This falsehood apparently never gets old - social security will be bankrupt! Insolvent! Bust! WRONG. The program is not going bust, not now or ever. It’s simple math - paying out 75% of intended sums is not bankruptcy. Bankruptcy or insolvency is not paying anything out. Maybe the media should focus on facts for a change when reporting. Wouldn’t that be something? In the meantime, look for this to be fixed in 2032 or thereabouts. No one would get re-elected after cutting grandma’s benefits 25%.
What happens when the Dept of Agriculture wants to levy a 15 cent fee on Christmas tree sales to market real trees, which are losing market share to artificial trees? Drudge gets ahold of it, calls it Obama’s Christmas tax and all heck breaks loose. Here’s the real story. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot different than the right wing’s typical foaming at the mouth would have you believe.
Over and over the media is trumpeting the same horse-bleep story - the GOP and Dems not being able to agree on the debt ceiling, as if it were a bi-partisan problem. Nonsense, the GOP refuses to accept yes for an answer and is playing politics with the world’s economy. The Dems have already caved and are no longer demanding new revenues. Granted, capitulation isn’t a better headline. But the reality is the GOP refuses to act on what it said it wanted even when it could have it. It is an obstruction story, nothing more. God forbid the media acknowledges that fact with so-called balanced reporting which is little more than B.S..
There is no way to mask the horrific job numbers of last week but leave it to the news media to focus on half the story while ignoring certain realities. Sure job growth was anemic but it is still growth and now we are being hampered in part by layoffs at all levels of government. Why? One big reason is that the too small stimulus funding has run out.
One of the most important aspects of the 2009 stimulus bill was aid to the states, which saved the jobs of hundreds of thousands of employees. This was important in stabilizing a labor market in freefall. But as that money has run out, governors and legislatures have gone into austerity mode - even as the economy turned some deficits to surpluses. Why? Because the 2010 election debacle brought Republicans to power in many states and they have decided to slash and burn government. Yet nowhere do you see reports on the effects of this ideological crusade on job numbers. Instead we get one-sided stories about ongoing weakness and the threat to Obama’s re-election.
The end result is an ugly jobs picture - 18,000 net jobs in June and the downgrading of jobs created in the previous two, already disappointing months. Of course, the private sector actually created 57,000 jobs but government shed 14,000. You know, cops, teachers, firemen and other people who do unnecessary jobs. Maybe we can get Mexicans to do them - I hear they come cheap.
The Republicans have set up the Democrats perfectly with their policies of obstruction - first by shellacking them last fall with the backing of the Tea Party and now by shedding jobs in the public sector. If they manage to tank the economy completely by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, all bets are off for 2012.
Oh my God! The sky is falling. Headline today “Social Security Fund Slides into Permanent Deficit.” Just how dumb is the media? And is the American public gullible enough to destroy Social Security?
The media seems intent on declaring Social Security insolvent two and a half decades before it might happen. Yup, Social Security is perfectly fine until about 2037. The new CBO projections - and that’s all they are - are based on a slow recovery and little more than that. They say that each year SS will pay out more than it takes in… forever. That’s quite a stretch on its face but even worse is the irresponsible news media now reporting it as if an asteroid were about to splatter the planet any second. Newsflash, all the CBO can do is predict. They predicted huge surpluses until Bush arrived. Under Clinton, they predicted huge deficits and then the economy boomed. It’s quite possible that in 2012 or 2013 the economy will bust out. Or not. But to create some sort of panic now is nonsensical.
So what do you tell your friends and all those frightened seniors? Stop watching the news for starters. Here are the facts - SS has a huge trust fund built up that the government has borrowed in the form of bonds. The government is required to pay back that money just as they would have to honor any bonds. Now the money in the trust fund provides for 100% of the money needed to pay every retiree for the next 26 years - until about 2037. If nothing is done - and that’s unlikely - the fund (actually two of them) is empty and current tax revenues from 2037 onwards will be able to pay about 78% of what is owed to retirees. In other words - it’s NOT zero payout.
So SS is not broke, not going broke and would continue to function in some way. But a simple fix - removing the cap on wages that are subject to SS withholding, presently about $106K - will ensure solvency for 75 years. This is a no brainer and the President & Dems should really be out there in full force with this argument. No means tests, no cuts, no raising the retiree age.
Fix it and move on Mr. President. The voters will reward you. It’s not that hard. Because the alternative is the idiot media, the uninformed public and cut-happy Republicans will destroy the program. That’s not something that should even be a possibility.
The media just can’t help itself - false equivalence between venomous right wingers and liberal activists is on display again. Wrong. The hate is coming from one direction, it’s dangerous and getting worse.
As usual, the media is so afraid of offending the radical right that they bring liberals into a conversation about political rhetoric. Well, we here at Outrage call that a crock. There is no comparison between liberal distaste for right wing political ideology - including the deaths and destruction it wrought in the aughts - and those on the right who accuse liberals of being anti-American defeatists, unpatriotic or deserving of assassination. Sorry, liberals don’t go around shooting guns at people or their offices. The right, on the other hand, preaches a steady diet of “taking back our country” from, well, us. Not to mention the black guy in the White House.
Once again the media misses the problem or brushes over it. The problem simply is the hate of the right for President Obama and Democrats. That’s it. Time for the media to tell the truth.
Since we are in year end redemption mode, a special word of praise for Jon Stewart’s passionate defense of 9/11 responders and the need to pass the Zadroga Bill. Up to now, this has been Kirsten Gillibrand’s effort and it has fallen short. But with Stewart devoting much of his final ‘10 show to the issue and the first slam of Republicans by Fox News not coincidentally running the following day, the issue may not yet be dead.
We’ve had our areas of contention with Jon Stewart this year - mainly on his harping on TARP rather than its necessity and on his false equivalency between MSNBC and Fox News prior to his silly “Rally to Restore Sanity.” But when he gets ahold of an issue, he can bring it to light the way few others can - or dare to do. For that he should be praised.
Not to mention, he runs one of the most insightful, smart and hilarious shows on television. Strike that. The most insightful, smart and hilarious show on television. Bar none. America is lucky to have him.
There was a time when CNN was a respectable news organization. Then it became part of Time Warner and now it has completely lost its way.
Last week’s primetime ratings showed that such mediocre time wasters as Campbell Brown, Larry King and Anderson Cooper collectively lost nearly half their viewers in a year. These variations on a theme, middle-of-the-road lifestyle shows have proven to be unappealing to people accustomed to watching Olberman/Maddow or the trolls on Fox News. Bland and prone to focusing on inane pop culture over hard news, the CNN shows are unwatchable and I long ago gave up watching CNN at night. Some geniuses have suggested they get a personality or take a political side but I disagree. Just grow some balls and do hard news, not lifestyle fluff.
During the day, the situation is just as dire. In the last several months, CNN has gone in the direction of lifestyle news in the afternoon and away from much hard news. This is embarrassing for what was previously the only dependable news outlet in the country. Now, you’re just as likely to see the buffoonish hosts Tony Harris and Ali Velshi pontificate on health care as play with penguins (I can’t make this up, it happened last Thursday). Even worse, is when they play “What’s Hot” or look to see what’s popular on the Internet. Oh, and then the fake outrage - a kid killed herself after being harassed for a day. The phony outrage was nearly unbearable. Is this really the best the United States can do in terms of news reporting? Because it’s piss poor and embarrassing.
And when there is news, it’s constantly interrupted by inane banter and silly remarks. The hosts are more and more prone to chat with each other and when, say, the weather guy is on, forget it. It’s banter all the time, in between plugging some website like SeatGuru. Even worse, this banter is becoming pervasive on CNN International, the real last bastion of news.
If Ted Turner were dead, he’d be rolling over in his grave. As it is, he’s embarrassed by the network and regrets ever selling. What once was a strong news organization on par with the BBC has been reduced to mush. Yup, Ted Turner is the one left with his credibility. Who could have seen that coming?
Nothing proves Fox News is right-wing propaganda more than their support of the tea party movement. The other day they covered the bogus protest on Capital Hill, complete with shots of large crowds protesting. Only there weren’t large crowds and something seemed off. Then someone at the Daily Show figured it out.
The footage looked wrong and sure enough it was. On Tuesday night’s show, Stewart had a piece about the Fox report which aired on Sean Hannity’s show. It purportedly showed huge crowds for last Thursday’s rally except the shots were from a rally in the summer - which took place on a Saturday, naturally drawing more crowds. The giveaway? The trees. You see, it’s fall in DC and the footage clearly showed lush green trees - the way you’d see them in the summer.
Last night, Sean Hannity admitted the mistake - though he did not come clean and buried it in the last 30 seconds of the show. We don’t buy the innocent mistake line he was selling. Hannity did thank Stewart’s staff for watching the show and we do so as well. Someone has to keep these guys honest.
The media is stupid. That is something the left and right will no doubt agree on. Today, the sky is falling - Democrat edition. Only it’s not.
For the last 16 hours, my yahoo page has led with the same headline “GOP Sweep.” This headline did not change even after Dems took CD 23 in upstate New York (a seat they have not had in over 100 years). Why is this? Because it’s the meme stupid and you should get on board.
News runs in cycles and the latest cycle is how the Democrats are going to lose next year. Maybe a bloodbath akin to 1994. In fact, don’t even plan on voting in 12 months. We’re gonna lose. Oh and Obama’s popularity wasn’t good enough. Of course polls in VA show that Obama’s popularity (57% there) had nothing to do with what happened last night.
So I repeat, this is stupid. To project angry voters that came out yesterday (while young Dems and minorities stayed home) onto next year is foolhardy. Sure unemployment will be high or maybe the recovery will have slowed, but just as likely we will be in better shape than this year.
First of all, the two main races were local ones - governorships. Governors are very prone to being turned out when the economy tanks. They can’t deficit spend and have little to do other than cut services and jobs or raise taxes. In Virginia, the Dem candidate faded quite quickly after winning his primary and never seemed to have a message. Add in the state’s stupid single term-limits law and you have a Repub pickup. In NJ the situation was clear - arrogant unpopular governor loses. No big deal except Christie is a train-wreck waiting to happen. Unfortunately for NJ, that’s their problem.
NY23 was the most interesting race - one we’ve been over on this board. Suffice to say that the tea baggers are emboldened now so they will attack Republicans from the right. This means no Repub will feel safe teaming up with Dems on anything major in Congress as they tack right. But when the challenges come, the danger for Republicans is results just like NY23. They should be very worried.
Lastly, about gay marriage. Yes Maine is a disappointment but the tide is slowly turning and one day many states will allow gays to marry. We just need to keep taking the fight to the bigots and the haters.
Does Obama have a strategy for creating a more liberal judiciary?
The New Republic wrote recently that Pres. Obama is not doing what his predecessor did - pack the Federal courts with young appointees and the writers wonder why. Add this to Obama’s first Supreme Court pick, a classic centrist who is more adept at replacing Sandra Day O’Connor than David Souter, and we have to wonder what is going on.
Perhaps we are too swayed by Bush, who did everything politically to ensure conservatism would rule the day for years to come. Or perhaps we are just too used to political strategy taking precedence over qualifications. Sure Bush decimated the Republican “permanent majority” and our economy - without a doubt a result of his recklessness - but one of his most significant lasting contributions to our country will likely be a conservative court system. Bush knew to pack the benches with young judges, as did his Republican predecessors:
“Moreover, roughly a quarter of the circuit-court nominees put forward by the past three Republican presidents--and 15 percent of those chosen by Clinton--were below the age of 45,” writes David Fontana and Micah Schwartzman. Obama has already appointed 5 to Circuit Courts - average age 55. Where is the generational change he brought to the White House, the writers wonder. Indeed.
Obama needs someone to guide his hand - he needs to assume that the next President may be a Republican (fickle electorates swing all too easily between the two parties) and ensure some future balance in the court system. Oh, and next time a Supreme Court seat opens up, he might want to pick a real liberal. Chances are he will be replacing one.
What was on the cable networks last week? Apparently just three stories were really deemed important. Care to guess what they were?
If you guessed Iran, Mark Sanford and Michael Jackson, you hit the nail on the head. A set of stats from Pew Research Center sheds light on what our media obsesses over and the results are pretty disappointing. Stories are deemed big not out of public necessity but because they push Americans’ buttons. Ooh a dead celebrity! Ooh evil Iranians! It also shows the tendency of outlets like CNN to go wall to wall in their coverage of things to the detriment of less sexy topics.
In the meantime, the big losers were healthcare and the economic situation - a combined 16% of all news coverage was devoted to these life or death issues. Thanks a lot news media.
It sure sounded like Gov. Tim Pawlenty is seeing the light at the end of the Coleman-Franken tunnel. And it aint’ good for Coleman.
Today Pawlenty was interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC and sure sounded like he wants to be president in that coy way prospective candidates act when no one knows who they are. At the very end, Mitchell cornered him on the question of seating Franken and Pawlenty pledged to do what the State Supreme Court dictates. I guess Republicans feel the writing is on the wall with this election. So it seems it’s up to the Court to direct him to sign the election certificate, paving the way for Franken to be seated by the end of the month. If he refuses, at least now we have the videotape to use against him.
Not sure it’s news, but the NY Times today ran an article about Barack and Michelle Obama doing the rounds in D.C. The President seems to like to go to restaurants and basketball games. And he drinks beer. I guess we can thank god for a normal person in the White House. Will the country ever recover?
Is the Hearst Corp ready to pull the plug on the San Francisco Chronicle?
AP is reporting that the troubled SF paper is in dire straits and if costs are not severely cut in the next two weeks, the paper will be sold or closed. This is more troubling news for the American newspaper industry, coming on the heels of back-to-back bankruptcies in Philadelphia.
In the not too distant future, a major American city will lose its daily newspaper and it will be the end of an era. Here’s hoping that the Chronicle can soldier on.
Illinois’ now-former governor will find new life, and I hope it’s soon.
I miss you already, Rod.
The Illinois governor was impeached this week, with no ‘no’ votes. The overwhelming ouster came as a surprise to no one, but it did come after a preemptive media blitzkrieg.
Gov. Blagojevich reminds me of a 19th century charlatan—a fraud, perhaps, but a damn amusing one. In a way, his swagger parallels imprisoned ex-Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH). He was the blustery congressman with the scary hair who was known for his strange outbursts and ominous threats.
Cable news misses Traficant, and soon it will miss his better coiffed successor-in-sleaze Blagojevich.
I firmly believe, though now the eighth U.S. governor impeached, Blagojevich will find a new home in the media. MSNBC is looking for a new 10 p.m. ET host.
Perhaps I won’t have to miss him long.
President Obama’s press secretary held his first briefing with reporters today.
Robert Gibbs is a wily veteran of Washington.
He was press secretary for Candidate Obama. Then for President-elect Obama. It was a surprise to no one when Gibbs was selected as President Obama’s first press secretary. He held the same role for John Kerry’s doomed presidential run in 2004.
Reporters grilled Gibbs heavily on the economy (Obama will receive a daily economic briefing, at his request) and Guantanamo Bay.
The press secretary also took questions on a lighter note (yes, Obama still has a BlackBerry).
Next: Obama and newly-minted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak this afternoon at the State Department.
While I enjoyed watching the HBO telecast of the opening inaugural event today, I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t on free TV.
Sure, HBO made it available to cable operators for free and you can watch it online too. But why was this event sold to HBO in the first place instead of the networks or a cable channel? Could they not quite come up with the $2.5 million that HBO forked over? The decision is quite the headscratcher and not exactly the most inclusive way to start off the festivities.
President Bush says ciao to America tonight
I can’t recall ever watching a presidential farewell address before. I don’t remember Clinton’s or Bush Sr.’s speech. I vaguely recall Reagan’s address, but that’s only because it’s been played on a continuous loop in conservative media lo these many years.
At 8:00pm ET, the end of the Bush administration begins. Mr. Bush says farewell. But what will he say? Or what should we say?
I won’t watch the speech (which will be covered on all networks), but I will listen to it. On radio. Because, as Edward R. Murrow suggested so long ago, television has become nothing more than wires and lights in a box.
Good luck, sir. You’ll need it, if only to convince the mass you’re not Satan.
President Bush gave his last news conference of his presidency this morning
You didn’t have to watch it to know what he’d say.
President Bush, waxing poetically about the eight years that preceded this day, talked to reporters about the accomplishments of his presidential stewardship. The New York Times says Mr. Bush said (with a straight face, mind you) this country’s moral stature remains strong. I guess because Proposition 8 failed in California.
Bush offered some insights into the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. But on the issue of the economy, Bush said he’d defer to President-elect Obama. Which means, if I’m seeing that correctly, the decider is no longer making decisions.
Bush answered about a dozen questions, which in itself is fairly noteworthy. President and journalists often have a contentious relationship—rightfully so—but this was much frostier than normal.
As for the media, the change of administration means a change of beats. The people seated inside the press room today probably won’t be there as of next Tuesday, save for perennial front row-er Helen Thomas.
While we weren’t looking another market tanked - the market for recyclables.
That’s right folks, the economic ruin left by Bush - is he still there?!? - means more garbage in landfills. For years, there has been a boom in prices for recyclables and municipalities have jumped on the bandwagon. Now, the New York Times reports they are in danger of being buried in excess cardboard and paper. What happened? The economy stupid. Also, it turns out many of our recycled stuff had a market in China and they have tanked as well.
Have you seen Wall E, where humanity gets buried in refuse and has to flee the planet? Not a pretty scenario. Let’s all hope someone, somewhere wants our recyclables before that industry collapses and people go back to chucking it all out in the trash.
A new report foresees bad things for the newspaper industry, with some cities losing their only papers by the end of next year. Oh, but the Washington Times wants to expand nationally. Goodie gum drops.
Editor & Publisher is reporting that several newspaper companies are likely to default on their debt next year and cease operations. This includes the Tribune Company, now desperately trying to sell the Chicago Cubs, and the venerable McClatchy Company. Clearly this would be a disaster for America as cities would be down a thoughtful news source. Sure there is the internet but newspapers have always served a fundamental need in local communities of shining a light on corruption and seeking out the truth. Who does that in St. Louis, for example, if there is no newspaper? (We are not insinuating that St. Louis is losing its paper, by the way).
Even worse news is conservative, Moonie-owned, rag Washington Times is looking to expand nationally. Clearly that is smart business for them in a time where Democrats will have control in DC. But it’s bad news for people who actually are capable of thinking and like some truth with their morning coffee. Sorry, no truth… but we got lots of propaganda and partisan whining!
Barack Obama and John McCain squared off - indirectly - on 60 Minutes tonight. The results were predictable enough and left me with a sense of foreboding about the upcoming debates.
I’ll start off by saying that I’d give Obama a C+ and McCain a B+ for their performances. A lot of what was said was not new but there was a bit of news was made. McCain said he would appoint someone who can cleanup Wall Street to head the SEC, someone like Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Interesting, but not very likely. But he did score a non-partisan point with that one.
McCain was his usual evasive self if you look at it from a partisan point of view. But if we are judging on effectiveness, McCain was the clear winner. McCain was un-hesitant and unapologetic about his record, criticizing Bush and hitting Obama on taxes. He said upfront that he was immature as a young man and even got to invoke his Christianity even though he is the least religious of the four candidates. I didn’t buy his act but America sure seems to. Once we got to the war hero stuff, even Obama had to admit he can’t compete with his story. In the end, McCain was clear in his answers and forceful in his resolve. That’s the kind of stuff that wins elections.
Obama on the other hand, was his usual self. He has this annoying tendency to start his answers with “look” and he has way too many “umms” in his speech. It never ceases to amaze me that people consider him a great orator. He conveys big ideas during long speeches but is generally lousy when someone asks him to answer a question. I think he has a lot to work on - especially eliminating the “look” from his vocabulary. How someone in his campaign does not take him to task for it is beyond me - it should be eliminated from his vocabulary if you ask me. Every time he starts something with “look”, it just seems like he knows better and is talking down to the viewer - something he cannot afford as the election draws near. His best moment came when he clearly spoke about his tax plan. If only we got such detail before. And he clearly invoked why McCain is part of the “old boy’s club” in Washington. But his failure to answer the question why he should be president was the show opener and he looked like a giant waffler. Not good.
The debates are going to be key and the format has been set - there will be flexibility allowing for full verbosity for presidential candidates (less so for VP candidates). On paper, that favors Obama but in reality it just means he will probably rattle on and on without making a pithy point the way McCain can. Of course we can always hope McCain has one of his alleged senior moments but don’t count on it - he is a savvy debater. Democrats are publicly trying to ramp down expectations for the great orator precisely because they well know that Obama struggles when he has to be concise. And concision rules the day when it comes to televised debates.
Based on tonight, I’d say Obama is not going to fare very well. I certainly hope he proves me wrong but, at least for today, he lost the 60 Minutes debate.
MSNBC’s grand experiment of allowing two slaven hacks ends, and it makes me sad
Much has been written and talked about MSNBC, the cable arm of NBC News. Specifically, many have opined on primetime heavyweights Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews.
The bloviators jointly anchored primary and caucus coverage, and the conventions. It was an unusual decision made my management; have to overtly partisan hacks in the role traditionally reserved for staid, white-haired-voice-of-God anchors.
I like Olbermann and Matthews. They have uniquely different styles. But I respect Matthews more.
Here’s why: Chris Matthews, the erstwhile Capitol Hill staffer, has never claimed to be impartial or unbiased. His view is that of a one-time Washington insider, who’s been around the proverbial block a few times. He won’t take your crap. Plus, he likes to talk. A lot. Without pausing. Ever wonder if he takes a second to take a deep breath, before getting back to that great point of his?
And then there’s Keith Olbermann, the 21st century’s Edward R. Murrow. Except Olbermann, the former ESPN star who famously flamed-out from there in 1997, only to flame-out from everywhere else after that (including his original run at the same network that now looks to him as something of a savior), isn’t a journalist. I’m not sure what he is. But he’s damn entertaining to watch, even if I don’t believe he believes anything in his TelePrompTer.
Personally, I was a little sad to see the Matthews-Olbermann team disbanded, if only because their tensions made for Must See TV. In their stead, NBC’s Chief White House correspondent David Gregory.
If it wasn’t bad enough to have our currency in the toilet and be in hock to the Chinese for billions, now we have the clearest sign yet of America’s impotence. Russia running rampant in Georgia.
For years I have railed here (and elsewhere) about the dangerous Vlad Putrid and his continued attempts to consolidate power. Now, after he installed his puppet as president, and while he is enjoying the Olympics, Russian troops are bombarding the sovereign nation of Georgia. Russian actions fly in the face of international opinion and are certainly illegal. So what do you think happened yesterday during the Olympic opening ceremony? Bush and Putin were sat seats away from each other in the same row. Bush was, well Bush. Putrid was smug and sure of himself. The symbolism was interesting, to say the least.
Apparently Bush spoke with Putin prior to the ceremony and expressed his disapproval. Given Russia’s nuclear arsenal and general belligerence, that’s about all the U.S. can do. In reality, with Russia’s newfound oil wealth and the European’s continued cowering at the feet of the great bear, we are in for a long period of Russia reasserting itself. The US is preoccupied with an election and a recession not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, so don’t expect us to run to the aid of the Georgians. In fact, you can expect exactly no one will aid them. Shades of history abound here as a democratically elected, pro-Western government will have to fend for itself. Nice symbolism during the Olympics.
At least the entire world now knows that the bad guys are back. Russia actually is more dangerous now as it technically a democracy with a booming economy. The days of commie crumble are long gone. About the only thing in our favor is that the population will eventually shrink to the point where they will be overrun by the Chinese. That will take a hundred years or so. In the meantime, it’s gonna be one ugly century.
Barack Obama did something on Friday that he should have done months ago - sit down and get grilled over his pal Tony Rezko. He visited the Chicago Tribune and was questioned by three dozen writers. They were impressed by his answers and found no reason to question his version.
On the heels of my post yesterday, this is good news. The Tribune today published a lengthy editorial detailing their concerns and Obama’s responses. That the paper has a conservative editorial bent and has not endorsed a Democrat for prez since 1872 means an added layer of credibility for Obama. Obama’s answers were complete and free of the usual stonewalling you get from politicos. He acknowledged that he should have disclosed everything months ago and gave a full accounting of his relationship with Rezko.
Let’s see if he can handle the Wright affair with as much forthrightness. That would be a welcome change from pols trying to hide from past mistakes. And exactly what we expect from someone of Obama’s caliber.(0) Trackbacks
So I’m reading a NYT column about the Spitzer debacle and related political trends when I happen to glance over at the Google ads box. Three ads: on top, “Korean Beauties...Browse Photo Profiles...”; the other two are ads for “Client 9” T-shirts!
I’m having just a little bit of trouble determining whose hypocrisy is greater, Eliot Spitzer’s or ours. We love this stuff. Anybody whose job is not directly affected by Spitzer’s call girl addiction is lying if they tell you otherwise. If you’re a guy, you’re only pissed that it’s not you in Room 871 with thousands of dollars to burn on a 5’5” 105 lb. brunette. Be honest. The media know what we want, even if it’s just an algorithm in an ad-placing search engine.
So when we wag the finger of shame, as I did in an earlier post, we’d better be specific about our disapprobation. We’ve long needed in this country to bring our laws in closer alignment with what we do, not what we think the PC establishment wants to hear. Legalizing and regulating sex work would be a start. Legalizing and regulating marijuana would also help enormously. While we’re at it, let’s work up the courage to do something about that gun problem.(0) Trackbacks
A guest editorial from Charlie Suisman of Manhattan User’s Guide on the sorry state of affairs that is The New York Times in the wake of their hiring of Bill Kristol to write editorials for the paper.
The Times ran an editorial on Monday that began this way: “There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country,” followed by a spin through the high crimes and low points of the Bush administration. The Times wrote, “(T)here is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked - how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.” It’s a variation on Benjamin Franklin’s point that “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And that’s a point that always bears repeating.
The editorial, however, would have been much improved in two ways. First, it should have run several years ago. Surely the Times can not be rubbing its eyes only now in disbelief at what has happened to our country, our Constitution, and our reputation around the world under this regime.
More troubling, though, is the Times’ amnesia about its own role in failing its two crucial obligations of accuracy - embodied most egregiously in reporting by Judith Miller—and skepticism, a pervasive reluctance by the paper to examine the claims by the Bush administration in its rush to war.
Yes, the Times has previously, openly, even vigorously discussed these failures. But to look at what the world has come to in the past seven years without including the systemic failure of the mainstream press gives the impression that the Times would like what happened on 43rd Street to stay on 43rd Street. That impression is reinforced by the paper’s decision to hire William Kristol as an editorial writer. No, it’s not as appalling as hiring Karl Rove, which Time magazine has done. But it’s another in a string of serious misjudgments by the Times that have us fearing not only that they just don’t get it but that they may never get it back. Proof of this comes from Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal, quoted by Media Matters, who said he doesn’t understand “this weird fear of opposing views.”
That is a defense so disingenuous or so clueless as to be itself suggestive of a pathology. It’s not an opposing view that’s the problem. It’s not simply that Kristol has been a narrow-minded proponent of the neocon viewpoint. It is that he has been so demonstrably, disastrously wrong in so many of his arguments and nearly as many of his assertions. Give us an opposing view, but not one so manifestly discredited here and around the world.
Moreover, some of us feel the country has been injured so grievously in the past seven years that being asked to listen to any of them - the captain, the team, or the cheerleaders - is an insufferable affront, particularly coming from a once-unassailable newspaper, reduced by the worst administration in the country’s history to the role of enabler.(0) Trackbacks
Senator Joe Biden still tells it like it is, even as his bid for the presidency doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Yesterday, Biden took the knives out for George W. Bush after he tried to spin the Iran NIE. It was indeed a perfect setup
Biden arranged a conference call to speak to reporters. “Are you telling me a president who is briefed every single morning, who is fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the United States government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in ’03?,” he said. “That’s not believable. I refuse to believe that. If that’s true, he has the most incompetent staff in… modern American history and he’s one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history.”
Just about what the entire world thinks and Biden has finally said it. Bush is either ignorant or incompetent. And people wonder why I support Joe Biden for president.(0) Trackbacks
Reuters seems to have a thing for defrauder extraordinaire Norman Hsu, plastering a misleading headline across the ‘Net about his Democratic ties. The dude gave money and it was given back. What kind of scandal is that?
Why does anyone even care about this fraudster? Because he has given money to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Today’s Reuters headline sums up the appeal: “Democratic Fundraiser Hsu Indicted on Fraud Scheme.”
So basically the way Reuters can get anyone to pay attention to this scumbag is to link him, once again, with people he gave money to. So how did they come up with the headline - and was it created solely for maximum scandalous effect? Forget that Hsu has a long career of fraud in his past and that a more balanced headline would be “Fraudster Hsu Indicted”. Reuters apparently is not that classy. Forget that the campaigns gave back the money and cooperated with authorities. They’d rather continue a non-existent scandal.
Good job Reuters for contributing to the oversimplification of our political coverage.(0) Trackbacks
How is it a news story that morons wake up at 4am on a Friday in November to go shopping?
The corporatization of American “news” outlets knows no bounds. On channel after channel today, we got the same news story. Big crowds were overflowing malls, some as early as 1am, to get deals on holiday junk made in China. This is the same “news” as last year and the year before, mind you. No one questions its value or the validity of its inane man-on-the-street interviews either.
Now this is the laziest type of reporting there is - unsubstantiated nonsense shot on location in a shopping mall. I saw people saying that they were going to spend just as much as always - one lady stuck out in that she said fuel prices were not influencing her budget at all! Maybe I didn’t watch long enough, but not one interviewee said they were spending less. Why dampen the holiday spirit after all?
A particularly hilarious CNN report showed a guy in the middle of a rotunda with a few people in the background. He actually was there in the same spot last year and he turned and said there were more people than the prior year. Behind him, about 3 people walked through the frame. Another network shot in the middle of a corridor. The reporter - I use that word loosely - said that people were loaded down with shopping bags. While he was talking, about 20 people walked past and exactly one of them had a shopping bag!
Uh huh. How about a day of follow-up when the retailers start crying that it was a slow season and that gas prices affected buying habits. Oh wait, they’d actually have to do research and interview experts in the field. Forget that. Cheerleading is a lot easier - especially on the brain.(0) Trackbacks
A new study just out shows that the media coverage of the 2008 election is heavily skewed in covering political tactics (63%) to the detriment of candidates’ ideas and proposals (15%). Is it any wonder that Americans are completely uninformed? Read more.(0) Trackbacks
While I have been a fan of Stephen Colbert’s phony conserva-shtick on Comedy Central, I think he has crossed the line with his silly “presidential run”. Immediately he was everywhere and the media actually has taken him quasi-serious, to the point that I no longer know if this is a joke or not. Polling companies have already commissioned national polls. Wow, he’s pulling 2.3%! What utter nonsense. Isn’t there enough comedy in politics already?(0) Trackbacks
When it comes to magazines, not very. Seems most are still clinging to printing on virgin paper even though recycled paper can be more cost-effective, not to mention better for the enviroment. Some “green” issues aren’t even printed on recycled paper! You have got to be kidding us. More at Foliomag.com - whatever that is.(0) Trackbacks
The Pew Institute just released a poll finding that 87% of Americans say there is too much coverage of celebrity scandals. We are heartened to see that the number is that high. Unfortunately, CNN, et al will continue to cover these scandals endlessly. Read more.(0) Trackbacks
What was behind McCain’s meltdown these past few weeks? Turns out in-fighting among staff who wanted one Rick Davis out. Problem for them is McCain - supported by his wife - decided to keep Davis while tossing out his old guard. More in the Washington Post.(0) Trackbacks
The New York Times has two reports today on the looming immigration battle. In the first, the rule of unintended consequences is playing out in South Texas where a border fence might go not on the border but inland, effectively ceding US land to Mexico. In the other, the effects of immigrants is seen as positive for the country, if not for high school dropouts, in a report released by they White House(0) Trackbacks
Salon.com today posts an interview with Hillary Clinton. Were there any insights to be gleaned? Not really. But she continues her slow and steady build towards an air of inevitability. She does display a welcome candor that is in short supply on the stump. Charisma, not so much.(0) Trackbacks
We’re always amazed that people think they have any privacy on the Web at all. Afterall, we’ve all heard about college kids who try to get a job only to have some HR lackey find their lewd MySpace page. But one of the worst privacy offenders is Google. In a positive sign today, Google agreed to limit the amount of time they hold onto user searches - lowering it from 24 months to 18. In fact, until recently they held the data indefinitely. Our thanks to EU regulators for actually regulating, a concept lost on the Bush administration.(0) Trackbacks
A pair of politicians have turned the world upside-down today - Colin Powell said that Guantanamo Bay should be closed while Sen. Joe Lieberman stated the U.S. should consider an attack on Iran. Huh? The trainwreck that is Lieberman’s 3rd term continues to amaze us, but at least we can take heart he’s not a heartbeat away from the presidency. In the meantime, it’s nice to see Colin Powell still has a soul in spite of Cheney’s efforts to steal it.(0) Trackbacks
Headline on CNN under Bush talking: Breaking News - Rice Woud Be Polite to Iran Foreign Minister. No duh.(0) Trackbacks
My first thought watching last night’s debate on MSNBC was “answer the damn question”, followed closely by “is there anyone else out there?” It wasn’t all bad but this first debate was rather tame and filled with poor performances. Can we go to the phones and vote off the first contestant please?
My vote to go home would be Chris Dodd. I cannot remember a single thing he said or did while on that stage. Mike Gravel was gruff and funny in that crazy grandpa kind of way, but he brought humor and a different point of view so he’d be safe at least for this week.
Based on last night’s performance, I’d have to give the lead to Joe Biden. Now this is no surprise because he is smart and quick witted. He’s also a blowhard which doesn’t apply when you have 1 minute to speak. His one word answer to his tendency for gaffes will get a lot of press and his statesmanlike answers were strong. Good job Joe. You still have no chance but at least you showed everyone else how it’s done.
Richardson was stiff in trying out his “I’m the most qualified” shtick. Yes you are Bill, which is why I like you, but you are lousy on TV. You are however in the lead for VP, assuming the nominee is someone who likes you. That’s not easy to come by apparently.
Now for the lightweight division - Obama and Edwards. Edwards showed me once again why I had issues with him 4 years ago. The guy cannot get past lightweight status. He spent half of 60 seconds saying he had a healthcare plan that wasn’t rhetoric, etc - which is true - then had to rush through his proposals so fast people probably thought he was winging it. On his haircuts, he should’ve made a Biden joke. Instead he droned on about poor Pa not having any dough, which we’ve all heard before. The only surprise from Kucinich, who got no support from the others on impeachment, was he had a gun in his house.
Obama was worse. He had a few good lines - the Confederate flag belongs in a museum - but he didn’t have any fire and seemed lost without his stump speech. At least he’s not pulling a Wayne Palmer, readying the bombers for Iran. But we already knew that. I expect he’ll get better but the concerns about inexperience will be bandied about with renewed interest.
This brings us to the biggest player on the stage - Hillary Clinton. Acting more modest than usual and appearing statesman (stateswoman)-like definitely helped her standing. She accepted blame for her past healthcare mistakes and then said Americans are ready now. We’ll see. She did nothing to hurt her standing and that is no surprise. Are we excited about her prospects? Well, her last name isn’t Bush so yes. Not a ringing endorsement but that’s all she gets for now.(0) Trackbacks
Watch out folks, the FCC wants to banish violence to late night TV and save little kiddies from the evil grasp of TV Networks. Maybe they should legislate sitcoms out of existence as these days they tend to be far more offensive than a few explosions. Will the nanny police strike again? A few perspectives from the NY Times.(0) Trackbacks
Today an anti-Dem radio ad will start airing with its centerpiece a statement from an Iraq veteran named Capt. Trip Bellard accusing Harry Reid of undercutting the President. But did the media research who this guy is or whether he is even real? Of course not.
Turns out that the captain has an agenda - a right-wing agenda. He is a talk radio host whose show purports to be about supporting the troops but his real goal apparently is to be the next Rush Limbaugh. Guests on Bellard’s show, Troop Talk, turn out to be people like Pat Buchanan or Katherine Harris. We somehow doubt they have anything to add about the experience of the troops, but who knows.
Meanwhile, Bellard’s statement, “Senator Reid’s remarks undercut the morale of our soldiers and undermine our troops on the ground” is presented in the media without any back-up research. Bellard is hardly a guy on the ground right now. Rather he has an agenda that writers have an obligation to reveal. It took me 5 minutes of research on the web to find out plenty. To say he’s an “Iraq veteran identified as Capt. Trip Bellard” and move on is a bit of an understatement.
We don’t question that the captain has been to Iraq or done a good job for his country. But we do question the fact that the media continues to parrot what comes out of the mouth of others, especially the right-wing which has always had issues with the truth, without looking at it with anything approaching a critical eye. Fellas, that’s your job. Remember?(0) Trackbacks
GQ published a point by point case for impeaching Dick Cheney and it’s pretty devastating. Of course nothing will come of it but it is great reading.(0) Trackbacks
The other day Mel Karmazin, head of Sirius, was before a Senate committee testifying about consumer “advantages” to the merger between his company and XM. He pledged to introduce new tiers that would cost less and put a price on premium content. What became very clear though was that he has no interest in giving people cheap radio. On the contrary, premium pricing will mean higher prices - and the various channels won’t be merged. He will upsell you on “interoperable” radios where you can get both systems for less than the $25.90 it costs now! Gee, thanks! Here’s hoping this deal gets quashed.(0) Trackbacks
I couldn’t write it any better myself - Salon on how to “swift boat” Rudy Giuliani. Because he is so vulnerable on 9/11, it’s not funny…(0) Trackbacks
A former co-worker of mine used to work at Fox News, back when it launched many years ago. I guess he thought it would be a real news outlet but then one day Roger Ailes announced that they were “going after” Hillary Clinton. It has been all downhill from there, to the point now where they don’t even hide their conservative leanings. Case in point - just coming across my desk - they hired Rick Santorum as an analyst. Meanwhile, MoveOn and the blogosphere is all over the Dems for having a debate airing on FoxNews. Should we be concerned about that? I’m not convinced.
We need to take all this with a grain of salt - FoxNews reaches many people but generally has a viewership around 1 - 2 million. That is statistically insignificant in a nation as large as ours. However, MoveOn and their ilk are up in arms that one Dem Presidential debate will take place on Fox. I guess they don’t want to even try and reach the Fox audience or something. That doesn’t strike me as smart considering how close our Pres elections tend to be. But they will collect their signatures and exert their pressure.
Strategically, I think we need to engage the Fox viewers. As it is, they are more and more polarized. They now have their late night answer to the Daily Show, but have you seen it? Didn’t think so. I haven’t though I plan to soon. Regardless, I believe there are some viewers we can reach. At the very least, we should try.(0) Trackbacks
Can I say how disgusted I am with the American news media? Today at the top of the 1pm hour, CNN was talking about the stock market. Basically, they are hoping for a crash. The announcer was speculating that there was still time today for a big drop. Then they promo-d Suze Orman as a guest for the 3pm hour, saying she would answer your questions about what to sell and how to protect yourself. Watch out! The sky is falling!(0) Trackbacks
How does the news cycle work? Yesterday we had a great example of how bogus websites and shadowy interest groups can fan the flames to create “news”. The victim this time - Al Gore.
A Tennessee based group called the “Tennessee Center for Policy Research” managed to hit a home run with its bogus report yesterday about Al Gore’s home electricity use. They published a report saying that the Gores use more electricity in a month than most Americans do in a year. This then was put on the home page of the Drudge Report and reported on talk radio. By the afternoon, even though Gore’s people refuted much of the report by saying he invests in a program in the TVA called “Greenpower” and is presently installing solar panels on the home, the headline had hit AP. Last night, I saw the same shoddy report on a local Fox news report. Not one place mentioned that the TN State Dept of Revenue refused to deal with them because, they are “not a legitimate group.”
So that is how the game is played - shoddy report gets to Drudge and then to the mainstream media. People barely follow-up and when the truth comes out, the noise machine has already gotten the word out. Gore is a hypocrite. A minor victory for them, perhaps. But it is indicative of how well the right-wing machine works and how fast. Coming on the heels of Pelosi plane-gate, you can expect more of these in the future. We have to be ready to beat them back as soon as they appear.(0) Trackbacks
The media is so transparent, it’s really sad. They build people up and then try to tear them down. The latest example is an AP headline today about Barack Obama titled “Black Voters still unsure about Obama”.
The article is based heavily on some polls - which are not corroborated or linked to - that apparently show Hillary Clinton with more black support than Obama. They quote exactly one person who states uncertainty then suggests that it is widespread among black leaders.
What kind of sorry-ass journalism is this? It may be true but so what? We are a year away from a vote being cast and people have known Hillary for a decade and a half. Obama is what, ten points behind her. Please. Talk to me in December.
But then again, what else should we expect from a story written by John Whitesides?(0) Trackbacks
I was just contemplating the stupidity of the Super Bowl ads when an email from friend of site Dave Zirin appeared in my inbox. Apparently, he hated the ads too. One in particular actually, which was extremely offensive. Since he said it so well, I’ll let him speak for himself…
Dave wrote, “If Prince was a letdown, the commercials - always a highlight - were insipid. Rather than catalog the collectively banal, nihilistic, K-Federocity of it all, I want to focus on one: the Snickers ad where two men accidentally kiss and then proceed to tear out their own chest hair in an effort to recover their “manliness.” This stood out as the most tired, homophobic exercise I’ve seen on television since Rick Santorum explained to America how gay relationships could be likened to “man on dog” love. (For the record, I would hate to die and be reincarnated as the Santorum family pooch.) It was the nadir in corporate America’s yearly over-hyped orgy of wasted talent.”
You can read all his sports rants on his site EdgeofSports.
UPDATE 2/7 - Mars pulled the ad and its accompanying web contest late Monday.(0) Trackbacks
In Yekaterinburg in Russia, hospital staff have been gagging orphan babies because their crying is too annoying. But the proliferation of cellphone cameras means outrages like these can no longer be kept a secret.(0) Trackbacks
David Carr writing in today’s New York Times shows his hand right up top: Dreamgirls snubbed. Why? What could possibly be the reason according to the Times…
The answer Carr gives is curious, “Paramount/DreamWorks...sought to position “Dreamgirls” as a favorite and succeeded; but something went wrong on the way to the podium. It most likely did not help that the movie, with its gorgeous songs and amazing costumes, was a tough sell to begin with among white males, a demographic that describes the majority of the academy’s 5,800 voting members.” So white people are the ones holding down Dreamgirls. Men too. Don’t mention it has the most nominations - 8 - or the fact that the reviews were not as glowing of the film as Mr. Carr would’ve liked - it has an 85% rating on RottenTomatoes.com while Casino Royale has a 95% rating. The strongest reviews were always for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson. Anyway, why isn’t he complaining about the bias towards action movies?
The more you read Carr’s writing, the more he seems to be clueless about real life. In a year with the most diverse group of nominees ever - and do we really need to worry about this anymore - he comes up with this doozy: “In total, out of 20 slots for acting awards, 5 black actors were nominated, 2 Latinas and a Japanese woman.” 2 Latinas? Hello - Penelope Cruz is Spanish. From Madrid, Spain. She’s European not Latina. And where is the mention that a Mexican director was nominated? Or that another Mexican has a multi-nominated film - Pan’s Labyrinth that is also in the box office top ten. That is a remarkable achievement.
This is ridiculous and Carr’s article is ridiculous. I know I’m supposed to worship the Times or something, but come on folks. This is just a hatchet job and one that is poorly researched at that.(0) Trackbacks
Anyone sitting on XM or Sirius stock got bad news today. The FCC has said there must be 2 satellite radio companies and that these two cannot merge. A somewhat surprising premption, if you ask us.(0) Trackbacks
A lot of ink is spilled from economic scrooges who oppose a minimum wage hike. They talk about higher unemployment and additional inflation like they are foregone conclusions to any hike. So how is it that unemployment is 4.6% while 28 states already hiked their minimum wage? Dean Baker at American Prospect debunks another fallacy, “the economic cost.” Let’s see Republicans in the Senate stop this one. We dare them.(0) Trackbacks
Anti-American hatemonger Glenn Beck has been hired to become a contributor to Good Morning America. It was bad enough he jumped from radio to CNN Headline News. How will they rein in this pompous ass at 7am? No one knows, but here are a few gems from this crass jerk…
To Congressman Keith Ellison, D-MN, “"No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, ‘Let’s cut and run.’ And I have to tell you, what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ “ As everyone now knows, Ellison is a Muslim and swore on a Koran when he took the oath of office.
On Iran’s holocaust conference, “So, I, actually—when I saw David Duke there, I thought, “Gee, the only one that wasn’t there was Jimmy Carter. But, maybe—maybe, Ahmadinejad just didn’t want to invite Jimmy Carter, because he was like, “Oh, well, he’ll discredit the whole conference. That guy’s always wrong.”
And a classic - attacking the 9/11 widows, “"[T]his is horrible to say, and I wonder if I’m alone in this—you know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims’ families? Took me about a year.”
More at MediaMatters.org on this despicable, sorry excuse for a human being.(0) Trackbacks
Long live “plus up” (source:CNN), whatever the heck that means. The White House PR team doesn’t quite seem to be on its game these days. Regardless, do the networks give Bush free airtime for his “new” plan on Wednesday since it is already known? In the past, they have only broadcast presidential addresses with major policy changes and I don’t see how this really qualifies.(0) Trackbacks
Is it just me or do the boatload of Top 10 lists this time of year just make you want to smack people over the head? Top movies, top books, top dunderheads - guess who is #1! - on and on it goes, as if not being on a list means you are useless, obscure or dare I say just too common. Here’s my favorite, USA Today’s list of most outrageous travel stories. Enjoy and we’ll see you in the New Year.(0) Trackbacks
That’s the message from the U.S. Dept of Transportation to Richard Branson, who is trying to start a low-cost airline called Virgin America. The DOT enforces such arcane rules as 75% of the ownership must be American. This antiquated rule means no foreign airlines can fly in the U.S. and someone like Branson, as strong an America supporter as there is, gets the shaft even though he has taken great pains to make it a majority American-owned airline. Virgin has 14 days to appeal the decision. The only loser in this scenario is once again the American people.(0) Trackbacks
The next president of the U.S. will likely have to heal some major rifts thanks to the Bush regime’s scorched earth political philosophy, thankfully no longer abetted by DeLay and Frist. Perhaps that person will look back on the legacy of the late President Ford and learn a few things. The great conciliator may have been criticized for his pardon of President Nixon, but in retrospect that may not have been a bad idea. The NY Times has a thoughful editorial looking back at his legacy today.(0) Trackbacks
Some places just remain trouble spots, no matter what we do about it. Somalia is one that comes to mind. Remember Clinton’s disastrous attempt to help out in the 90s? Of course you do. But you probably don’t know how bad the situation there has gotten or the potential consequences.
Somalia today does not have a functioning government. It has a nominal, secular government supported by the world community that does not have any real power in most of the country. It does have a large Islamic militant presence (the SICC), one that has scuffled a bit too often with Ethiopia. As a result, last week Ethiopia invaded Somalia with the purpose of wiping out the SICC, which many believe has the backing of Al Qaeda.
According to Ethiopia, the war is going swimmingly and they expect to crush the militants soon. Happy news for the West no doubt as scores of militants have been killed. However, Ethiopia has also said it intends to go all the way to Mogadishu before withdrawing. This is a bit troubling because a) we know what happens when foreigners show up in Mogadishu and b) foreign occupying armies don’t have a good history of liberating then turning around and leaving. And the Ethiopians are hardly a well-oiled fighting machine if their long war with Eritrea is any indication. We’ll be watching.(0) Trackbacks
With namesake Time Magazine trying to weather the awful publicity for its stupid “Person of the Year” Issue - it’s You by the way, if you haven’t heard - yesterday the parent company announced it was canning a couple dozen employees. Last year, they fired 105 in December too. So much for the Christmas spirit. Maybe these people can launch blogs and still claim to be “People of the Year”? More people are in line to be fired in January. Happy Holidays.(0) Trackbacks
The Democrats should forget the South accoring to Andrew Ferguson, writing for Bloomberg.com. Really? Why is that? Apparently Thomas Schaller has written a book called Whistling Past Dixie stating just that and Ferguson agrees. So who is this mysterious Andrew Ferguson? A former George H.W. Bush speechwriter.
Ferguson is laughable on a few points, for example stating that many over-estimate the rightward slant of the Republican party. Considering how many moderates they lost in the recent election and how many also faced serious intra-party challenges from maverick conservatives, I think that is an absurd point. He also calls Democratic fixation on the South an obsession, and while that may be true for individuals like James Carville, the party is clearly in 50 state mode. Why should we let go of the South? The only thing I can think of is that the South remains the last major bastion for Republicans. Ferguson seems happy to promote the point of view that will keep his own party viable. Too bad he doesn’t come out and say it.(0) Trackbacks
That’s us. People who use computers to change the world, blog, blah blah blah. Really, is Time Magazine even relevant anymore? How about this for a person of the year - Bush. He single-handedly sunk the “permanent majority” due to his own ineptitude. That is worth speaking of. People who blog on the net is old news. I guess it makes sense then that old media is reporting the story like it’s news.(0) Trackbacks
The report by the Iraq Study Group is a muddled mess that says just about anything that anyone wants it to say. But there is at least one good thing that it tries to do, however lamely: focus some attention on the core issue, Palestine.
In so doing, the ISG extends its recognition of the obvious, that the US has no hope of garnering good will in the Arab World so long as Palestine remains brutally oppressed. But so daunting and inflammatory is this problem that not only has Bush ignored it these last three years, but so has the media. Indeed, it might be the most ignored part of the ISG report, and the most important.
Now Jimmy Carter, the Nobel Peace-Prize-winning former president, has penned a new book on this very topic, entitled Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Predictably, the analogy to apartheid in the title has provoked a storm of fury, and in doing so, revealed more plainly than ever how huge a blind spot is Israel for the American body politic. Michael Kinsley, normally one of the most incisive American columnists, has written a response so irrational, it might be the dumbest thing he’s authored since high school. How does he get to be American editor of the Guardian writing pfaff like this?
I’m being nice when I say irrational. We could use the term Kinsley himself applies to Carter’s book, moronic. If this is the current state of thought among even the MSM, then we are probably all doomed. Kinsley wants to know how the philosophy of Israeli governance is anything like apartheid. Is he kidding? Arabs who comprise one-third of the Israeli population are identified as Arabs on their national identity cards and are constrained to one tenth of the representation in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. Isn’t that exactly what the Apartheid-era white South Africans did to the blacks? Making them an enforced political minority in their ancestral homeland? He goes on to say “Palestine is no Bantustan.” Really? It’s actually more like a dozen Bantustans, each partitioned by checkpoints traversed at peril of one’s life or liberty and then only after hours of agonizing, interminable, and humiliating delay. None of these Bantustans are economically viable, and the effect of their existence is lethal in every sense to their Palestinian residents. Then Kinsley goes wandering in history, opining that “Israel is fortunate that, for whatever reason, most [Arabs] fled [prior to 1948]. “For whatever reason”?! Such scholarship! How about because Israeli soldiers forced large numbers of them from their homes, often brutally, a fact now acknowledged even by the Israeli government?
Until we recognize that the humanitarian disaster that is Palestine cannot endure, there is not an iota of hope for peace in the Arab World. None. Nothing that we do, or could ever have done in Iraq can change that. Palestine will always be the central question. If Bush fashions himself a real leader, then he’ll have to muster the courage to try to answer it. Fat chance.
While I am not among those who think Carter deserved that Peace Prize (one word: Iran), I can certainly understand why the Nobel Committee would have wanted to rebuke Bush, which they did. Nonetheless, I am grateful that Carter would take on this task, and perhaps only he can, since as a former president, he is more inured than the rest of us to the perils of political irrelevance that the media and blogosphere automatically bestows on anyone who might dare to speak the truth about Palestine. The tragic reality is that when it comes to the Levant, the truth is always flamebait.(0) Trackbacks
In the past week or so, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has received an enormous amount of unfavorable and unfair media attention, even in the liberal blogosphere. You should be pissed about it. Livid. Here’s why.
Let’s start by talking about what Pelosi did. She came out in support of John Murtha for Majority Leader, attempting to promote him ahead of Steny Hoyer, who as the sitting Minority Whip was in line for the job. A matter of personal loyalty to Murtha, who floor-managed her campaign for Minority Whip years ago? Certainly. But more importantly, a statement of principal. Murtha had stuck his neck out in opposition to the Iraq War, a “Nixon to China” moment that catalyzed broader opposition in the Congress, marked the turning point in public opposition for this tragically criminal venture, and ultimately crystallized support for the Democratic Party in the 2006 elections. In supporting Murtha, Pelosi sent a signal that the House Democrats would keep the Iraq War front and center on their legislative agenda, keeping faith with the electorate. How is that a failure of leadership?
Now let’s contrast Pelosi and the Democrats with the House and Senate Republicans. In the House, as a reward for having lost the majority, the Republican caucus saw fit to promote Tom DeLay’s chief protege, Roy Blunt, to be Minority Whip. And in the Senate, the Republicans have resurrected Trent Lott, the very man who just four years ago publicly expressed regret that America didn’t elect a segregationist president back in 1948. Consider that just a few months ago, George Allen was considered an early favorite for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Virginia’s voters have just shredded his political career in no small part over a racist remark that looked like a spilled cup of coffee by comparison to Lott’s gaffe. The fact that Lott was even considered for a leadership position in the Senate should demonstrate that these Republicans are firmly and forever the party of appeals to the basest of human instincts, of racism, sexism, and religious bigotry. So much for listening to the voters.
So why is it exactly that we have to sit and watch while misogynistic media “experts” deride the Democrats as they gather their first majority in a decade, while ignoring the tainted Republicans who got us into this mess (and who seem bound and determined to keep us there)? Write some letters, folks. Let’s get the media to focus on the problem.(0) Trackbacks
According to MediaWeek, the fgure to buy Congress is now $2.1 billion dollars. There are a lot of happy TV stations out there folks. By the way, the figure is $1 billion more than in 2002’s midterms. At least we got a better result this time around.(0) Trackbacks
If you weren’t yet convinced of the importance of Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy, Salon.com paints the perfect picture of just how vital and well executed his strategy was.(0) Trackbacks
Rumfeld resigns! Hallelujah! Of course, he should never have been appointed. And it comes years after the world called for his scalp. That’s the pace of progress.
For the first time in years, I actually had the stomach to sit through an entire Bush press conference. The MSM hounds said he looked humbled. They’ve been covering the Bush beat way too long. Didn’t look like that to me at all. Bush looked like one pissed-off bully. Like he was standing up there taking this flak because his loyal lieutenants didn’t do their jobs. He even got in a dig at Rove for not working as hard as he (Bush) did on the election. And he looked just a touch lonely, like he was now going to have to talk to people he didn’t like at all, and that there was nothing he could do about it.
Frankly, I thought his tone was combative, asserting that Democrats were now going to have “responsibility”, never mind that the president alone determines foreign policy, and congratulating Rahm Emanuel on running a disciplined campaign and getting out his voters, as though the issues had nothing to do with it. When asked about sharing power, his answer seemed to make James Baker’s commission studying Iraq strategy to be a co-equal partner with Congress. Lots of hidden bully digs in every answer to every question. Later, he had the temerity to repeat his 2000 mantra that he wanted to change the tone in Washington. I guess scorched earth only works if you control all three branches of government. Once the voters insist on accountability, it’s time for your whipping boys to forget their lash wounds, grow up, and take responsibility for things they still can’t control. Are the MSM flaks saying that this edition is toned down?
As usual, what kills me is what is not said. Nobody, NOBODY mentions that Bush met individually with each cabinet member in the last month to develop a legislative agenda for the last two years of his regime, AND that none of these meetings were to take into consideration the possibility that the Republicans would lose the Congress. Isn’t that how we got into trouble in Iraq, not acknowledging reality, and not preparing for it?(0) Trackbacks
Apparently, the Secretary General of the U.N. needs to know French and have the approval of France before taking office. Really? Yup, Ban Ki-Moon, the South Korean foreign minister, was invited to lunch so French President Jacques Chirac could test him on his French.
Sure, he needs to know English. But did I miss something? Is French still pre-eminent in the world over Spanish, Arabic or even Chinese? Did Bush invite Ban to lunch just to quiz his English? Nope, but Jacques Chirac had to be certain Ban passed muster. Geez, the guy has a Masters from Harvard. Isn’t that enough? Not so for the French, who still cling to the fantasy of their own relevance on the world stage. Heck, I like France - outstanding food and booze - but come on guys. The empire is gone. Time to move on.(0) Trackbacks
It’s here. As anticipated, the Republicans have launched a full-out campaign of the most inane lies you’ve ever seen on TV. Why do TV stations consent to run these slanders? Will Americans fall for it? Have we ever won that bet? Will this year really be different?(0) Trackbacks
Two separate stories today on Air America. One that the network is up for sale and garnering substantial interest. The other is potentially devastating. Apparently there is an advertiser blacklist - companies that don’t want ads aired on the network. This includes Fedex, HP, McDonalds and nearly a 100 more. Check out the list here.(0) Trackbacks
Our “adventure” in Iraq will be an enduring source of shame ($ubscription) for every American adult for the rest of our lives. Now, just in time for the elections, it appears the MSM recognizes how Americans feel about this.
Time features a cover depicting the isolation of George W. Bush. This election has become a referendum on his rule (there’s no other word for it). NewsweekNewsweek features a cover story on a purportedly realistic assessment on Iraq, whose author suggests that the best we can hope for is another Korea. That’s hopeful. Polls show that Iraq is the #2 issue on voters’ minds, right behind the economy that Bush thinks is so great. And it’s a Democratic issue. Republicans, especially the “moderates” whose jobs are most in jeopardy, are running away from Iraq and away from Bush.
Polls are also showing that three vital tossup Senate races, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Missouri, are turning slightly in favor of the Democrats in the final week. If that plays out, the Democrats will control the Senate, and if they do, they won’t surrender it for at least six years, as the overwhelming preponderance of vulnerable seats in 2008 and 2010 are Republican seats. I may yet eat my words about the Democrats’ chances for Senate control, and no one would be happier about that than me.(0) Trackbacks
MSNBC seems to think ex-Repub congressman and talkshow host Joe Scarborough is a journalist all of a sudden. He was anchoring today’s afternoon election coverage and I saw him throw to a commercial with this, “How Lynn Swann plans to beat Ed Rendell in PA”. Shilling for Republicans apparently knows no limits, even in the face of polls showing Swann a certain loser by 20 points or more.(0) Trackbacks
On the heels of their very popular Gov. Brian Schweitzer comes Jon Tester, rancher, running for the Senate in Montana. Every poll for months has shown him in the lead over Republican Conrad Burns. Now it seems likely he’ll win and the fawning press is starting. Surprisingly, the conservative Weekly Standard steps up to the plate with a very positive feature story. Expect the media in general to start showcasing Democrats as the midterm slaughter now appears inevitable.(0) Trackbacks
If you didn’t see it last week, yes CNN did get sniper footage from Iraq where American soldiers were shot. Yes, they aired it. And yes, I think it was in bad taste. Now a couple of congressmen want the Pentagon to ban CNN from embedding reporters in army units. No surprise there.
There are two reasons this is disturbing. One, the footage is not news but titillation. It was aired in the name of news, but does it really have news value? What do we learn from it? That the bad guys have access to cheap video cameras? I found it obscene, the way I find local news’ fixation on rape and murder obscene. Now we don’t want to gloss over the violence of man, but at what point does it become pornography? I’d argue that when an American network airs footage of Americans being sniped - even if the image fades out - it is going too far.
Even worse, CNN is now under fire from Republicans just at the point when it has started to find its courage again. We need our news organizations to be strong and to be able to stand up to the Pentagon. Otherwise we are just another banana republic, and not the one that sells khakis. When CNN decided to air the tape, they knew it would be controversial. Maybe they thought it would not get much notice amidst North Korea, Mark Foley and the election. Or maybe they thought it would and people would rush to watch the footage.
Regardless, it was in extremely poor taste and I’d hope that our leading news network - that’s not saying much - would exercise better judgment than this.(0) Trackbacks
The name Drobny should strike fear into the hearts of any progressive. Why? They came up with the concept of Air America, failed at it and moved on. Now they’re back with a new network called Nova M. Their business plan? Lease or own radio stations in the U.S. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - you cannot afford to buy radio stations in the U.S. This business plan is a recipe for disaster. Again.(0) Trackbacks
TV stations in the Midwest are giving short shrift to elections coverage according to a study by the University of Wisconsin. While in a typical newscast sports and weather get 7 minutes, elections get 36 seconds. Way to use the public’s airwaves guys.
The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) scoffs at the study, noting it only covered evening newscasts and not early news or noon-time news. But the fact is, most people watch the evening news. And you can’t get around the quality of the political coverage that is actually on - mainly covering polls and strategy instead of concentrating on issues. More at TV Week.(0) Trackbacks
File this under “Wow”: Rasmussen has just given MN, MT, and PA to the Democrats in their latest Senate polling. They project 49 - 49 with 2 tossups, one of which is NJ and now trending Democrat. Their polls have VA as Republican and MO as tossup. This is gonna be a barn burner folks.(0) Trackbacks
You Tube is all over the place these days. And now Google just laid down $1.65 billion for it? Is this AOL Time Warner 2?
That’s a lot of cash for a website where people post videos they make themselves. I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring the site but I have seen a bunch of videos there posted by various campaigns and linked from bloggers like Daily Kos. Will I personally be going to You Tube past November 7? I’d say it’s pretty unlikely. Will other people? Who knows.
At issue is the whole “wiki-fication” of the Internet. It’s nice to put people in charge of things, but as the creators of Wikipedia found out, people will sabotage things and post lies to further their own agendas. Now that site is heavily policed, as are many message boards. As a former video producer, I bristle at the thought that companies no longer want to pay for content - and that the proliferation of small video cameras and phone cameras makes it easy for these companies to take advantage of eager “producers.”
Clearly, Google is betting that the gravy train will continue and they will be able to tack ads on to the videos. Sure they can have their Adwords on the side, even advertiser driven segments like the Cingular video now featured on the homepage. But the question is, will Google share ad revenue with the “little guys”? If they don’t, then I fear they have flushed their money down the drain. People can be finicky and when they hear the type of money thrown around the net, they’re going to want some.
Mark Cuban got $1 billion for Broadcast.com when it was sold to Yahoo. But Broadcast.com never became a brand and was later incorporated into Yahoo. What did they get out of it? It’s unclear, but I wouldn’t say that got $1 billion worth of benefits. The economics of this acquisition are simpler - Google has a ton of cash and can afford mistakes. We’ll see if You Tube actually has a plan for making real revenue or is just a flash in the pan.(0) Trackbacks
So the Katie Couric show has this pointless segment where people (really celebs) spout off on an issue. They call it “Free Speech”. Apparently they asked Bill Maher, who I am a big fan of, to do one and he told them he wanted to talk about religion. Since he is a card-carrying atheist and hedonist, it is no surprise that they didn’t let him do the segment, apparently telling him “religion is a deal breaker.” They now say that’s not true and merely they suggested a couple of topics. Some free speech CBS. More like “Approved Speech” if you ask us.(0) Trackbacks
I missed this from the Washington Post the other day but it is instructive on the devious methods Republicans will go to in order to win elections. Face it, they can’t run on their records so they will concentrate on fear and smear. I don’t know how anyone would be proud to be a Republican given those sorts of tactics.(0) Trackbacks
So with trepidation, I watched the second episode of the 9/11 miniseries. Unfortunately, the second part seems only interested in rushing to the actual attack and this drags the entire narrative down. Incidents get glossed over and things get a bit disjointed in the process.
All that concentration on the Clinton administration in part one and suddenly the Bush bunch gets off with nary a scar. A single shot of him in the classroom (no “My Pet Goat” in sight) is all that appears. Sure Condi looks perplexed at times but no mention of the monthlong vacation or even that hijackers were pulled over for speeding.
The ending - my wife called it artsy fartsy - further damages what should have been a sober film. I feel for John O’Neill and Shah Massoud, but in the end that is all I was left with.
Update 9/12 - The New York Times has highlighted more factual inaccuracies in the second half and also gives some insight into the people behind the film.(0) Trackbacks
So I read all the blogs and criticisms of the ABC docudrama and I watched anyway. People got on the New York Times for reviewing it positively, but sheerly on the level of television programming, it is certainly well made and compelling. Were some instances of fact bending obvious? You bet. But what it really features is the hard work of dedicated people trying their best to fight a new kind of enemy. Maybe it is propaganda, but it’s certainly better made than much of what was produced during WWII.
Now, I can spot political potshots from a mile away, even if many in the audience can’t. I can understand why Clinton is mad, but I cannot understand why he would think that getting a blowjob in the White House is a good idea. And I can’t understand why he would launch a couple of missiles and call it a day. We don’t need a biased mini-series to tell us that there was a real breakdown in the decision-making process.
There were definitely a few cringe worthy moments - an obvious composite character named “Patricia” (quotes theirs, not mine) weeping and blaming Tenet for not doing something before the African embassy bombings - but the overall effect was to celebrate the tenacity of people like the late John O’Neill and the benefits of solid intelligence work. O’Neill you may recall was the FBI agent who diligently fought to make Bin Laden priority #1 of the government, eventually leaving in a huff. He became head of security for the Trade Center where he was killed on 9/11. The ultimate insult and the film is a fine tribute to the man. Tenet comes off by turns blustery and impotent. His tenure surely goes down in history as the most disgraceful of any CIA director.
Overall, the film is effective and well done, minus an over reliance on music that is grating after a few hours. Granted it’s easy to pick out the composite characters and sure your blood starts to boil when you see the terrorists evading our grasp just as the producers want it too, but there is something seminal in the approach taken by the film. We see things from the eyes of agents on the ground fighting our war for us - digging through intelligence, identifying their targets and then waiting for the bureaucracy to act. Do those bureaucrats have other concerns? Undoubtedly, and its with a palatable sense of remorse that some opportunities are lost. If only the filmmakers would remind us that we are better than them because of our rule of law. But something tells me not the guys making this picture.
It’s actually a benefit to watch the film straight through as the jittery camerawork and solid performances ground the entire proceedings. Too bad for ABC they have no commercial sponsorship but that is why they make DVDs. Will they show a feckless Bush tomorrow - they don’t show a feckless Clinton so don’t count on it. The 3 major figures - Bush, Clinton & Bin Laden - are not played by actors and shown only through real footage. So no “Pet Goat” scenes.
The end result? Democratic administrations are not kick ass enough. Does this change the average American’s perceptiion? I doubt it. We’ll see what Monday brings, though the previews do show an unwillingness to act on the “aviation” intell received pre-9/11. The 9/11 commission glossed over a lot, but they did get this much right. There is plenty of blame to go around.(0) Trackbacks
Ray Nagin, possibly the most inept big-city mayor in the U.S., has the nerve to criticize New York on 60 Minutes for not getting “a hole in the ground fixed, and it’s five years later.” While no New Yorker is happy about the slow state of things, perhaps Mr. Nagin should do some research and realize that not only does a NY-NJ agency control the site (can you say competing interests?), but some insurers still have not paid their claims. If this jerk ever shows up in NYC, I hope someone gives him a personal tour of the “hole” and leaves him down there. With a couple of cranky teamsters.(0) Trackbacks
Federal regulators are responding to charges that 77 TV stations across the country have aired video news releases (VNRs) without proper attribution as news by starting a legal inquiriy. The culprits - you may recognize these station groups - Fox, Sinclair, Clear Channel, Viacom/CBS and Tribune. And you thought this practice of fake news had stopped after it first came to light over a year ago. Hah! More in Mediaweek.(0) Trackbacks
While Israel calls up its reserves for a massive invasion of Lebanon, most of the news outlets focus on the return of a minor and belated contingent of Marines in Beirut for evacuation duty. Hello? How many thousands of Lebanese will be displaced by a massive Israeli land strike, and for how long? How many more will die? Israel plans a 20 mile “buffer zone”. Why isn’t that the lead story, New York Times? USA Today? Are we already so tired of war that all we can focus on is the evacuation of Americans? Do anybody else’s lives count for anything?(0) Trackbacks
It’s Kennedy vs. Manjoo round two. Who’s cooking the numbers? Apparently they both are…(0) Trackbacks
Got the goofiest email this morning from a right wing PR agency. It claimed that the Da Vinci code has felt the effects of protests against the movie, if ever so slightly. In comparing the openings of Da Vinci ($77 million) and The Passion ($83 million), they actually had the gall to write, “the Christians made a noticeable imprint in North America with their distaste for the movie.” Whatever makes you all warm and fuzzy folks!(0) Trackbacks
So how free is our press anyway? Not very, of course. They are in bed with advertisers and need to make the bottom line grow. Hence all those stories about Britney Spears’ kid. But a more ominous trend is the idea that the press should go along with the government and what it tells us because of the so-called war on terror. Los Angeles Alternative looks at some egregious examples, including slams on recent Pulitzer Prize winners by the Wall Street Journal.(0) Trackbacks
I was on the website of conserva-scum Glenn Beck today - don’t ask me why - and I saw that there was a small button ad halfway down the page. For Office Depot! They immediately go on my banned list. Instead, buy from Staples. As for Purina, another ad placed there, IF I had a puppy it would presently be living off table scraps.(0) Trackbacks
This thread is getting old, but mainly because the Dems are so lame it’s stunning. Today they walked into the buzzsaw that is “impeachment” with Nancy Pelosi on the Sunday gasbag shows. Yup, Nancy “delusions of majority” Pelosi was in fine form. Insisting on investigations not impeachment. Well, let me break it down how stupid it was to even address the question.
Sure, it’s on a lot of people’s minds what happens if - big if - the Dems can take back the House. (They have next to zero chance in the Senate, even a tie would be a miracle.) We can assume there will be investigations and things will look ugly for the White House. IF change comes.
So why address the question? Why even deign to answer it? Why not say, “We are interested in governing the people if they put us in power. Our job is to build a better future.” That’s it.
Instead, she took the bait and pissed off the Democratic base that wants blood and moderates who lean Republican likely to be frightened away from Democrats if they even hear the word investigation. Their fear is that nothing will happen except more DC gridlock and bad blood.
Message to Pelosi - sure investigate, even impeach. But don’t admit to either. Come up with a positive vision and sell it. Then you can take a lesson from the liar in chief and do what you want. But first you gotta win.
For all of you who don’t get HBO, it is worth it just for Bill Maher. His anti-Bush rants are classics. Here’s one of his best.
Mr. President, this job can’t be fun for you any more. There’s no more money to spend--you used up all of that. You can’t start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.
Listen to your Mom. The cupboard’s bare, the credit cards maxed out.
No one’s speaking to you. Mission accomplished. Now it’s time to do what you’ve always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It’s time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man?
Now I know whatyou’re saying: there’s so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don’t. I know, I know. There’s a lot left to do. There’s a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to FannieMae. Giving embryos the vote.
But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You’ve performed so poorly I’m surprised that you haven’t given yourself a medal. You’re a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes.
On your watch, we’ve lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you’re just not lucky. I’m not saying you don’t love this country. I’m just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.
So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: ‘Take a hint.’”(0) Trackbacks
Well this may be the video of the year… or not. It certainly makes a compelling case even as it gets heavy handed at the end. Without further ado, the full video outlining the government’s complicity and involvement in 9/11.(0) Trackbacks
Smoking Gun got a hold of VP Cheney’s requirements for out-of-town hotel stays. Suprisingly un-amusing, I must say. This one from U2 is a lot more interesting but unfortunately over a decade old. Come on guys, you can do better than that!(0) Trackbacks
The American Spectator today published a stinging indictment of the Bush presidency and the Republican congress for betraying conservatism. What’s interesting about that? The American Spectator is a conservative magazine. I’ve been barraged with copies of one article by Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal from publicists usually pedalling anti-liberal diatribes.
Since many readers here aren’t likely willing to stomach the Spectator’s website, where this article has yet to be posted, here it is… And expect more of this sort of thing during this election cycle.
SECTION: What the Republican surrender to Big Government means for the future of the Conservative Movement.
HEADLINE: We Are All Post-Reaganites Now
BYLINE: Stephen Moore
THROUGHOUT THE 1980S, REAGAN LOYALISTS USED TO COMPLAIN only half jokingly that the only mistake the Gipper ever made was at the 1980 Republican convention in Detroit—when he selected George Bush Sr. as his running mate. When Bush Sr. ran for president calling for a “kinder and gentler nation,” the Reagan team couldn’t resist asking: Kinder and gentler than whom? When the Bush Sr. White House purged the Reagan political appointees, the suspicion was only reinforced that there are two wings of the party: a Reagan wing and a Bush wing. It was also a signal that Bush would be leading policy in a new direction with Reagan gone. And indeed he did.
Under Bush Sr. the budget ballooned, regulations proliferated, and the final sucker punch to the conservative movement was the infamous betrayal of the Read My Lips, No New Taxes pledge. Bush’s abandonment of Reagan’s philosophy led to his receiving the lowest vote share for an incumbent president in nearly 100 years. Many distraught conservatives believed at the time that Bush Sr. had eviscerated the Reagan legacy more thoroughly than any Democrat could have done.
They were wrong. Reagan’s themes of conservative governance—“that government is too big and it costs too much”—carried the Republicans to the breakthrough election in 1994 with the GOP sweeping into new heights of power in Congress and virtually all levels of government. There could be no doubt about it that by the late 1990s, nearly 20 years after Reagan’s elevation to the presidency, this was still the party of Reagan—perhaps more than ever.
The core philosophy of Reaganism was so firmly and fondly implanted into the psyche of the conservative electorate that George W. Bush wisely ran for president as the natural heir to Reagan, not his father.
But six years into the Bush presidency, the conservative movement and the Republican Party itself are suffering a nervous breakdown. What does it mean to be a Republican? In many respects George W. Bush has redefined the party in ways that conservatives can only watch with a sense of horror. But let’s be clear that Bush has also advanced the cause of conservatism in many productive ways: he has cut taxes; he has put what appear to be two conservative superstars on the Supreme Court; he has resisted lunatic regulations such as the Kyoto “kick America first” treaty; he has been solidly pro-life; and despite some setbacks (steel and lumber tariffs) he’s been generally free trade. Bush’s greatest contribution to the conservative movement has been to deny the White House to ultra-liberals Al Gore and John Kerry. For finding the formula to break the hearts of the left and send Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore, and George Soros into a collective depression, he deserves a heap of praise.
INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, Bush’s liberal critics snicker that this presidency has been an extension of Reagan’s: the Gipper’s stealth third and fourth terms. These critics don’t mean this in a particularly flattering way.
In reality, what Bush and neoconservative disciples have created is not so much an extension of Reaganism, but rather a new governing philosophy for the GOP that threatens to dissolve the Reagan coalition. The core of Reagan’s philosophy was a repudiation of big government and a celebration of free markets. The post-Reagan GOP governing philosophy has made peace with big government. What is not clear is whether this dEtente with big government is one of core conviction—the Bush Republicans have come to believe that government is actually a force for good (let’s hope not)—or whether it is one of convenience, i.e., they simply believe that it’s just too politically treacherous to cut spending. Probably, the answer is a little of both.
But whatever the explanation, what is giving the conservative movement heartburn (and justifiably so) is that Bush and the Republican Congress’s record on federal spending has been downright awful. If Congress approves Bush’s latest budget request, the federal budget will have been super-sized by 48 percent in six years during Bush’s presidency.
In every year, Bush has advanced a new expensive silver-plated government agency or initiative. First there was the “No Child Left Behind” education bill, then the multi-billion dollar manned mission to Mars, then the massive hike in foreign aid, the obese farm bill, and the biggest sellout of all, the multi-trillion dollar Medicare prescription drug bill. This year Bush is on a kick for a new national energy program to cure America’s alleged “addiction to oil.” All the alternative energy subsidies that will get funding are eerily reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s disastrous synthetic fuels corporation—an alternative energy boondoggle that cost $2 billion and never produced electricity. At the time of this writing, there have been no Bush vetoes of spending bills and as a result the number of pork-barrel projects has embarrassingly tripled in five years.
A big explanation for the cancerous growth of the government in recent years has been a tendency by President Bush to believe that there is a government grant program to solve every problem that afflicts America. Bush may not have announced an anti-acne agency yet, but it wouldn’t be a stretch. He wants to send a man to Mars—not Hillary Clinton, regrettably—which will cost $500 billion over ten years. He wants to spend millions to promote holy matrimony. He wants to spend $200 million to fight obesity—but why can’t we just tell fat people to stop overeating? There will be funds to fight AIDS in Africa and to purchase garbage trucks in Iraq. He wants money for hydrogen-operated cars, and a manufacturing czar, who presumably, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, can click the heels on her ruby slippers and make factory jobs reappear. He says that he will build a hospital in every farm town in America and recently signed a bill that gives federal handouts to avocado growers.
BUT GEORGE BUSH DOESN’T DESERVE all the blame. Republicans in Congress have also fallen in love with big government. A 2003 study by the House Republican Study Committee found that if Congress had simply held spending growth to the rate of inflation since 1998, the budget would be balanced today—even with the President’s tax cuts. John Boehner, the new House Majority Leader, expressed dismay over this spending blitzkrieg and admitted, “We Republicans seem to have forgotten who we are, and why we’re here.”
Bush and the Republicans in Congress are dumping tidal waves of dollars into New Orleans to help rebuild. But so far the involvement by FEMA and other federal agencies has been a catastrophe. “All the best initiatives to help people,” says Rep. Bobby Jindal, the newly elected Republican from Louisiana, “are sponsored by private relief agencies. In a lot of ways, government has been an obstacle to rebuilding.” Yet, Mr. Bush is on schedule to spend at least $100 billion on the victims of the hurricane, which is at least $200,000 for every family that lost a home. After the terrible earthquake in San Francisco that demolished the city 100 years ago, and the Great Chicago Fire in the late 19th century, those cities were rebuilt to even greater splendor with hardly one thin dime of federal aid.
The result of this mentality is that this Republican Congress and this Republican President are spending at a faster pace than any Congress since before the days of Woodstock and the Miracle Mets. The chart below shows that Bush rivals LBJ as the biggest spending president since World War II.
How much, one wonders, is too much, for Republicans to want to spend? As a result of the current spending spree, Uncle Sam Inc. is the largest enterprise in the history of the civilized world. If you took all the spending that government does and just evenly divided it among all families of four in America, each family would be more than $42,000 richer. This is double the level of spending in 1960 and 14 times the amount government spent in 1900, even after adjusting for inflation. So the question American taxpayers should ask is: Does my family really get anywhere near $42,000 worth of services every year from city hall, state governments, and Congress?
No less than Milton Friedman, the revered Nobel Prize-winning economist, declares that this unbridled spending “is the single greatest deterrent to faster economic growth in the United States today.” Another Nobel Prize economist, James Buchanan, worries that by allowing government to grow so rapidly ahead of the pace of the private sector, we are “killing the goose of free enterprise that lays the golden eggs.”
And the new Republican Party is joining Democrats in the slaying.
Says John Berthoud, president of the National Taxpayers Union: “For the first time in many years we are seeing that Republicans are outspending the Democrats.” When I asked one of my good friends in Congress, Mike Pence of Indiana, a third-term congressman and a genuine anti-big government fiscal conservative, why Republicans were spending so much money, he shook his head in disgust. “I came here to Washington to get the government under control,” he lamented. “But every vote we’ve had has made government bigger. We rarely if ever vote to make government smaller.”
THIS ENORMOUS BUILD-UP of government has been what I call the virus of the Bush presidency. His profligacy and total disregard for spending money judiciously has given a free pass for Republicans in Congress to spend—even those who would normally spurn expansionist government. By contrast, these same Republicans were tight-fisted budget hawks during the Clinton presidency and would be savaging the checkbook diplomacy of Bush—if he were Clinton. “In light of George Bush’s big spending ways,” Bruce Bartlett writes in his new book on the Bush presidency, “Clinton now looks like Calvin Coolidge.”
Bush loyalists see things differently. My friend Fred Barnes writes in his new book Rebel-in-Chief that Bush is in reality Reagan’s natural successor—he cuts taxes, builds up national defense, promotes conservative social values. He concedes that Bush is a “big government conservative” but believes that this is a post-Reagan philosophy that bows to the wishes of the modern-day electorate. Some neoconservatives have urged 21st-century Republicans to make a separate peace with big government and to use the $2.5 trillion federal budget to advance what columnist David Brooks calls projects of “national greatness.” They have in mind a new generation of massive expenditure projects in the lineage of the Marshall Plan, the interstate highway system, and the creation of the national parks.
Others believe that Bush advances broad conservative and market-based policy goals by strategically buying votes with spending programs. Daniel Casse, a former presidential speechwriter, argues that “rather than focusing on the sheer size of government, Bush is focused on outcomes.” He signed the massive education bill to get testing; the Medicare drug bill to get health savings accounts; the tariffs on steel to win support from Pennsylvania and West Virginia congressmen on tax cuts. To be sure, even Reagan did some of this tactical horsetrading.
But that practice has become ruinously expensive under Bush. The latest Congressional Budget Office projections indicate that if spending remains on the course it is now, in 20 years the budget will consume about 30 percent of GDP on top of the 12 percent taken by states and localities. Welcome to France.
THE WORD BUSH USES MORE often than any other—by far—is freedom. But what the Bush Republicans haven’t come to grips with is that big government and freedom are mutually exclusive. Dollar by trillion dollar we are voluntarily giving up our liberties for a government that promises us a nanny-state blanket of protection from cradle to coffin. The truth is, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats can steer us to that future much more rapidly than Republicans can.
That is why the conservative movement must resist the advice of the neocons like David Brooks, who has written in the New York Times: “Reducing the size of government cannot be the governing philosophy for the next generation of conservatives.”
No, it MUST be. This is the fight for the soul of the party in the years ahead—and the stakes are just as high as they were during the fight in the 1970s and ‘80s when the Reagan Republicans who wanted to cut tax rates to grow the economy triumphed over the Eisenhower-Ford-Dole Republicans who resisted tax cuts and worshipped balanced budgets at all cost.
If Republicans continue to grow government at their current reckless pace, don’t be surprised if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in 2008 running to the right of Republicans on fiscal responsibility.
Stephen Moore is senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial board.(0) Trackbacks
Ok, I haven’t seen that many South Park episodes in my life, but I have to say the one that featured “Tom Cruise” in the closet as a sub-plot in a Scientology-skwereing show was hysterical. And this week, not only did Isaac Hayes up and quit, but allegedly Cruise threatened not to promote his Mission Impossible 3 unless that particular episode was not re-run as planned this week as a “tribute” to Hayes. Proving that Rupert Murdoch is good for something, here’s the dirt from Page Six.(0) Trackbacks
Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson is embroiled in a scandal that threatens the party’s effort to appear squeaky clean. It barely a month ago when I implored Democrats to clean house, cut ties to lobbyists and throw out anyone with a hint of scandal. Instead, Jefferson hangs on (he hasn’t been indicted yet) and the Dems look ready to cough up another issue to the other side - and potentially a safe House seat. Just pathetic. But that’s par for the course in the Democratic party these days.(0) Trackbacks
How shallow is our culture exactly? There are competing groundhogs - with conflicting views naturally - in the Northeast. The famous Punxatawney Phil (or however you spell that name, which I refuse to look up) is only right about 60% of the time. His nemesis, from Staten Island, has a better batting average. This year, the SI fuzzball did not see his shadow, somehow inconceivable considering it’s completely clear out, while Phil did. More winter or less? Do we really give a crap? Doesn’t the news media have real stories to cover today?(0) Trackbacks