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I don’t plan on joining in on the Ten Years After song and dance routine currently stumbling down Bad Memory Lane – Operation Iraqi Liberation was always a boondoggle, and I don’t feel celebratory towards its inception, nor nostalgic for those days when liberals were accused of being traitors, or worse. There were those of us who did march the streets in opposition to the invasion of a sovereign country on the flimsiest of pretexts, but then, as now, our voices were ignored and marginalized. This tiny blog itself1 was created because I needed somewhere to vent about the ridiculousness of it all.
Charles Pierce writes along the same lines, albeit with more vitriol, about war mongers like Bill Keller, Richard Perle and David Frum:
And precisely what risk did you “manage” ? What chance did you take? You gambled with other people’s children in a game you’d helped rig. What cost was exacted from you, sitting your fat ass in a swivel chair at a wingnut intellectual chop-shop while kids are still staggering around the wards without legs and arms, or the cognitive functions to get them through the day? What price did you pay? You have to send out for lunch one day? Show me the butcher’s bill for the Perle household, you vampire son of a bitch.
And let us not forget Perle’s onetime co-author, David Frum, who’s mysteriously been allowed through the tradesmen’s entrance back into the discourse conducted by decent people. It should be recalled, before we all start doing that which Winston Wolf cautioned us not to do, that Frum did a lot more than write one speech in 2002. Two years later, he also wrote a discreetly McCarthyite book with the aforementioned Perle called An End To Evil. If we’d found a single cache of biotoxins anywhere in Iraq, Frum would have been waving his warrior dick at CPAC last weekend. Instead, we hear about Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair, and how really sorry David Frum is for the hand he played in the deaths of so many people who are not named David Frum.
Shut up, all of you. Go away. You are complicit in one way or another in a giant crime containing many great crimes. Atone in secret. Wash the blood off your hands in private. Because there were people who got it right. Anthony Zinni. Eric Shiseki. Hans Blix. Mohamed ElBaradei. The McClatchy Washington bureau guys. Dozens of liberal academics who got called fifth-columnists and worse. Professional military men whose careers suffered as a result. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world. The governments of Canada and France. Those people, I will listen to this week. Go to hell, the rest of you, and go there in silence and in shame.
(click here to continue reading Iraq War Anniversary New York Times – Pleased To Be Shutting The Piehole Now – Esquire.)
There were other chicken hawks and war mongers equally as vile, like Andrew Sullivan:
Andrew Sullivan is re-publishing his posts as a war blogger: March, 2003 bit.ly/Z05QkS For the purpose of showing how wrong he was.
— Jay Rosen(@jayrosen_nyu) March 4, 2013
The horrible irony is that thanks to our collective amnesia, most people today mistakenly identify Andrew Sullivan’s punditry with intellectual courage — that he turned against Bush’s war earlier than most of his fellow neocon pundits, supposedly at great risk to his reputation and “brand” because he turned on the very same bloodthirsty war mob he’d been organizing and firing up for years — lending him contrarian credibility… despite his record of viciously attacking critics of Bush’s war as traitors, collaborators with terrorism and evil, at a time when being targeted as a national traitor by a major media figure like Sullivan was genuinely dangerous to a critic’s career.
People are already forgetting the ugly explosion of McCarthyism in this country around the invasion of Iraq and the months afterwards, just as they’ve forgotten the attack dog role that Andrew Sullivan played in all of that, before his allegedly “brave” turn away from Bush and towards a safer weathervane politics of libertarianism and Obama-boosterism.
(click here to continue reading If Andrew Sullivan Is The Future of Journalism Then Journalism Is Fucked.)
On the tenth anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq, Media Matters looks back at the work of some of the media’s most prominent pro-war voices. Instead of facing consequences for backing the invasion based on information that turned out to be false and criticizing war opponents, many of these media figures continue to hold positions of influence and continue to provide foreign policy reporting and commentary.
Paul Gigot / Wall Street Journal Editorial Page
Fred Hiatt / Washington Post Editorial Page
(click here to continue reading Where Are The Media’s Iraq War Boosters 10 Years Later? | Research | Media Matters for America.)
Eric Boehlert adds a thought: could those of us gnashing our teeth in 2002 have been able to reach the corporate media through Twitter? And changed the trajectory of that sad history? Probably not, but maybe…
Thinking about the historic failure of the Times and others in the media a decade ago, I couldn’t help wish that Twitter had been around during the winter of 2002-2003 to provide a forum for critics to badger writers like Keller and the legion of Beltway media insiders who abdicated their role as journalists and fell in line behind the Bush White House’s march to war. I wouldn’t have cared that recipients might have been insulted by the Twitter critiques or seen them as mean and shallow, the way Keller does today. Sorry, but the stakes in 2003 were too high to worry about bruised feelings.
Looking back, I wish Keller and other pro-war columnists had been “bullied” (rhetorically) as they got almost everything wrong about the pending war. I think the revolutionary peer connection tool would have been invaluable in shaming journalists into doing their jobs when so many failed to. (Keller later admitted the invasion was a “monumental blunder.”)
Twitter could have helped puncture the Beltway media bubble by providing news consumers with direct access to confront journalists during the run-up to the war. And the pass-around nature of Twitter could have rescued forgotten or buried news stories and commentaries that ran against the let’s-go-to-war narrative that engulfed so much of the mainstream press.
Considering the central role the lapdog media played in helping to sell President Bush’s pre-emptive invasion, I wonder if Twitter could have stopped the Iraq War.
Make no mistake, the nascent liberal blogosphere was raising its collective voice against the war in 2003 and calling out the press for its lapdog ways. In fact, one of the catalysts for the rapid expansion of the liberal blogosphere one decade ago was the ingrained sense of frustration. Progressive often searched in vain for passionate and articulate anti- war voices within the mainstream media. (And when they found a champion, Phil Donahue, he was summarily fired just weeks before the invasion.) Denied a voice, they created their own platform, liberal blogs.
The problem was the liberal blogosphere got the war story right, but they did it in something of a bubble. It was a bubble the mainstream media bolstered to isolate their progressive critics; to isolate and marginalize the new band of rowdy citizen journalists. Still new enough in 2002 and 2003 that they didn’t necessarily command journalists’ respect, and lacking the technological ability to reach into newsrooms, liberal blogs were often ignored by media elite, despite the fact the blogs were raising all the questions about the pending war.
(click here to continue reading Could Twitter Have Stopped The Media’s Rush To War In Iraq? | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
via Matt Wuerker, a final thought…Footnotes:
US Saigon Rift.PNG
The BBC has disclosed troubling history of Richard Nixon’s actions during the 1968 election, news I’ve not seen reported elsewhere. I just searched again, and for instance, The New York Times hasn’t mentioned this revelation, nor has The Washington Post, nor The Wall Street Journal. I wonder why? I’m not a conspiracy minded person, but it is a bit ironic that a British paper scooped the American press on a bit of American history.
Anyway, the BBC reports that Richard Nixon definitively sabotaged the peace talks between North and South Vietnam on the eve of the 1968 election by promising the government of Nguyen Van Thieu they would get a better deal if they waited until Nixon won the election. Foolishly, the South Vietnamese took this advice, and the Paris peace talks ended. Of course, the Vietnam War didn’t end for another 5 years, with thousands of U.S. casualties and thousands more Vietnamese casualties needlessly incurred.
There is no two ways about this: Richard Nixon deemed his own election chances more important than his country. Treasonous fuck.
The idea that Johnson might have been the candidate, and not Hubert Humphrey, is just one of the many secrets contained on the White House tapes.
They also shed light on a scandal that, if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.
It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault (born Chen Xiangmei – Chinese: 陳香梅), a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson’s reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move.”
(click here to continue reading BBC News – The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’.)
And yet, Johnson never went public with Nixon’s treasonous behavior. I wonder if LBJ had, and the country became understandably outraged, would Nixon have won the election? Probably not as it was so close. Also, would Regan’s team been bold enough to rig the end of the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980? Also, probably not.
Update, at least one major news outlet has covered the story: Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. She compares Richard Nixon’s treason with the intentional misinformation in the run-up to the Operation for Iraqi Liberation, as the Iraq War was originally called before they realized the joke (O.I.L.) was a bit too obvious.
A frequently repeated assertion by Social Security opponents is that Social Security was not designed for a population such as ours, with advances in medicine, yadda yadda.
Or as Dr. Krugman calls it, the Life Expectancy Zombie…
If we look at life expectancy statistics from the 1930s we might come to the conclusion that the Social Security program was designed in such a way that people would work for many years paying in taxes, but would not live long enough to collect benefits. Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women, and the retirement age was 65. But life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due mainly to high infant mortality, and someone who died as a child would never have worked and paid into Social Security. A more appropriate measure is probably life expectancy after attainment of adulthood.
As Table 1 shows, the majority of Americans who made it to adulthood could expect to live to 65, and those who did live to 65 could look forward to collecting benefits for many years into the future. So we can observe that for men, for example, almost 54% of the them could expect to live to age 65 if they survived to age 21, and men who attained age 65 could expect to collect Social Security benefits for almost 13 years (and the numbers are even higher for women).
Also, it should be noted that there were already 7.8 million Americans age 65 or older in 1935 (cf. Table 2), so there was a large and growing population of people who could receive Social Security. Indeed, the actuarial estimates used by the Committee on Economic Security (CES) in designing the Social Security program projected that there would be 8.3 million Americans age 65 or older by 1940 (when monthly benefits started). So Social Security was not designed in such a way that few people would collect the benefits.
(click here to continue reading Social Security History.)
The truth of the matter is that Bob Woodward has been a Republican partisan for many, many years, and only fools or the misinformed thought otherwise. Someone long ago called him a Stenographer To Power, and that epithet has stuck in my mind whenever I hear Woodward talk, or get tricked into reading some blather he’s written. Remember when Woodward said: “They trashed the place, and it wasn’t their place.”
A few articles I’ve read about Bob Woodward this week:
“Woodward at war,” was the headline Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei attached to their February 27 article playing up Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s claim that a senior White House official had threatened him over email regarding Woodward’s reporting on the origins of the budget sequestration. The Politico report on Woodward’s “major-league brushback” caught fire in the press and prompted allegations of White House intimidation. However, the email chain — which Politico published the following morning — shows that the claims of threats and intimidation by the White House are, at best, wildly overblown, and that Politico helped hype a bogus allegation by Woodward absent the full context.
The original February 27 Politico piece featured a short clip of Allen and VandeHei’s “hourlong interview” with Woodward “around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.” In that clip, Woodward reads from an email he received from a top White House official, later revealed to be economic advisor Gene Sperling. As Woodward puts it, Sperling did “something that I think it is important for people to understand. He says, you know, ‘I think you will regret staking out that claim,’” referring to Woodward’s assertion that the president was “moving the goal posts” in negotiations to avert sequestration.
(click here to continue reading Politico’s Woodward Warmongering | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
Eric Boehlert has a long list of details of Woodward’s hackery, with citations, that is well worth reading.
If Woodward were a liberal icon, it’s unlikely operatives close to Mitt Romney would’ve shown up at the reporter’s home just weeks before the election, urging him to meet with their secret source to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack.
Woodward has certainly shown in recent years that he doesn’t have his finger on the pulse on Democratic politics. Three years ago he claimed Hillary Clinton might replace Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket in 2012. (Then again he once predicted Dick Cheney would be the Republican nominee in 2008.)
In truth, Woodward at key junctures has been a willing conduit for Republicans and has proven instrumental in distributing their talking points. Recently, Woodward suggested, without any proof, that angry Democrats were pressuring the White House to pull Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become Secretary of Defense. And that Hagel was “twisting in the wind.”
During the Clinton years, “liberal” Woodward often took direct aim at the Democratic president, as well as Vice President Al Gore, labeling him ‘Solicitor-in-Chief,’ a move which conservatives cheered. Years later, when news broke that newly elected president Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, Woodward lamented that “She never goes away, she and her husband.”
But it’s Woodward’s reporting during the Bush administration that best debunks the farcical the notion that he is a “liberal” ally. He did that both through his fawning coverage of the Bush White House, especially in the early years, and by becoming a major player in the scandal surrounding CIA operative Valerie Plame.
At the same time Woodward was being granted extraordinary access to the Bush White House and to Bush himself in order to write his war-themed books, Woodward helped delay the Plame whodunit. He did it by failing, for two years, to reveal that a senior Bush administration official had told him that former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Plame, worked at the CIA.
Worse, prior to his shocking revelation, Woodward had made the media rounds minimizing the scandal as “laughable,” “an accident,” “nothing to it” and denigrating Fitzgerald as “disgraceful” and “junkyard dog,” never once noting mentioning he’d been on the receiving end of a leak about Plame.
(click here to continue reading Woodward As Liberal Icon? Not Exactly | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. But read the rest if you have the inclination.
and a wee bit of sequester history from Ezra Klein
I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.
The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change. There were two candidates to drive that change.
The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
(click here to continue reading On the sequester, the American people ‘moved the goalposts’.)
Alex Parene gets to the meat of the Woodward-Gate: Woodward seems to think that if the President does something, it isn’t illegal. Quite a change from 1972, no?
Speaking of kinds of madness, Woodward’s actual position here is insane. As Dave Weigel points out, “some budget document” is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the commander in chief, and laws should not apply to him. That is a really interesting perspective, from a man who is famous for his reporting on the extralegal activities of a guy who is considered a very bad president!
Also, that George W. Bush analogy is amazing. It would have been a good thing for him to invade and occupy Iraq without congressional approval? Say what you will about George W. Bush, at least he was really, really devoted to invading Iraq. (And yes the Reagan line, lol.)
There is nothing less important about “the sequester” than the question of whose idea it originally was. So, naturally, that is the question that much of the political press is obsessed with, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Republicans have been making the slightly incoherent argument that a) the sequester, which is a bad thing, is entirely Obama’s fault, b) Obama is exaggerating how bad the sequester will be, and c) the sequester, which is Obama’s fault, is preferable to not having the sequester. Woodward has lately been fixated on Obama’s responsibility for the idea of the sequester, but at this point, the important question is who will be responsible if it actually happens. On that question, Woodward, and others, have taken the position that it will be Obama’s fault because he has failed to “show leadership.” But laws come from Congress. The president signs or vetoes them. Republicans in the House are unwilling and unable to repeal the law Congress passed creating the sequester. All Obama can do is ask them to pass such a law, and to make the case to the public that they should pass such a law. And Obama has been doing those things, a lot.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward demands law-ignoring, mind-controlling presidential leadership – Salon.com.)
Woodward’s second point — “moving the goalposts” — has been torn to shreds like a hunk of meat tossed into the lion cage. Brian Beutler points out that the law didn’t call for spending cuts to be put into place, it called for “deficit reduction.” David Corn adds that Boehner himself conceded the possibility, however remote, that sequestration could be replaced with some mix of higher revenue and lower spending. Dave Weigel points out that Woodward’s own book says the same thing. There’s nothing left at all to the point Woodward is trying to argue here.
To understand where Woodward is coming from, you need to recall his book on the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. That book was notable because it concluded that Obama was responsible for blowing up the big deal to reduce the deficit by spooking John Boehner and mishandling the negotiations. Woodward’s interpretive line here runs in contrast to every other account of the episode, which shows Obama was always ready to offer highly generous terms to Boehner, but Boehner simply concluded his party’s base, represented by Eric Cantor, would not accept higher revenue in any form.
What Woodward is saying here is that the failure to strike a deal is Obama’s fault by definition. There is no set of imaginable facts that would cause Woodward to conclude that Congress bears responsibility for an agreement. It’s a truly bizarre way of thinking, but also a common one, combining elements of BipartisanThink and the Cult of the Presidency. Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ’Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.”
Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party and the nature of free will, not to explain how it could happen. David Gregory, among others, heartily endorses Fournier’s argument.
Woodward’s strange way of understanding this issue survives because it is something that he and certain people need to believe, for professional and ideological reasons.
(click here to continue reading The Weird Philosophy of Bob Woodward — Daily Intelligencer.)
and in a follow up:
To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a particular kind of awful — a Georgetown Wise Man reliably and almost invariably mouthing the conventional wisdom of the Washington Establishment.
His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure’s standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton’s major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” at the peak of the Fed chairman’s almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush’s reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment.
Woodward’s book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal.
(click here to continue reading What the Hell Happened to Bob Woodward? — Daily Intelligencer.)
John Cassidy writes:
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”
Woodward’s 2000 book on Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” which was clearly based on extensive access to the Fed chairman, is a good example of what Didion was talking about. As an inside account of what Greenspan said and did and thought, it was a useful primer, and, as with all of Woodward’s books, it included some arresting, if largely irrelevant, narrative details, such as one in which the great man, disturbed by his wife, Andrea Mitchell’s, desire for a canine companion, asks one of his colleagues, the chairman of the Philadelphia Fed, “Well, how do you tell your wife you don’t want a dog?” But as a guide to the impact of Greenspan’s policies, or the real significance of his rise to a godlike status, “Maestro” wasn’t much help at all. Less than a year after it was published, the stock-market bubble that Greenspan had helped to inflate burst, and the country was plunged into a recession.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward Throws an Interception : The New Yorker.)
Michael Tomasky pulls no punches:
So in other words, Obama said in November 2011 exactly what he said for the next year, and exactly what he is saying today! Those goal posts are now looking more and more stationary, aren’t they? The notion that the supercommittee was the only place where revenues could be discussed is so wrong that it really makes me wonder how intelligent Bob Woodward is. It was understood in November 2011 that Congress still had 13 months to come up with something until the January 2013 deadline. And Obama has wanted revenues that entire time. Sheesh.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward’s So-Called Thinking Sort Of Explained – The Daily Beast.)
And a bit of truthiness to cleanse our palate:
Investigative journalist Bob Woodward announced Thursday that he’s received credible information from an anonymous source confirming that Woodward hasn’t been a relevant force in American journalism in 40 years. “Though I cannot divulge his name, I can tell you that he’s an extremely reliable, high-level government source, and thus far everything he’s told me about how I’m no longer a salient or even particularly respected journalistic figure completely checks out,” Woodward told reporters, describing a late-night parking garage rendezvous in which the Washington Post editor was purportedly told to “follow the writing.” “My source assured me that once I read my careless reporting on the Iraq war, my exaggerated interviews, and my exploitative and inaccurate account of the recent sequestration situation, it would be abundantly clear that my influence in the field has substantially waned since Watergate. And he’s right. It’s all true.” Woodward then accidentally revealed that his source’s name was White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer, which prompted the journalist to murmur, “Goddamnit, Bob, you’ve really lost it,” under his breath.
(click here to continue reading Anonymous Source Informs Bob Woodward He Hasn’t Been Relevant In 40 Years | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.)
For all their talk about social conservatism principles, the main mission of the Republican Party for decade has been simple: lower taxes for the rich folks, and their businesses. There are no other agendas, really, that Conservatives agree upon. The religious stuff, the anti-abortion stance, the destruction of unions, especially teachers unions, all that is secondary.
Jonathan Chait writes:
Part of the confusion is that Republicans have been saying for months that they really just want to stop tax rates from raising. They’re happy — nay, eager — to make the rich pay more taxes by reducing their tax deductions. Certain conservative economists believe this as well. Since Obama is offering to increase revenue in exactly this way, his plan might seem inoffensive to Republicans. Republican economist Martin Feldstein proposed a deduction cap that would raise four times as much revenue as Obama is asking! Ezra Klein can’t understand why Republicans won’t accept a deal to reduce the tax deductions they’ve been calling a pollution of the tax code, especially in return for entitlement cuts.
The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period. I can state this rule confidently because there is literally not a single example since 1990 of any meaningful bloc of Republicans defying it.
What has aided the easy reversion to form, with low taxes for the rich dominating all other considerations, is the pent-up rage and betrayal John Boehner has engendered among his most conservative members. Almost nothing Boehner has done since taking over as speaker has endeared him to his ultras. Every subsequent compromise creates more embitterment, and the last few moves have provoked simmering rage. Conservatives had to swallow a tax hike, and then swallow an increase in the debt ceiling. Boehner has, incredibly, had to promise his members that he will not enter private negotiations with Obama.
(click here to continue reading The Republican Sequestration Plan — Daily Intelligencer.)
Cat Food Commissioner Alan Simpson was asked:
what do you say to those folks who don’t have the comfort of a pension? That don’t have a good job that they can get employed at all the way through the age of 70, say? How do you deal with that?”
“I always say to people,” Alan Simpson told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “before you, you know begin to drool at the mouth, and go crazy and scratch our eyeballs out, read the damn report. It was 67 pages, we put it in December 1, 2010 and people said, “What are you doing to the vulnerable?” And I said, read it. We don’t do anything to people on SSI, we don’t do anything with food stamp, we don’t do anything with people on — on unemployment. Get — get your — use your bean, instead of listening to crap all day long from the right, and the left.”
(click here to continue reading The problem with Alan Simpson.)
Somehow that doesn’t seem to answer the question.
Ezra Klein writes, in response:
Simpson’s answer, meanwhile, was no answer at all. It was just schtick. It does nothing to, say, rebut the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which took a close look at the changes Simpson-Bowles made to Social Security and concluded that the proposal “would generate nearly two-thirds of its Social Security savings over 75 years — and four-fifths of its savings in the 75th year — from benefit cuts,” and that “while these benefit cuts would be largest for workers with above-average earnings, they would affect the vast majority of retired and disabled workers.”
Fifteen years after he retired from the U.S. Senate, Simpson has become a key figure in American politics by picking the right issue, the right enemies, and the right language to describe them. He is like America’s cranky grandpa. A bit unfiltered, sure, but loved for saying what everyone else was already thinking. And it works because most of the people Simpson talks to — particularly the ones in the media — really do think like Alan Simpson.
For reasons I’ve never quite understood, the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit. On this one issue, reporters are permitted to openly cheer a particular set of highly controversial policy solutions. At Tuesday’s Playbook breakfast, for instance, Mike Allen, as a straightforward and fair a reporter as you’ll find, asked Simpson and Bowles whether they believed Obama would do “the right thing” on entitlements — with “the right thing” clearly meaning “cut entitlements.”
(click here to continue reading The problem with Alan Simpson.)
and Paul Krugman adds:
As I’ve written on previous occasions, the Bernie Madoff phenomenon helped me understand a lot about the persistence of bad economics. Madoff flourished through “affinity fraud”; his investors thought he was their kind of guy, so they didn’t look hard at how he was allegedly making money. And I realized that a similar phenomenon explains the enduring popularity of goldbugs and fiscal doomsayers — including, say, the Wall Street Journal editorial page — despite years of being wrong about everything; their devotees, who consist in large part of cranky old white men, see kindred spirits and can’t see past that to the consistently terrible analysis.
Simpson is, demonstrably, grossly ignorant on precisely the subjects on which he is treated as a guru, not understanding the finances of Social Security, the truth about life expectancy, and much more. He is also a reliably terrible forecaster, having predicted an imminent fiscal crisis — within two years — um, two years ago. Yet he remains not only respectable among the Beltway crowd; as Ezra says, he’s lionized in a way that looks from the outside like a clear violation of journalistic norms…
So what is it that makes Simpson the figure he is? Clearly, it’s an affinity thing: never mind his obvious lack of knowledge, his ludicrous track record, reporters trust and idolize Simpson because he’s their kind of guy.
And think about what it says about them that their kind of guy is this cantankerous, potty-mouthed individual, who evidently feels not a bit of empathy for those less fortunate.
(click here to continue reading Alan Simpson and Bernie Madoff – NYTimes.com.)
and for good measure, William Greider wrote these words in 2010, which are still relevant…
Retired Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, who inherited a soft-cushion career in politics from his father, is a garrulous old crank who at 79 seems desperate for attention. Simpson likes to pop off provocatively. He cannot resist mocking lesser mortals like Social Security recipients with meanspirited ridicule. Simpson is an always quotable darling of Washington reporters, who mistake his nastiness for straight talk, who are too lazy to check out his ugly distortions.
Senator Trash Mouth keeps messing up the plan, however, by provoking outrage with his tasteless zingers. Most recently, Simpson compared Social Security—the federal government’s most beloved program—to “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”
On the same page the Times reported Simpson’s latest gaffe, political reporter Matt Bai contributed a far more outrageous falsehood of his own. In condescending style, he dismissed opponents to Social Security cuts (dimwits like me) as stuck-in-the-past liberals, trying to defend big government against harsh reality. Bai celebrated the courage of Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, a Democrat who evidently embraces the same view. Bai did not mention the people and public opinion overwhelmingly opposed to benefit cuts (check the polls if you doubt this). Someone should ask Congressman Blumenauer’s constituents how they feel about his brave stance.
Bai’s great falsification was to insinuate that the Social Security’s trust fund is bogus—that the massive surpluses collected from working people to pay for their future retirements are meaningless. Social Security, he acknowledged, has amassed a pile of Treasury bonds—IOUs from the government—but he says as a practical matter that money can’t be paid back because taxes would have to be raised or more funds borrowed elsewhere. “This is sort of like saying that you’re rich because your friend has promised to give you 10 million bucks just as soon as he wins the lottery,” Bai explains.
His comparison is a clever but consequential lie, consistent with the elite propaganda. Bai makes it sound like the government is going to give this money to retirees. In fact, it’s the other way around. Social Security collected this money from workers as their involuntary savings, better known as FICA deductions. Then the federal government borrowed the money from us and spent it on other things. Congress raised the FICA deductions twenty-five years ago on all working people to pay for the baby boom generation’s copming retirements. The Social Security trust fund has since built up massive surpluses–$2.5 trillion now and growing to $4.2 trillion in 2023—and set it aside for the future. But starting with Ronald Reagan, the federal government ran massive deficits on its own budgets and borrowed the savings from Social Security to pay for wars and military buildups, regressive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, among other things.
This vast wealth belongs to the working people who paid it—not to the federal government or Congress. Naturally, many politicians would like to get out of paying it back, but that constitutes a massive bait-and-switch swindle of working people. Bai and many other reporters of the mainstream media have been assured by their sources it is impossible to pay back that money, but that is a political choice, not a fiscal requirement. It would make working people pay for Republican gravy that went to someone else.
(click here to continue reading Alan Simpson, Senator Guttermouth, Spews Again | The Nation.)
Funny isn’t it that facts never get factored into the discussion. Or rarely. Even though austerity as an option to solve economic duress has not worked, now, or ever, those proponents never give in, and adjust their mantra to factor in new facts. Instead, they just increase their voice’s volume.
Paul Krugman notes:
Ralph Waldo Emerson understood this. The original version of his famous quote — I had forgotten this — reads:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
I don’t know about the divines bit, but the little statesmen thing is completely accurate. Suppose George Osborne were to admit that austerity isn’t working. What, then, would be left of his claim to be qualified to do, well, anything? He has to stick it out until something turns up,no matter how many lives it destroys.
Suppose that some pundit who has spent his whole career calling for bipartisanship, a compromise between the extremes of left and right, were to admit the plain fact that Obama is very much a centrist, who is in particular proposing deficit reduction through exactly the kind of mix of tax hikes and spending cuts “centrist” pundits demand — and that the GOP, by contrast, is an extremist organization whose extremism is almost solely responsible for the bitterness of the partisan divide. A pundit making that admission would in effect be saying that everything he has said and done for the past several years was not just useless but harmful, actively misleading readers about the state of the debate. He just can’t do it.
The point is that a large part of the reason we’re locked into such a mess is careerism. And yes, that’s quite vile, if you think about it: politicians and pundits alike letting the world burn — probably unconsciously, but still — because their personal position would be hurt if they admitted to past mistakes.
(click here to continue reading Little Statesmen and Philosophers – NYTimes.com.)
It isn’t only politics, but topics like Climate Change, Gun Control, even to mundane topics like does Steely Dan suck…
Or fucked, as the original headline reads…
We’ve never been fans of Sully ‘round these parts, we haven’t forgotten some of his more odious positions. It wasn’t even very long ago that Sullivan thought anyone opposed to the Iraq War was a traitor, or worse.
Anyway, Mark Ames has a good run-down of a few of Andrew Sullivan’s greatest hits, well worth your time to refresh your memory of the positions Andrew Sullivan has held, all the way back to his fact-free debunking of the Reagan October Surprise when Sullivan was only 28.
Andrew Sullivan is all over the news after announcing he’s going solo, parting ways with Tina Brown shortly after she put a pillow over Newsweek’s face.
But in all the media excitement over Sullivan’s decision to rely on the much-maligned subscription model for his revenues (“bold experiment!”… “A thrill!”… “a flag of hope for every writer!”… “a dramatic stand!”…) no one raised the most obvious question of all: Why would subscribers pay to support one of the most colossal serial-failures in American journalism of the past two decades?
Sullivan is getting away with it and profiting from failure thanks to two key elements to his media business model: Blogger cronyism, providing a network of media suckups all too eager to offer free PR to Sullivan’s business in the hope that “Sully” will logroll back at them some day; and the American public’s amnesia.
I happen to know just how rotten Sullivan is because over at the S.H.A.M.E. Project, we just published a profile on one of the most rancid political figures of our time, Charles Murray — a vicious right-wing sociopath and racial eugenicist who got his start as a counter-insurgency expert during the Vietnam War, using starvation and crop destruction as a means of “behavior control” on restive Thai villages.
Murray’s fraudulent racial eugenics theories “proving” that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior gained a foothold in mainstream discourse, thanks to Andrew Sullivan. What’s more disturbing is that even as Sullivan has disavowed some of his far-right causes of the past — like smearing critics of America’s wars as traitors, denouncing “decadent” coastal America, denouncing what he called the “libidinal pathology” of gay sexual culture, smearing anyone not with the Likkud program as anti-Semitic, and so on — the one far-right belief he won’t let go of is racial intelligence, “human biodiversity” and the whole range of rancid Nazi eugenics revived in 1994 by Charles Murray’s discredited book, The Bell Curve.
(click here to continue reading Not Safe For Work Corporation | If Andrew Sullivan Is The Future of Journalism Then Journalism Is Fucked.)
The gun fever has not abated in our country, but we have to pay closer attention to it, for all of our sakes.
David Muhammad writes:
It was a colleague in Chicago. I had emailed her the day before asking for research into one of the mentoring programs in the city’s schools for youth with the highest risk of being shot.
She provided me with the information I was seeking. Then she included a P.S.: “What a devastating horrible day in CT. But frankly I wish people cared this much when it was children on the south and west sides of Chicago.”
I was snapped back into reality with the email. The tragedy in Newtown was truly horrific. But there is similar carnage carried out every day in the streets of America’s cities, especially in the President’s hometown of Chicago, where I work in Oakland, in Philadelphia, and many other cities across the nation.
In 2010, nearly 700 Chicago school children were shot and 66 of them died. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a memorial for 260 school children who had been killed in just the previous three years. On several occasions in the past year, tens of people have been shot in a single weekend on the streets of the city. The worst three-day stretch saw 10 killed and 37 wounded in gun fire. But Google the term “Chicago weekend shootings” and the results are far too many deadly weekends to count.
Oakland, Calif. has seen a huge increase in shootings. Last year, three small children were murdered in shootings. The youngest victim hadn’t yet turned 2. Oakland has become the first city in the country to have its police force taken over by a federal court. Because of a lack of resources, the city has one of the lowest police to resident ratios in the country.
Gun violence in America is a pandemic, but there is no round-the-clock news coverage. No national address from the President with tears. No pledge for urgent change.
(click here to continue reading 260 School Children Killed in Chicago in 3 Years — Where Are the Tears for Them? | Alternet.)
Just to continue the theme: today’s Tribune reports
An 18-year-old man was shot and killed and five other people were wounded, including an 11-year-old boy, across Chicago Christmas evening and early this morning.
About 7 p.m., an 11-year-old boy was grazed in the arm in the 6200 block of South Michigan Avenue and taken to Comer Children’s Hospital, according to police. He was walking in a group when he heard shots and felt pain.
(click here to continue reading Chicago Tribune – Overnight shootings leave 1 dead, 5 wounded across Chicago.)
I am considering creating a Tumblr blog just to focus on Chicago gun violence, and related topics, but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.
How Mike Huckabee Imagines the World
I wasn’t going to write anything about the horrific events in Newtown, CT, but Christian Taliban propagandist Mike Huckabee has really enraged me with his illogical bloviating.
Steve Benen of Maddowblog has the video and transcript:
Neil Cavuto said that many invariably ask after tragedies like this, “How could God let this happen?” Huckabee responded:
“Well, you know, it’s an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? [...]
“You know, God wasn’t armed. He didn’t go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which I think he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”
So, by Huckabee’s reasoning, the separation of church and state is at least partially responsible for a gunman killing 26 people, including 20 children. There are a few problems with such a perspective.
Theologically, many Christians believe God is omnipresent, and can’t be “systematically removed” from anything. For that matter, there’s very little in the Christian tradition that suggests God punishes children when constitutional law hurts His feelings.
Politically, Huckabee’s comments — seeking to exploit a violent tragedy to push a bogus cultuyre war agenda — are reminder that the former Arkansas governor and failed presidential candidate occasionally just isn’t a nice guy.
(click here to continue reading This Week in God – The Maddow Blog.)
According to Huckabee’s reasoning, if the children had sacrificed a virgin goat that morning, god would have taken time out of his busy schedule picking which football teams win, and whatever else he occupies his time with, and stopped the massacre. God may omnipotent, but he is apparently also petulant. “No goat sacrifice in my name today? Then thou shall die by the hands of a nut job with a high-powered gun.” As any student of history realizes, Christians, even devout Christians, are not immune to violence.
So nice of Mr. Huckabee to blame the victims for not praying harder, after they are shot to death. I blame the NRA instead. They are actually on this earth, and from my perspective, as culpable in the murders as any other entity.
which leads me to the second point I’d like to make: namely that the corporate media is complicit with their shameless and breathless reporting whenever a slaughter occurs. Where is the same sort of hyperventilating when ten people were shot just last night in Chicago? Unfortunately, a fairly typical number of shootings for 21st century Chicago.
Watch Your Damn Mouth
Roger Ebert said it more eloquently:
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
(click here to continue reading Elephant :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews.)
Warren Buffett’s Op Ed begins:
SUPPOSE that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”
Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.
Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent — and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered.
(click here to continue reading A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy – NYTimes.com.)
And of course, he’s right, but logic has been banned from the modern conservative party. Historical perspective as well, apparently, unless Regan is involved. At least President Obama has said that Social Security is off the table, in the short term at least. Just waiting for Defense spending to join the deficit party – we could halve our military spending every year for the next ten, and still spend more than any other country on the planet. Even the Democrats never seem to mention slicing defense spending as part of the Grand Bargain.
In a speech at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) , urged progressives to be open to Medicare and Medicaid reforms as part of long-term deficit talks.
But he also said both entitlement programs, along with Social Security, should be off the table during fiscal cliff negotiations.
“Progressives should be willing to talk about ways to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but those conversations should not be part of a plan to avert the fiscal cliff,” Durbin said in his remarks.
“I think the point we tried to make in the campaign was the Paul Ryan approach [turning Medicare into a quasi-voucher program] we think threatens the existence of these programs and the services they provide,” Durbin told reporters later in the day. “That’s unacceptable. There has to be a better, more positive approach that saves money and at the end of the day, is going to keep these programs alive.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) agreed with Durbin that Social Security should be off the table, noting that it has not contributed to the debt.
(click here to continue reading For Fiscal Cliff Talks, Medicare Reform Still On Table For Senate Democrats.)
Greg Sargent adds:
Now this is encouraging. I’m told that representatives of major unions and progressive groups met privately this morning with senior Obama administration officials at the White House — and were pleased with what they heard.
Things can always change at a moment’s notice. But attendees at this meeting came away convinced — for now — that the White House firmly believes it has the leverage in the fiscal cliff talks, and has no intention of budging on the demand for higher tax rates from the rich or on other core priorities.
Indeed, one person at the meeting — which included people from the AFLCIO, AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn and others — came away convinced that the White House would ultimately prove willing to go over the fiscal cliff if necessary, rather than give ground on core demands, though this is not by any means a desired option and isn’t being discussed as a strategic possibility.
…“They remain in the same place: They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” the attendee added. “They feel confident that they don’t have to compromise.”
White House officials also signaled in the meeting that they are going to insist that Republicans agree to resolve the need to raise the debt ceiling as part of the fiscal talks — and won’t abide a separate fight over it, attendees said. Also key: Attendees got the impression the White House does not view this looming debt ceiling battle in the same terms as the 2011 fight, where Republicans had the leverage.
(click here to continue reading Reasons to be encouraged about fiscal cliff’s endgame – The Plum Line – The Washington Post.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has almost become the liaison to the left for cuts to federal health care programs in the grand bargain, gave a speech today at the Center for American Progress that included a couple important points:
• Durbin sequenced the provisions of the deal, saying that Republicans would have to build the framework on taxes, which includes an increase in the top marginal rates, before any Democrat will even begin to talk about social insurance programs. This seems like a hardline stance, but it just mirrors the dominant conversation, which has focused on taxes to the exclusion of practically everything else.
• Though Durbin has sought to bring rank-and-file Democrats along on a grand bargain that would include cuts to those social insurance programs, he set out some red lines. In addition to rejecting the privatization of Medicare or Social Security and the block granting of Medicaid – a common tactic to reject the extreme view to provide space for more modest but still damaging cuts – Durbin took Social Security almost entirely off the table. This matches White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s statements yesterday. It does appear that’s been filed away for the time being.
In addition, Durbin said, regarding spending cuts on anti-poverty social programs, “Let me be clear: Those cuts will not happen.” And he sought to line up with the Administration’s viewpoint that any changes to Medicare and Medicaid can happen without cuts to benefits, through payment reforms or provider cuts. This would “strengthen” those programs through the reform, he said. He also wanted to exempt infrastructure spending fully from any cuts.
(click here to continue reading Durbin Outlines Democratic Approach on Grand Bargain | FDL News Desk.)
Democratic leaders, frustrated by the GOP’s unwillingness to reckon with the need to raise taxes, are publicly airing the hard-bargaining demands they’re bringing to budget negotiations with Republicans.
The Senate’s top two Democrats, in separate remarks Tuesday, each said that Congress could avoid looming across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts if House Republicans agree to freeze all the Bush tax rates except those benefitting top earners. If that were accompanied by an increase in the debt limit, and the creation of a separate track for reforming the tax code and social safety net programs in 2013, the near-term austerity problem will be solved, and lawmakers can call it a day.
In other words, Senate Democrats are staking out the position that entitlement reform should not be on the table in fiscal cliff negotiations.
“If we fail to reach an agreement, the average middle-class family will see their taxes go up by $2,200 a year,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters at his weekly press availability. “As I’ve indicated, the Senate has already reacted to stop that and the House is one vote away from making that a reality for many millions of Americans who are middle class.”
(click here to continue reading Top Democrats Drive Hard Bargiain In Budget Talks | TPMDC.)
A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…
I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.
But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?
In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.
(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)
and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:
A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.
Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.
So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”
Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.
Laura Miller adds:
The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.
These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!
Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.
(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)
Dome of Texas Capitol Building – Ektachrome Holga
Texas, and other Republican strongholds like Alabama and Mississippi, et al, have a large number of secessionists, clamoring to leave the country instead of loving it. There is a black man and his family in the White House, and to these idiots that is reason enough to dissolve the country. Take their ball and poutily leave the playground, as it were.
The joke in the rest of the country, oft repeated, is, hurry up and go! We don’t miss you already. As long as you leave Austin behind…
Few of the public calls for secession have addressed the messy details, like what would happen to the state’s many federal courthouses, prisons, military bases and parklands. No one has said what would become of Kevin Patteson, the director of the state’s Office of State-Federal Relations, and no one has asked the Texas residents who received tens of millions of dollars in federal aid after destructive wildfires last year for their thoughts on the subject.
But all the secession talk has intrigued liberals as well. Caleb M. of Austin started his own petition on the White House Web site. He asked the federal government to allow Austin to withdraw from Texas and remain part of the United States, “in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede.” It had more than 8,000 signatures as of Friday.
(click here to continue reading With Stickers, a Petition and Even a Middle Name, Secession Fever Hits Texas – NYTimes.com.)
or at least treat Austin like East Berlin, and allow visitors.
Dana Milbank wrote recently:
And so a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede. They should be careful about what they wish for. It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States and create (their) own NEW government” (the petitions emphasize “new” by capitalizing it).
Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.
Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 35,000 signatures at midday Thursday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 28,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (36,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (31,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.
Possibly, the new United States would need to negotiate certain protectorates in the Confederacy — Austin, New Orleans, South Florida and the like — the way the British did in Hong Kong. Then there is the awkward matter of what the breakaway nation would do to its poor.
But once the handout states left the union (and took with them a proportionate share of the federal debt), the rest of the country could enjoy lower taxes and the high level of government service typical of the Northeast, the Great Lakes and the West Coast.
There would also be nonfinancial benefits. Tampa’s Central Command, now caught up in the David Petraeus sex scandal, would be the new nation’s problem. And the exit of a number of Southern representatives from Congress would give Democrats a solid governing majority.
(click here to continue reading Secession push – chicagotribune.com.)
A small sampling of editorial cartoon responses:
ben sargent Secession 121120
Angry White Manistan.jpg
Can you detect a theme?
A conspiracy theory you might enjoy: did Anonymous thwart Turdblossom from subverting democracy? If so, they should get a Congressional Medal of Freedom, or a Nobel Prize, or something. Free beer? Something. Anonymous should also publish their findings so that Karl Rove gets that jail term he so deserves…
Thom Hartmann discusses an article that says the hacker group, Anonymous may have been involved in stopping GOP mastermind Karl Rove from stealing the election in Ohio this year.
The letter itself is currently at Scribd (as PDF), read it yourself
via Crooks and Liars
I’m especially interested in 2004. Remember when all the corporate media people were chiding bloggers, who reported the exit poll info, for leaking inaccurate raw data? What I remember that the exit polls were only off in a few counties. Gee, I wonder why?
The other thing I’ve always wondered is why John Kerry collected donations for his legal fund, swearing he would fight for every last vote — and then didn’t. I guess we’ll never know.
Finally, the never ending 2012 election is over, and the anti-American GOP lost. Whew. Take a deep breath, and let’s start speculating who will run in 2016! Kidding, sorta…
(double click to embiggen)
I did pretty good guessing which state’s electoral votes would go to President Obama – the only state I guessed incorrectly was North Carolina, and that was an optimistic guess that I didn’t really expect to happen. In the official count, as of this exact moment, Florida is not declared, so either there is going to be a recount, or they are just taking their sweet time. From the reported votes, Romney lost Florida too.
(double click to embiggen)
The New York Times reports that with 100% of Florida counted, the totals are:
- Barack Obama Dem. 4,129,502 49.8%
- Mitt Romney Rep. 4,083,441 49.3%
No matter, President Obama won…