — these people seem to miss all of the big picture issues, and are focsing on minor factor and outright irrelevancies.

... While I understand that reducing the complexities of economic history into bumper sticker phrases is politically expedient, it does not help us understand the root cause of the problems. And, it gets in the way of helping us fashion a solution for the future. Hence, why I hold the weasels who are attempting to obscure reality and rewrite history in such disdain.

For the non-partisan, non hacks amongst you, for the policy makers and academics and economists who are truly interested in how this came to pass, and what we can do to fix it, the bottom line remains: The CRA was irrelevant to the current crisis, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were mere cogs in a very complex financial machine, with many moving parts.

But the primary cause of the mess? Not even close . . .
Ritholtz -- like hundreds of other economists and market experts who understand what happened -- says the primary cause, in fact, were "a nonfeasant Fed, that ignored lending standards, and ultra-low rates."
This nonfeasance under Greenspan allowed banks, thrifts, and mortgage originators to engage in all manner of lending standard abrogations. We have detailed many times the I/O, 2/28, Piggy back, and Ninja type loans here. These never should have been permitted to proliferate the way they did.
The fact that they did proliferate as they did, in fact, can be laid directly at the doorstep of conservative ideologues, whose mania for deregulation -- particularly in the financial-services sector -- is what led directly to the policies creating, condoning and even encouraging such dubious financial instruments.

Though one might argue, in fact, that this kind of depredation committed by the oligarchical class, with working-class people taking the hit, and with little if any consequence whatsoever to the wealthy, is a kind of terrorism -- economic terrorism against working Americans. But don't expect the experts and anchors at Fox News to ever let you hear that.

-- Oh, and about those bailouts: Not only were they a success, they also wound up being a lot cheaper than everyone expected. That seems to be a bit of the "history" that never makes it onto Fox News, either.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

WTF? Huckabee Tells Radio Talker That Obama Grew Up In Kenya

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We always knew that Mike Huckabee is prone to occasional lapses in which he reveals his real, deeply ignorant self. But this one takes the cake:
MALZBERG: Don't you think it's fair also to ask him, I know your stance on this. How come we don't have a health record, we don't have a college record, we don't have a birth cer - why Mr. Obama did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It's one thing to say, I've -- you've seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don't you think we deserve to know more about this man?

HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits --

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.
Huckabee, of course, is just repeating his Fox News colleague Stuart Varney's slimy attack on President Obama of a few weeks ago -- a simple and outrageous lie. And yes, Varney was just repeating Glenn Beck.

As Eric Hananoki at Media Matters observes:
Contrary to Huckabee's claims, Obama did not grow up in Kenya. Obama spends significant portions of his book Dreams From My Father describing his first visit to Kenya in the late 1980s. On page 304, Obama writes of his arrival at Kenyatta International Airport (emphasis added):
Kenyatta International Airport was almost empty. Officials sipped at their morning tea as they checked over passports; in the baggage area, a creaky conveyor belt slowly disgorged luggage. Auma was nowhere in sight, so I took a seat on my carry-on bag and lit a cigarette. After a few minutes, a security guard with a wooden club started to walk toward me. I looked around for an ashtray, thinking I must be in a no-smoking area, but instead of scolding me, the guard smiled and asked if I had another cigarette to spare.

"This is your first trip to Kenya, yes?" he asked as I gave him a light.

"That's right."

"I see." He squatted down beside me. "You are from America. You know my brother's son, perhaps. Samson Otieno. He is studying engineering in Texas."

I told him that I'd never been to Texas and so hadn't had the opportunity to meet his nephew. This seemed to disappoint him, and he took several puffs from his cigarette in quick succession.
The BBC noted in a 2008 article that "Barack Obama has never lived in Kenya and he has visited the country just three times."

Additionally, Obama did not grow up "with a Kenyan father and grandfather." Indeed, Dreams From My Father is largely about Obama's struggles with the absence of his father. The AP noted in 2006 that Obama "was mostly raised in Hawaii and did not know his Kenyan father well."
Maybe Huckabee is thinking of Indonesia, where in fact Obama lived between the ages of 6 and 10. I think the Dutch were bigger subject there than the British, though. And it's a looooooooong way from Kenya.

Either Huckabee is a secret Birther, or he's as ignorant of his geography as the Shrilla From Wasilla.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fox Anchors And Reporters Really Don't Like It When Madison Protesters Tell The Truth: 'Fox News Lies'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly already laid down the law at Fox -- namely, that protesters chanting "Fox News Lies" are obviously a bunch of hatemongers trying to shut down other voices. And so that was the storyline all weekend whenever Fox reporters tried to do live broadcasts from the Madison protests.

This mainly involved correspondent Mike Tobin and weekend lamestain anchor Gregg Jarrett, who could barely contain themselves over the supposed "incivility" of the Madison protests. When the chant went up Saturday, Tobin tried to minimize them:
TOBIN: Now, once again, they're chanting about Fox News -- which as we all know is really a diversion from what's going on here.
Jarrett then went on to cite a phony Rasmussen poll supposedly showing most respondents disapproving of the legislators staying out of town to fight Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting schemes -- without mentioning, of course, the polls showing strong public disapproval for Walker's actions as well.

Gee, we wonder why the crowds were chanting as they were.

It continued Sunday:
TOBIN: And you can still hear the passion of the crowds. The heckling is starting up again, the hate that you get from these demonstrators. You can see it in their faces. You can see the passion. But they all come back to the same thing every time.

I was getting the business from a teacher yesterday -- there he goes, he wants to shut down the communication. A teacher was giving me the business yesterday, and the teacher told me she hates me, because it makes her feel good. That's the situation out here, Gregg.

JARRETT: You know, Mike, I hate to put you into this situation, because you're being surrounded there, and yeah, you're being heckled, and there is profanity and vulgarity.

TOBIN: That guy just hit me.

JARRETT: Go ahead.

TOBIN: Ah, that guy just hit me. So to just let you know.

JARRETT: All right. But -- but -- you know -- why do they express such vitriol toward the media?
Memo to Jarrett: Fox News is neither synonymous with nor really even representative of "the media", especially as far as this crowd is concerned. Because the folks in Madison know -- and are giving voice to -- an important truth: Fox News is not a news organization, it is a propaganda organ.

That truth is embodied, in fact, by the way Fox has consistently tried to smear the crowds in Wisconsin as "hate-filled" and violent -- when in fact the opposite has been largely true, particularly compared to the vitriol we saw at Tea Party rallies against health-care reform that were whipped up by Fox News the year before. Digby has a fine sample of this, but you can see it just in these segments as well.

And then Fox expects the very crowds that it is smearing before national audiences to sit still and let them smear them freely on-air? Sorry, fellas, but the real world doesn't work that way -- though you'd like it otherwise in your alternative universe, no doubt.

Moreover, this isn't a diversionary issue: The crowds understand the importance of Fox's relentless propaganda in advancing the war against the nation's unions that the Right is undertaking. Indeed, they know that Fox is a major cornerstone of this war, because it entails convincing working-class people -- much of Fox's audience -- to take sides against their own best interests. The Madison protesters understand that the messaging war is being won because the Right has a powerful propaganda organ whose success is dragging not just the national dialogue but the rest of the media (the Beltway Villagers especially) rightward with them.

Good on them. And the less whining we hear from Fox reporters, the better.You made your beds -- now sleep in it.

CNN's Kurtz & Co. Disparagingly Compare Walker Hoax Call To ACORN Videos -- Which They Loved At The Time

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It was bad enough that most of the media -- outside of the liberal anchors at MSNBC -- refused to recognize the import of the content of that prank phone call to Scott Walker. Even more appalling was watching this weekend as the Beltway Villagers bent over backwards to thoroughly dismiss the story -- led by Howard Kurtz and the execrable Amy Holmes at CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday.

Their chief means of dismissing the story was to compare the Buffalo Beast's revealing hoax call as "not journalistic" while comparing it to the treatment given the hoax ACORN videos of 2009:
HOLMES: Right. Well, I think because it fits their ideological framework. And I looked at this, and he was hailed as "Most Intriguing Person of the Day" by CNN. And you didn't see the hand-wringing over journalistic ethics like you did, say, in the ACORN case, when those two young people used the same sorts of tactics of being an impostor and sort of -- some people would say tricking people into participating in this. And there, there was a huge discussion about journalism and is this fair, is this right?

In this, it was, like, he's a hero. He accomplished a feat, as you just heard.


KURTZ: And as Amy points out though, when the ACORN sting happened -- you remember James O'Keefe and the pimp and the prostitute -- liberal commentators all attacked them, but Fox News played them up and that story up in a way that was much more favorable.

So how much of this is ideological.

HOLMES: Right. And the ACORN folks, they said that they were activists. They were very explicit about their point of view, where, in this case, oh, well, maybe he's a blogger, maybe he's a journalist. It doesn't really matter and he doesn't get any kind of criticism for his methods.
But how did Kurtz and Co. -- including Holmes -- treat the ACORN videos back in 2009? Well, as it happens, they attacked other media outlets for their reluctance to treat the videos as legitimate!
KURTZ: But much of the mainstream media was well behind on this story. CNN also jumped on the budding scandal 10 days ago, though not with anything approaching Fox's intensity.

But it took five days to hit the CBS "Evening News" and six days to be reported by ABC's "World News," NBC "Nightly News" and MSNBC.

Chris, there was two conservative activists, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a ho, get this footage with a hidden camera. Is that journalism?

CILLIZZA: I think there is a blurry line of what journalism is now, Howie, with video on demand, with blogs. I will go back to a somewhat less controversial example. Mayhill Fowler, a Democratic donor, wound up in a San Francisco fund-raiser for Barack Obama in which he said some voters in Pennsylvania are "embittered and cling to their guns."


HOLMES: If -- if liberal activist had walked into the Heritage Foundation, for example, and conducted the same sort of sting operation, it would have been on the front page of The Washington Post in a day. I think that what we're seeing here was -- is this just a right- wing, sort of, fringe story that the mainstream media didn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, or this a real story about corruption at this organization?

And I think the mainstream media, because it was conservative activists going into a liberal organization, were a little bit wary, I would say, of the story.
Indeed, Kurtz even penned the following line in the Washington Post, defending the content of the videos:
Nearly everyone dismissed Beck's charge that the president is a racist, but the ACORN videos he and Hannity trumpeted on Fox proved to be a legitimate story.
But as the folks at FAIR detailed at the time, not only did the mainstream media lap it all up avidly, there was almost nothing legitimate at all in the ACORN videos -- beginning with the methods used to obtain the videos, but even more significantly, in the faked conclusions they were intended to lead observers to reach. The hoax in those videos was not only perpetrated on the videos' subject, but on their intended audience as well. (Media Matters has the definitive details of the scope of the hoax.)

It's standard modus operandi Andrew Breitbart and Co. Of course, Kurtz defended Breitbart even through the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, too. He only seemed to wake up when O'Keefe tried to scam a CNN reporter -- at which point he began dismissing him as a "fake pimp".

So it was the theme of Sunday's show that there was nothing, NOTHING worth legitimately reporting on in the case of the Walker hoax, too -- as Jim Warren tried to emphasize:
WARREN: Yes. I mean, on one hand, I thought it was fascinating and revealing, what was going on in the governor's mind in a certain sort of cynical pragmatism that was playing out on his side.

At the same time, I didn't see this guy as performing any vaguely legitimate form of journalism. He was perpetuating an absolute hoax, starting with misidentifying himself.

Although I think there are times when mainstream legitimate journalists can misidentify themselves. But, boy, it has to be for higher causes -- maybe saving lives or actually revealing some huge systemic government fraud. In a case like this, just to embarrass, no.
The problem for Warren, Kurtz, and Holmes et. al. is that the hoax wasn't simply an attempt to embarrass Walker -- it legitimately laid bare, through well-known means of trickery, the cozy relationship between Walker and his financial beneficiaries. As the WaPo's Greg Sargent put it at the time:
UPDATE, 11:54 a.m.: In a key detail, Walker reveals that he is, in effect, laying a trap for Wisconsin Dems. He says he is mulling inviting the Senate and Assembly Dem and GOP leaders to sit down and talk, but only if all the missing Senate Dems return to work.

Then, tellingly, he reveals that the real game plan here is that if they do return, Republicans might be able to use a procedural move to move forward with their proposal. "If they're actually in session for that day and they take a recess, this 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have a quorum because they started out that way," he says. "If you heard that I was going to talk to them that would be the only reason why." Then the fake Koch says this: "Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do." Walker doesn't bat an eye, and responds: "I have one in my office, you'd be happy with that. I've got a slugger with my name on it."

12:09 p.m.: Another key exchange: FAKE KOCH: What we were thinking about the crowds was, planting some troublemakers. WALKER: We thought about that. My only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I talk to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.The teachers union did some polling and focus groups... It's unclear what Walker means when he says he "thought" about planting some troublemakers, but it seems fair to ask him for clarification.
Indeed, it was amusing watching Walker try to lie his way past the gaffe. Amusing, that is, except for the subsequent eagerness of the mainstream press to help him cover it all up.

UPDATE: John Amato:

Even the Washington Post bought into the ACORN atrocity video perpetrated by O'Keefe; their ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, also wrote that it was a legitimate story and promised to take conservative pundits more seriously in the future: Wrongly Deaf to Right-Wing Media?
It's tempting to dismiss such gimmicks. Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth.

But they're also occasionally pumping legitimate stories. I thought that was the case with ACORN and, before it, the Fox-fueled controversy that led to the resignation of White House environmental adviser Van Jones.


With ACORN, The Post wrote about it two days after the first of several explosive hidden-camera videos were aired showing the group's employees giving tax advice to young conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp. Three days passed before The Post ran a short Associated Press story about the Senate halting Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN, which operates in 110 cities. But by that time, the Census Bureau had severed ties with ACORN. State and city investigations had been launched. It wasn't until late in the week that The Post weighed in with two solid pieces.
Why the tardiness?

One explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints. It "can't be discounted," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms."
I criticized Alexander for his insanity in my 2009 piece: The Washington Post bows down to Conservatives! So as I watched the above segment from Reliable Sources yesterday, my blood began to boil because they make believe like their glowing coverage of the ACORN story previously never happened.

Media Matters called Alexander out over his op-ed too: Post ombudsman adopts right-wing mantra that ACORN videos are a major story

The Washington Post even falsely reported about the events that actually took place. You see, O'Keefe was never dressed up as a pimp when he went into ACORN's offices, a point which drove the story on FOX, but the WaPo never bothered to correct its own error.

To top it off, the Washington Post even promoted the phony Black Panthers story.

Conservatives don't only get help from Fox News and hate talk radio. They have the traditional media in their pockets too.