Friday, December 17, 2010

Study Shows Fox Viewers Most Likely to Believe Misinformation

This may not be a surprise to anyone, but I appreciate when scientific studies support what I have always thought to be true. A study recently completed by World Public Opinion based at the University of Maryland found that voters are misinformed at a substantial level and that Fox News viewers in particular, are most likely to believe misinformation. After the Citizens United decision which enabled corporate contributions to political campaigns to increase, the researchers wanted to discover whether the level of misinformation disseminated to voters had increased and if so, whether or not it was effective (to be effective, it must be believed).

Image: jugbo

Some of the results are remarkable. I know that I stopped watching network broadcasts because most of what I was hearing was either incorrect, incomplete, or slanted in favor of the Republicans, but unless people are willing to devote a lot of time to the quest for information, cable or network news is probably their best best for political news. Using data gathered by government agencies who are generally believed to be non-partisan, questions about issues of the day were asked.

A few findings include:

  • Though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the stimulus legislation has saved or created 2.0-5.2 million jobs, only 8% of voters thought most economists who had studied it concluded that the stimulus legislation had created or saved several million jobs. Most (68%) believed that economists estimate that it only created or saved a few jobs and 20% even believed that it resulted in job losses.
  • Though the CBO concluded that the health reform law would reduce the budget deficit, 53% of voters thought most economists have concluded that health reform will increase the deficit.
  • Though the Department of Commerce says that the US economy began to recover from recession in the third quarter of 2009 and has continued to grow since then, only 44% of voters thought the economy is starting to recover, while 55% thought the economy is still getting worse.
  • Though the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that climate change is occurring, 45% of voters thought most scientists think climate change is not occurring (12%) or that scientists are evenly divided (33%).
For people who watched Fox News, the results were to be expected. They were:
  • 12 points more likely to believe that the stimulus bill caused job losses
  • 31 points more likely to believe that the health care law would worsen the deficit
  • 26 points more likely to believe that the economy is getting worse
  • 30 points more likely to believe that there is no climate change occurring
  • 14 points more likely to believe that the stimulus bill did not contain any tax cuts
  • 14 points more likely to believe that their own income taxes have increased [we actually paid the lowest amount in 60 years]
  • 13 points more likely to believe that the auto bailout was an Obama initiative
  • 12 points more likely to believe that most of the Republicans were against TARP
  • 31 points more likely to believe that Obama was not born in the U.S.
The most remarkable point above, is not the distance between what a Fox News viewer is likely to believe compared to someone who receives their news from other sources, but that party identification did not seem to matter. Democrats were just as likely to believe misinformation if they were regular Fox viewers.

When the results of this study were released, Fox News senior vice president for news Michael Clemente responded by stating that the University of Maryland was highly ranked as a school for Students Who Study the Least, and being the Best Party School (it is actually one of the highest ranked state universities in the east) and therefore, "...given these fine academic distinctions, we’ll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was ‘researched’ with..." It should be noted, that rather than dispute the findings of the study, Fox chose to attack the study itself. This is a classic strawman fallacy as Clemente creates something to attack to deflect attention from the issue.

I see as I finish this that Countdown did a segment on this report and I've seen a few tweets about it, but the whole article is well worth a read. I didn't think it would get this much attention or I would probably not have written this, but it's nice to have something I've believed validated by scientific research.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Liz Cheney Demands President Do...What He Is Doing


Liz, Liz, Liz. Every time you go on the Sunday talks, you say something breathtakingly stupid and I get to write another post suggesting, again, that you give it up and go home. I have no idea why you are given air time, but considering the state of news in this country -- and I mean the networks as well as Fox -- there is not much useful said on Sunday mornings (or weekday evenings for that matter). I have studied, among other things, history, political science, economics, psychology, all of the schools, theories, and techniques of counseling, am considered a qualified witness on the ADA, and followed politics in this country since Richard Nixon. I was even a Navy wife. Do I feel qualified to judge President Obama's decisions on Afghanistan? I believe I have as much education and experience in the work world as you (we were both mid-level managers of comparably sized units in the public sector), plus I was actually a military wife. But, no. I have an opinion rooted in my pacifism, but if I were invited to appear on a talk show to discuss defense policy, I would have to respectfully decline. Nor am I qualified to discuss decisions made in my father's field despite many, many dinner-table conversations. But, you've learned how to make a living trying to whitewash your father's history, so I am sure you will continue to present yourself as a foreign policy, terrorism expert.


Appearing on Fox News Sunday today, you inserted both feet into your mouth when you angrily demanded that President Obama do exactly...what he is doing.
After giving your oh so thoughtful approval for his visit to the troops, you said: [emphasis added]
"You know, what I'd like to see-because I do believe that setting the 2011 deadline did cause significant damage to the effort, in terms of convincing people that we're committed to be there to win-I'd like to see the president repudiate it. I'd like to see him say, "Just let's be clear: We are going to make our decisions based on conditions on the ground, not based on dates we set back here in Washington."
"...It's important for the Pakistanis to hear that as well, so that they understand it is not in their interest at all to help to support, provide safe havens to the extent that the Taliban has safe havens in Pakistan. That message is a critically important one, and I'd like to see the president say "conditions-based," not just "deadline set."
What is interesting, is that although I personally would prefer that the President bring the troops home, I understand that he is trying to clean up your father's messes. Typical of the extremist right, you have just plucked words out of the air to create an argument, the support for your argument, and the necessary actions to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

On August 31, 2010, President Obama gave a speech in which he said: [emphasis added]
"... next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: This transition will begin-because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people's."
Discussing the additional troops that he was sending, he said: [emphasis added]
"...these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground."
I think most of us would like all of the troops to come home, and the money that is being spent instead go to restore social programs here in this country and pay back the debt incurred by your father and George W. But, your father wanted war and along with W, ignored Bin Laden to go settle a grudge and start a war that had been planned since the early 1990's. Then, realizing their mistake, moved into Afghanistan and tried to solve the problems that we created. So you don't like how things are going? Neither do I. But next time, pay attention before opening your mouth. You look foolish.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon. (h/t Media Matters)
k

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Me, Me, Me! It's All About Me! Look At Me! Me!


If this were a television show, the ratings would be huge, we'd all make sure we were sitting there on our Barcaloungers each week, popcorn in hand, waiting for the next episode of the Sarah Palin Me, Me, Me show. Everything out of her mouth contradicts not only what she said a day, week, month, or year before, but often contradicts what she has said several sentences before. Unfortunately for all of us, it is not a television show. This is our life as we watch our country disintegrate around us and the ignorant folk who have previously always felt somewhat ashamed of their high school or community college only education, or lack of a high-powered, important career, can now wave signs and be somebody because, hey, ignorance is cool!

Please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people without advanced degrees or any degree at all for that matter. In fact, I was that person with a GED and some college who managed to rise to a mid-level management job, then take those skills and run two successful small businesses for a number of years before I was finally able to attend college and get through graduate school. It would have been better had I led a more conventional life as I have discovered in this economy that most employers consider self-employment for women worthless, and when offered young brand new graduates without experience or older brand new graduates with all kinds of experience but not a lot in their new field, they invariably pick the young ones. Whatever. My point, is that I am not including myself in any particular group, but I am comfortable saying that many people--including, I would imagine, many Palin supporters--are secretly jealous of those who were able to attend really good schools, earn professional degrees, and privately ashamed that they don't understand all of the nuances of economics, foreign affairs, or even national or state politics because of their lack of education. That particular attitude drives me crazy, because people psych themselves out of learning these things because of their lack of formal education. I have been involved in politics for years, and well understood nuance because I took the trouble to educate myself about issues I cared about.

Then, along comes someone like Sarah Palin. Out for the main chance, angry at the world (why, we don't know), who somehow manages to be in the right place at the right time. Defensive because she is put in a position of looking ignorant (and excuse me, a governor who climbs on a state airplane to fly to a conference or meeting and takes as her reading matter a People magazine rather than a briefing book has no excuse) and exhibits her one strong talent. Turning her negatives into positives and convincing people with a wink and a sparkle, a twitch of the mini, that up is down and left is right. One wonders what she will do when plastic surgery is, inevitably, no longer an option? Her appeal is emotional, not logical, and thus extremely difficult to counteract.

The funny thing about emotions and feelings is that they don't always make sense. We've been taught to understand that feelings don't have to make sense, they just are. This is true, but a bit simplistic. Depression just "is," as is anger, fear, and in some, paranoia and panic. Sure, there are often reasons, but not always reasons that we can understand. These are all emotions that are natural and normal, part of the human condition, but can also be destructive if they interfere with the function of everyday life. Fortunately, we know how to treat these feelings and help people manage them in such a way as to live a better life. That said, because we understand how to help people manage them, we also know how to manipulate them. Great salespeople learn how to work their contact to close the deal, and believe me, psychology is integral to the workings of a good salesperson. Politicians learn how to discover what people want, and make sure they say what people want to hear. If you listen carefully, most pols rarely actually answer a question, but rather answer something else that will get out the message that is important to them in that moment in time. People trained to receive information in short bursts but who have not been trained to be critical thinkers, will often, especially if they like the politician, feel as if someone is finally listening to them.Their good impression of the speaker is reinforced because, hey, they listened to me, they answered me, they care about me.

When we make a decision based on emotion, it is not usually a good one, but it is always a decision that we become attached to on a personal level, so let go of with difficulty. Sarah Palin works these emotions to bring people to her side, and keep them there. Her use of Facebook notes to communicate her rants--and that's what they are--allows her followers to feel as if they are part of something because they can comment. The fact that negative comments are deleted immediately tells those whose comments are retained that they have been approved for membership into this club, which reinforces their belief that if they are special, then she is special. It is a mutual admiration society that unfortunately, is one-sided. Sarah Palin does not care about her followers. They are useful to her, but if she truly cared, then she would be concerned about actually making their lives better.

How do I know that she does not care about making their lives better? Her record. It's not secret. She left her job of mayor with the town millions of dollars further in debt than when she started. She had barely been elected when she spent $50,000 to redecorate her office (and she claims to love second-hand clothes). As governor, when villagers were having to make choices between food or freezing to death, rather than declare an emergency, she took them cookies (and took the cookies to a different village so that she would not have to actually face those who were desperate). Rather than focus on the job of governing, she spent her time retaliating against those who bad-mouthed her. Journalists who asked her basic questions, that should be expected for anyone running for office, especially national office, were accused of attacking her and she retains that vendetta to this day.

Most disturbing, is that in the rise of the astroturfed tea-party movement, she caters to their anti-government mood by deriding the government--especially the President--at every opportunity. Never mind that she has nothing useful to contribute, every event must receive a comment from her. Every action taken by the President receives a "gentle" chiding on what he should have done or what she would have done in his place. In her latest book, "America By Heart," she tells people that everyone needs a "First Dude." She says that had they won the 2008 election, she would not have balanced anything [family and job] because had they won, they [she and Todd] would have done the White House like they did everything else, as a team.  She still thinks that she lost the election to President Obama. I hate to be the one to tell her, but she did not. Sen. McCain lost the election. She may well have been a contributing factor, but she was really just along for the ride and actually, would have lived in the Naval Observatory, not the White House. I could go on and on, and on, but you get the point.

Lately, I think that she may have turned a corner and gone too far. It is one thing to be critical of  policy decisions whether she understands them or not. People understand that she is planning to run for president in 2012 and that she is building up a library of media sound bytes for the campaign, and floating trial policy balloons. What she is doing lately, however, is attacking people. I think most of her followers understand and expect her to attack the President on a personal level, after all, she has them convinced, with the help of Fox News, that all of the criticism she receives are personal attacks against her. The media criticizes Bristol, or rather, the actions of Sarah Palin's followers in regards to Bristol, and therefore, it is open season on Sasha and Meliah Obama. Never mind that Sasha and Melia are young children and Bristol is 20. Never mind that she is a "teen advocate" who has made a number of public appearances which to me, denotes a, I don't know, public figure? I'm not sure why she is also personally attacking Michelle Obama, but she has done that in the past, in fact, she is recycling attacks from the 2008 campaign, probably because there is nothing else to say. The difference between her children and the Obama children is immense, but she cannot see it.

Sarah Palin has this ability to conflate issues to support her opinions. Politicians take campaign photos that include their families for a brochure or maybe a commercial, and take them onstage when they declare victory (or defeat), so to Sarah, this is exactly the same as her trotting her children to every campaign event, speaking engagement, or book signing that she attends. As governor, she got into trouble because she insisted on her family attending every event that she did, and in fact, photos of, for example, visiting trade delegations include attendees in appropriate business attire, Sarah in jeans and a windbreaker, and Piper. Very, very few official photos did not include Piper. One wonders if that child ever attended school. We know she did occasionally rather than being home-schooled from the questions she was asked by reporters on the campaign trail. When questions arose about Trigg, she immediately announced that her unmarried, underage daughter was pregnant, then forced her to sit on stage and endure a level of attention that was likely extremely humiliating (remember your teens?).It is not wonder that her detractors accuse her of using her children as props to deflect attention from her flaws or attract attention to her as the perfect mother. Props they are.

Her latest, and purely to pander to her supporters, is another attack on government overreach and intrusion by "the Feds" as she likes to call them. Teabags are anti-government, so gosh-darn-it, every time the government does anything, Sarah Palin will attack. Michelle Obama is well-known for advocating against childhood obesity and for better diets for all, Sarah Palin has chosen to attack Michelle Obama in her most recent book:
"Take her anti-obesity thing that she’s on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat. And..and..and I know I’m going to be again criticized for bringing this up, but instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician’s wife priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track."
What is amusing, is that while governor, she was not entirely useless. Probably little more than a talking head, as she was when she claimed to be a journalist, in her State of the State speech in 2009, Sarah Palin said: [emphasis added]
"Protecting good health is largely a matter of personal responsibility, but government policy can help."
Chef Kurt Michael Friese responded to the exchange with one of the best comments that I've heard:
"You see, Mrs. Palin, contrary to what President Reagan once said, government is not the problem, nor is it the solution. Government is a tool, like a hammer. And like a hammer it can be used by people to build things up or tear things down. I would choose the former, and you would choose to throw the hammer out the window."
Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Monday, November 29, 2010

Someone, Please Explain the Pentagon Papers to Sarah Palin


As we know, about 250,000 diplomatic cables have been released by Wikileaks to five major newspapers in the US and Europe. It should be noted that months have been spent reviewing these cables to establish standards for publication between the papers prior to receipt of the materials, and the governments involved were notified months in advance what would be included in the "dump" so that they might do any damage control. By the way, Glenn Greenwald over at Salon has been keeping a list of persons killed as a result of any of the (now) three information dumps and has come up with a total of zero. Full disclosure, I have really mixed feelings about this, but the point of this post is not the actual information leak itself, but rather Sarah Palin and her reaction.

Sarah Palin has, once again, inserted herself into this conversation. God forbid that a significant (or not so significant) issue occur without her having an opinion, and whether it has anything to do with him or not, attack President Obama. Certainly the cables do refer to his administration, and the Bush Administration, the Clinton Administration, and actually go back to 1965 in some cases. What has been reviewed so far appears primarily to be on the order of embarrassing rather than dangerous. But, Sarah Palin never one to miss an opportunity to badmouth the President, and more importantly, put herself forward, blames him for the leak and the release of the information.

The tweet?
“Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book “America by Heart” from being leaked,but US Govt can’t stop Wikileaks’ treasonous act?”

What she probably should do is get a dictionary and look up treason, leak, and inexplicable. It wouldn't hurt, seeing as how she has published two books in the past year, to review copyright law. I know she claims that she will never, ever, ever speak to Katie Couric again, but on the off chance that she runs for public office again which appears highly likely, and she is asked about her favorite Supreme Court decisions, or one she disagrees with, she could go learn about 403 US 731 (1971) New York Times Co. v United States. This is more commonly known as the case of the Pentagon Papers. The issue? Prior restraint. The government tried to prevent the New York Times from publishing documents reporting the results of a study on the decision making process related to the Vietnam conflict. The 1st Amendment, that pesky little amendment that Sarah Palin seems to be confused about (remember, on Oct. 30, 2008, she complained that her first amendment rights were being violated by media attacks on her). She, of the journalism degree that makes her the final word in what is "good journalism," seems not to understand that the first amendment is simply protection of the media from the government and at the time, she was pretty definitely the government.

Ezra Klien of the Washington Post, speaking on The Last Word on MSNBC, said, in referring to her tweets about Wikileaks, that he found it fascinating "...how small Sarah Palin's reaction is to this."

One of the best analyses I've read today about this reaction is from Sarah Jones at PoliticsUSA, writing WikiSqueaks: Sarah Palin's Incoherently Dangerous Wikileaks Criticism. Italics is Sarah Palin.

Responding to Sarah Palin's demand that President Obama do something to protect our soldiers, and blaming him completely for not averting the dump in the first place, Sarah Jones says:
[...]

"Not only is Wikileaks is hosted in Sweden where, I feel duty bound to point out, the President of the US does not have sovereignty as of yet and where it is impossible to commit treason against this country unless one is a US citizen residing in Sweden, but also, as Ms Palin must be aware (given her recent claim to a journalism degree that qualified her to discredit all American media save Fox News) there’s that pesky Pentagon Papers ruling"[sic]
"We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.”
"Ms Palin is charging the Obama administration with neglecting national security on purpose, implying that he is anti-American, as she did during the 2008 campaign. And that must sting the President, coming as it does from a person married to a once-registered secessionist..."
[...]
It isn’t that she doesn’t know the law, it’s that she doesn’t care to know the law. It isn’t that she assumes dictator like powers as President, it’s that she has already proven in Alaska that she governs with reckless abandon for the law. This is the person quoted as saying to the Wasilla City Council leader, “’I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can’t.”
 I've been working on several things today unrelated to news and politics, but I kept TweetDeck open all day and popped in and out when something caught my eye. Everyone has written about this issue, most weighing in on whether or not they agreed with the release of the documents. Most of the discussion seems to be about the damage that may or may not have been done, and the next dump which is reputed to be bank information. The cluelessness of Sarah Palin puts an amusing coda on the subject, but also is very frightening. Although in the middle of the piece, this paragraph from Ms. Jones piece, is I believe, the most important point: (emphasis added)
"And this is where the real trouble begins. Are we to believe that in Ms Palin’s America, she would assume the right to shut down any blog, paper, or freedom of information act organization she disliked by claiming they were a threat to national security (and the troops)? Would it be asking too much for American citizens to get more information on Ms Palin’s understanding of the fine tightrope between transparency and security, court precedent and a general understanding of the balance of power inherent in our government? Does Ms Palin think Americans are entitled to hear her discuss these complicated issues on a regular news outlet at some point, as the rest of our lawmakers and leaders do?"
thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Sunday, November 21, 2010

16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe & the Right-Wing Lies Behind Them

Sarah Seltzer at AlterNet writes 16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe -- And the Right-Wing Lies Behind Them. I have written a bit, as have many others, on this phenomenon and the GOP media machine that makes these lies successful, but this is an excellent article that illustrates exactly what the problem is, and why. [emphasis added]

"Americans are often misinformed, occasionally downright dumb, and easily misled by juicy-sounding rumors. But while the right wing is taking full advantage of this reality, the Left worries that calling out lies is "rude."

"Remember when Congressman Joe Wilson stood up during Obama’s State of the Union address and shouted “You lie”? He was chastised soundly by the pundit class. But mostly he drew heat for being impolite, and was compared to Kanye West and other famous interrupters."
"Revisiting Wilson's foolish tirade underscores the state of our upside-down political world. Wilson shouted “you lie” in the face of truth, but President Obama is hesitant to speak up when he’s being slandered with bald, glaring untruths...It feels like no one with a loud enough megaphone has the courage to call a spade a spade, or more accurately a lie a lie."
[...]
  • "Polling data during and after last week’s midterm elections suggested that many Americans genuinely believe President Obama has raised their taxes -- even though the reality is that our president actually lowered them for most of us. This means that people trust pundits like Rush Limbaugh, a major force behind spreading that lie, over the numbers on their own tax returns."
  • "Another recent phenomenon? Half of new Congressmen don’t believe in the reality of global warming. It’s not that they don’t just disagree on the source or the severity of the problem. They flat out don’t think the world is getting warmer--despite the evidence outside their windows."
  • "The new Congress will probably try to restore millions of dollars of funding for scientifically inaccurate, largely disastrous abstinence-only curriculum in schools, many of which have been shown to spread lies like "condoms don't work" and "abortion causes cancer." 
  • "News outlets picked up a wildly inflated and completely outlandish claim from an Indian blog that Obama’s trip abroad cost $200 million a day--and listeners have swallowed it. (In this case, the White House flat-out denied it.)"
"The scary thing is, these kinds of rumors have a way of taking root in the popular consciousness. Just as the election season began heating up earlier this year, Newsweek published a list of “Dumb Things Americans Believe.” While some of them are garden-variety lunacy, a surprising number are lies that were fed to Americans by our leaders on the far-Right. This demonstrates that media-fed lies can easily become ingrained in the collective memory if they’re not countered quickly and surely. Newsweek’s list included the following 12 statistics taken from recent and semi-recent polls and surveys. The first half are directly related to right-wing rumormongering."
  • "Nearly one-fifth of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. Thanks, Fox news, for acting like this was a matter of opinion, not fact."
  • "25 percent of Americans don’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution while less than 40 percent do. Consider the fact that several of our newly elected officials, specifically newly elected Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, share that belief."
  • "Earlier this year, nearly 40 percent of Americans still believed the Sarah Palin-supported lie about "death panels" being included in health care reform."
  • "As of just a few years ago, about half of Americans still suspected a connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11, a lie that was reinforced by none other than Dick Cheney."
  • "While a hefty amount of this demonstrable cluelessness gets better as the respondents get younger, all is not well in the below-30 demographic. A majority of “young Americans” cannot identify Iraq or Afghanistan--the places their peers are fighting and dying--on a map."
  • "Two out of five Americans, despite the whole separation of church and state being a foundation of our democracy thing, think teachers should be able to lead prayer in classrooms. So it seems those right-wingers clamoring to tear down the wall between church and state aren’t the only ones who don’t know their constitutional principles."
  • "Many Americans still believe in witchcraft, ESP and other supernatural phenomena. Does that explain why Christine O’Donnell was so quick to deny her “dabbling”?"
  • "Speaking of antiquated religious beliefs, about a decade ago, 20 percent of Americans still believed that the sun revolves around the earth. That's just sad, considering that even the Vatican has let Galileo off the hook for being right."
  • "Only about half of Americans realize that Judaism is the oldest of the three monotheistic religions. Other examples of wild misunderstanding about religion and the separation of church and state can be found in this fall’s Pew survey on Americans’ religious knowledge."
  • "This one made a huge splash when it appeared. In 2006 more Americans were able to name two of the “seven dwarves” than two of the Supreme Court justices. And that was before Kagan and Sotomayor showed up. To be fair, Happy and Sleepy are easy to remember."
  • "More Americans can identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of government--you know, the ones who are jockeying over our welfare."
[...]
“...by a two-to-one margin likely voters thought their taxes had gone up, when, for almost all of them, they had actually gone down. Republican politicians, and conservative commentators, told them Barack Obama was a tax-mad lunatic. They lied. The mainstream media did not do their job and correct them. The White House was too polite—"civil," just like Obama promised—to say much. So people believed the lie.”
[...]
"Blaming Americans for being ignorant unwashed masses--or taking potshots at an education system that doesn’t teach critical thinking-- would be the easy answer to this conundrum."
"But the reality is that if messaging has such a big effect on Americans, then messaging matters. Folks on our end have to counter the lies with well-told, unabashed unironic, truth-telling. And we have to demand that our media, and our politicians, call out the other side. As Perlstein notes, “When one side breaks the social contract, and the other side makes a virtue of never calling them out on it, the liar always wins. When it becomes 'uncivil' to call out liars, lying becomes free.”
"Even worse, once lies begin to spread, they become more than rumors--they become permanent beliefs."

This is an extremely critical subject and one that we cannot ignore. The 2012 presidential race has already begun and will begin moving quickly after the first of the year. Please do go read the rest of this article and learn these points. The GOPhers have an excellent media machine and have trained Americans to listen to buzzwords and sound-bytes. If that is the way people listen, then it is important that we be able to respond in kind. Use this information to talk to your friends and relatives, write letters to the editor, tweet or post to Facebook. When the GOPhers lie, we must continue to call them out and respond with the truth.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Just for Fun. How Many of These Have You Read?

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Copy this list. Because of formatting issues (the instructions are to bold, but too tedious in a comment), delete those you have not read. Put an asterisk next to those that you have started but not finished or read an excerpt of. If you'd like to see how you compare (although this is NOT a contest!) feel free to copy and paste into a comment. Think there is a book that should be on this list but is not? Note that in the comments, too. I'm always curious to see what others' think are great books

I have added my list to a comment if anyone is interested. Kind of fun to see


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
Harry Potter series - J. K. Rowling 
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte 
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott 
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller 
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier 
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger 
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell 
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald 
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams  
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame 
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy  
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens 
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen 
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen 
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres 
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne 
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown 
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert  
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons 
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen 
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley 
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov  
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold Lame
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas  
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac 
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens  
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker 
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett 
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce 
76 The Inferno - Dante  
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome 
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray 
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens 
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White 
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad 
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams  
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole 
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare 
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl 
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Inevitable Bursting of Sarah Palin's Media Bubble - I Hope

I am tempted to insert the entire post from Politics USA: The Inevitable Bursting of Sarah Palin's Media Bubble written today by Sarah Jones. Please go read it in its entirety as it is one of the best I have seen on the subject of Sarah Palin's newest book and her relationship with the media.

Although the book is not due to be published until next week, several pages have been "leaked" and posted on Palingates and elsewhere. It should be noted that publishers release portions of books expected to generate a lot of interest in order to generate buzz and increase first day sales. Starting out at the top of the NY Times bestseller list is always a goal. On a side note, Sarah posted this tweet, clearly demonstrating her misunderstanding of copyright law, fair use law, and the First Amendment.

Yes Sarah, it is absolutely legal. Gawker also wrote at length about the excerpts as well as the ongoing controversy about Bristol and Dancing with the Stars, and she, in response to their posting pages from her book, and their "attacks" on her family, sent out this tweet:
This tweet was taken down almost immediately, but as she has yet to learn, the internet is forever.
Sarah Jones notes that Sarah Palin appears to be stuck in the past, 2008 to be specific. She uses race to attack the President, and remarkably, Michelle and Meliah Obama as well.
"Anyone who is surprised by this has not been paying attention. Sarah Palin is the great divider, a lowest common denominator among an already low-brow movement of proud to be ignorant, pseudo-rebellious anarchists who are super angry about the democratic process which renounced them in 2008."
Jones discusses how Palin has been talking about Reverend Wright, the supposed lack of qualifications of Obama, and other issues that have been thoroughly put to rest by anyone but her.
"None of these strategies worked in 2008 and beating these dusty memes only makes Palin look like the emotional retrograde she is, still clinging to her wounds from 2008 and sure that if enough people hear her, they will denounce Obama. Ms Palin is unaware that in real America, blatant racism doesn’t play well. And she is also unaware that our President and his family are too self-disciplined to even acknowledge her embarrassingly juvenile attempts to engage them."
[...]

"...Palin will not know what hit her because she is still stuck in 2008, seething with jealousy and outrage that she lost to a black man.

And this is why race will be her “issue”.

Palin is going to run for President, and this is how she will do it. Why? Because she has nothing else..."
Palin is the ultimate martyr and victim flashing a bit of thigh, appealing to the KKK type crowd.
"So Sarah Palin’s campaign has already begun and it will consist of trashy, unspeakable things that will hurt your soul, pain your heart and make you question the sanity of your country. And when no one pushes back hard enough against her outrageous claims (they will debunk the lie, but fail to expose the projection), you will find yourself curling up into a ball of horror at what your country has become."
 She limits herself to venues that are supportive, and reporters that let her set the tone, not believing that no one will let her get away with that should she run for President in 2012. She claims that being on Fox everyday gives her "exposure" not realizing that:
"Exposure is what celebrities do. It is not the same thing as taking questions and talking policy, in other words, interacting in live time with the fourth estate. Neither Facebook nor Twitter nor Fox are vehicles for the fourth estate to do their job. As a supposed journalism major (in spite of the fact that no one at her last college remembers her and we have not been gifted with proof of her degree), Palin should have at least cursory knowledge of the job of a reporter. Not many on Fox PAC will ever be accused of being a reporter. Twitter is not a reporter. Facebook is not a reporter."
Providing some well-earned criticism to the mainstream media, Jones notes that:
"While they will still miss the larger points, they’ve had time to get to know Palin’s reputation for lies and they will not want to be humiliated again. The press scrutiny of the VP candidate is nothing compared to the scrutiny she will face as the top of the ticket. If Sarah Palin thought the media was cruel to her when they asked her what she read, wait until they ask her why she lied about not having healthcare, about Troopergate, about the AIP connections, about Death Panels, the people who died under her administration or about her belief that Iraq bordered America"

Her conclusion is a direct message to Sarah, and indirectly to the media. It is one that I hope the media heeds, although I will not hold my breath.
"And that’s not even the juicy bits. Welcome to 2012, Ms Palin. If you insist upon bringing your scourge of hate upon this country, don’t think we’re going to sit back and take it like we did in 2008. Buckle up, sweetie. The spotlight is on you, where you’ve always wanted it, but I’m not sure you’re going to like it. Your dreams of stardom may well turn into a nightmare. You are about to learn what it feels like to be attacked for real."
Please do read the entire post here.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Liz Cheney At It Again. Successful Trial Dangerous & Shows Weakness?

 Image: leftwingnutjob

A verdict was reached in the case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani on Wednesday. Charged with 285 counts related to the embassy bombings, he was acquitted on all but one, destruction of government property. This verdict will net him 20 years in federal prison, so we can say that any potential terrorist activities that he might be planning to engage in will not happen--at least not with him. The other big piece of news associated with this case, is that New York City did not shut down as a result of this trial. No road closures, no major security issues, and no terrorist attacks resulting from attempts to free Ghailani. Despite the outrage from the right, a satisfactory conclusion--one of about 400--was reached in a civilian court after the trial of a Guantanamo prisoner. How many convictions have been the result of military tribunals, the preferred method of the right? Five. Back on her little soapbox, Liz Cheney rants that families of the victims claim the trial was a "travesty." This is the same Liz who demands that President Obama support the intelligence community that her father tried so hard to co-opt and then damage when they had the nerve to refute his allegations.The same Liz whose organization, "Keep America Safe" is designed to instill fear in all of us in an effort to burnish her father's legacy.

According to Daphne Eviatar, Human Rights First's Human Rights Law and Security Program: Ahmed Ghailani Verdict Makes the Case for Federal Courts posted in Huffington Post, the results do not appear to matter. Liz, her partner Bill Kristol, and others, are having a hissy fit that they did not get their way, that the deeply flawed policies of her father's administration and the war that they lied us into have been brought out into the open and so have to create drama where none exists. Her father set up a system of military tribunals for prisoners at Guantanamo, primarily so that illegal practices could continue to be hidden. The current administration, however, has decided to hold these trials in civilian courts as they should be. Liz is quoted as saying:
"The Obama Administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war. It's dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war."
Don't you love how she insists on holding to her position regardless of the facts? The trial is over, the defendant was found guilty, he is unlikely to ever be released from prison, the rule of law has been, once again, found to work, and yet, "...it's dangerous" and "...signals weakness."

With the attention today of TSA screening policies that now require either a full scan or a full pat-down, something that the head of El-Al security (the most secure airline in the world) claims is unnecessary, the GOP placement of defense spending in the sacrosanct column, and the inability Liz and others on the right to recognize the success of the Obama Administration in preventing terrorist attacks (the Christmas Day bomber, the recent packages detected prior to their arrival in this country...) it is remarkable to me that people continue to give credence and airtime to this woman or to this subject. What the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration and the demands of Liz and her ilk do accomplish is give the terrorists exactly what they want. The goal of terror is to create a climate of fear. The primary tool of the GOP? Fear. Liz's goal? Fear. I would say that in a significant way, mission accomplished.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sarah Palin's Alaska. Palin Children Well-Taught, But Not What She'd Like Us to See.

 Image: lynnrockets

I hadn't planned on watching, but just as we all seem to watch train wrecks, I did watch Sarah Palin's Alaska this evening. Having done so, I can say that I will not be wasting any more time watching in the future. What a total waste of time. What struck me, is that prior to the show airing Sarah made quite a fuss about this not being a "reality" show, but was to share Alaska with those in the lower 48 who were not familiar with the state. Uh huh.What it did show is that whatever we may think of the Palin children, they have been well taught.

If this were in fact a travelogue, as she claims it was, then the segment on the cement slab discussing the "dude out to get you" and "the author writing a hit piece" would be cut, the section on Willow and her boyfriend going upstairs would be cut, and the part about Sarah in her studio talking to Bill O'Reilly on Fox with Todd serving as engineer would have been cut. Those portions that took up a significant amount of time had nothing to do with "Sarah Palin's Alaska," but rather had to do with a reality-show type slice of life in the Palin family and were an attempt (failed) to improve her image to the 52% of Americans who disapprove of her. Clearly the story about her having editorial control must be true.

Most of the activities were clearly brand new to Palin and to her family (wanting to show America what life was like for them in Alaska? Really?) and the little vignette with Willow demonstrated that her kids have as much respect for her as she has for them, meaning none, and that Sarah's maturity level is on a par (if that) with her children. After all, what mother is going to embarrass her teen aged daughter on national television by talking about whether or not she can have boys upstairs? Seriously. Only Sarah Palin.

As a counselor, the most important part of the show, to me, was at the end when Sarah said to Piper that "we one-upped him [Joe McGinnes] because we had a good day and he was stuck at home." Since the Palins hit the national scene, I have watched the dynamics of this family and there is plenty of evidence to make some pretty strong conclusions. Without going in depth into my opinion of someone who takes her daughter into situations that are clearly inappropriate, I have to say that the message that Sarah sends to Piper with that comment, and others she has made, is pretty astonishing. Essentially, she is telling her children two things. First, that there is no dividing line between children and adults, and second, that you do not bother trying to find a positive motivation for anyone's actions, or give them the benefit of the doubt. She is telling them that the Christian tenets of forgiveness and turning the other cheek are foreign concepts in their household, and most importantly, life is about revenge. Getting even, getting yours, and making sure that you screw others before they have a chance to screw you. Lovely.

I want my hour back, but lacking that, I will certainly have something else to do on future Sunday evenings. Take my advice. Don't waste your time.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hey Kids, Ignore Your Teachers. Sarah Palin Says It's Okay to Ignore Rules.

Photo: rollingpinproductions
As I watched all the talking heads discuss Sarah Palin's "speech" in Pennsylvania where she proclaimed that parents should be the ones to decide what their kids eat, not the gov'mint (if she paid any attention, she would know that while school boards set policy, parents have significant impact on those policies if they are unhappy) I thought that most of them had missed the point. As she whined about the big, bad government daring to decide what kids could or not eat (never mind that she had misunderstood the 'suggested guidelines' as a mandate), she announced that she had brought a couple hundred cookies with her for the kids to prove her point that it was up to parents to make those sorts of decisions. No word on whether she actually asked the parents if they wanted their kids to have the cookies. No word on whether the school actually distributed those cookies, but that isn't the point.

As I watched the various pundits, and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, discuss the situation, the emphasis was on the fact that Sarah Palin had, once again, governmentized something. That she had taken a small issue as representative of "big government overreach" to fire up her base and demonstrate her point that "government bad." They all decided that by choosing these fairly trivial issues to emphasize, she could show how far into our daily lives government intrudes. The fact that such things as setting nutritional guidelines is the proper role of government is completely beyond her. I have to wonder, again, still, if government is so bad, why on earth does she want so badly to be a part of it? Of course, she doesn't. She just sees it as the ultimate in being the center of attention.

The point that I see and that I think was missed, and it is something I have been seeing in much of what this woman does, is not that she has to demonize government in everything she says, but that instead, she is teaching children, as she has clearly done with her own (just listen to statements made to media by, for example, Piper or Bristol), that rules only matter if you agree with them. It is all about winning at any cost, game the system if you have to, and if you don't think a rule is fair, or reasonable, or if it is an example of "government overreach," just ignore it. So, give a speech to schoolkids and tell them to ignore their teachers and principal and, in effect, any other rules that they care to cause hey, if you get to throw out one rule, why not all of them?

What exactly is Palin actually advocating? That 2nd amendment solution her followers are so fond of--I didn't get my way so I'm going to force you to give it to me according to Sharon Angle et al--is essentially saying that rules only count if 1) I made them, or 2) I agree with them. and 3) I am the only one that matters.What a terrific example of parenting and family values. Never mind teaching your kids ethics, integrity, honesty, and respect for authority. She has already demonstrated keeping commitments. What about how to participate in changing policy from the inside out (voting, running for office, serving on the PTA) rather than simply ignoring any rule you do not like? But that's too much like work. No wonder there is so much wrong with our society.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Serial Idiot Goldberg Annoyed At Fascist Name Calling, "Not What I Hoped"



I have a love/hate relationship with Jonah Goldberg. I love to write about him because he is such a rich source of material, one of my "serial idiots" that provides a column in just about everything he has to say because it is so ridiculous. Hate, because by writing about him, I give him and his delusions more attention than they deserve. Holding on tight to his post at the National Review, received shortly after the Monica events for which Jonah held a minor, supporting role which he inflated to get himself on the tv machine as often as possible, Jonah weighs in on the teabag use of the term "fascist."

Speaking on C-Span this weekend, he was quoted as saying:
"One of the great failures of my book is that it has popularized the use of 'fascism' as an epithet. And one of the things I was hoping to do, and I failed miserably, is shut down the use of the word 'fascist' as an epithet. Instead it's become bipartisan. And I don't like it. I don't think it's all that helpful. It might help my books sales, but that's not what I had hoped to do."
After one moves beyond the breathtaking egotism involved in his first statement (after all, fascism has been a discredited political movement since basically forever) you have to consider that one does not write a book with the title "Liberal Fascism" with the intent to remove the word fascist as an epithet. As a member of the "conservative movement" (that's Jonah, always after the main chance, a Democrat who flipped when he saw that that's where the money is) use of the term liberal is an epithet. Attaching anything to it makes it a pejorative and adding a term commonly used to characterize negative political ideology to the term liberal, he has attempted to equate liberals with negative politics. As the two--liberal and fascism--are ideological opposites with fascism typically a preserve of the extreme right, trying to link the two is nothing more than an attempt to demonize liberals.  According to dictionary.com, [emphasis added]
FASCISM:
[fash-iz-uhm] –noun
1.( sometimes initial capital letter ) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
2.( sometimes initial capital letter ) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
3.( initial capital letter ) a fascist movement, esp. the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.
LIBERALISM:
[lib-er-uh-liz-uhm, lib-ruh-]–noun
1.the quality or state of being liberal, as in behavior or attitude.
2.a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.
3.( sometimes initial capital letter ) the principles and practices of a liberal party in politics.
4.a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the development of spiritual capacities.
Not sure I can find anything that equate the two or even links them other than they each represent a political philosophy. But, the mindset of someone who could equate the two, or believe it, is the same mindset that would believe that socialism and communism are the same thing, and that what was embodied by the Soviet Union was what was envisioned by Marx.

Ah well. Perhaps Jonah hadn't been able to get outside of the pages of the pages of his column lately and needed to get some face time on the tv machine again. If you are unfamiliar with Jonah, he has an amusing history and typically wacky ideas which I have written about here, here, and here.
Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Friday, October 29, 2010

Here We Go Again. Liz Cheney, Please, Shut Up


Here we go again. Even before President Obama speaks regarding the bombs shipped out of Yemen that were detected prior to arriving in this country and the actions taken to verify the safety of other packages originating from Yemen and Dubai, Liz Cheney has to inject herself into the conversation.

Cheney is a self-appointed foreign affairs expert, believing that because her father was vice-president, she somehow knows more about the dangers that we face than anyone else, particularly our current president. She is identified during her appearances on Fox News as a previous State Department official (mid-level administrative position prior to the Bush administration, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during in a position made specifically for her). Just as an aside, I have written several times about Liz, and used Wikipedia to check a few dates, etc. The difference in the information about her from today to the last time I checked is like night and day, something we all need to remember when using Wikipedia as a source: it is self-editable. Reading it today one would wonder why she is not immediately called back to the State Department to solve all of our countries foreign affairs issues. I bet she did a little editing of her page.

Appearing today on Fox's "America Live," this clip from Media Matters shows Cheney explaining  why the incident today proves why we have to stay in Afghanistan saying:
"...you see at a time like this how important, for example, intelligence is...how important it is for us to make sure that we've empowered our own intelligence community and that we're working closely with our allies...to disrupt plots before they do in fact come to fruition..."
Discussing the necessity of maintaining the war in Afghanistan and not setting arbitrary deadlines (like the one Bush set for Iraq?), she said:
"...and while people here are concerned about the economy and about jobs, it certainly does not change the nature of the threat, the fact remains that we remain a nation at war."
Stop and think about this for a minute. "How important intelligence is...how important it is to empower our intelligence community..."

Did the Bush White House ever make a decision that was not political? I believe it was that administration that had the opportunity to capture Osama bin Laden at Bora Bora and completely decimate al Qaeda but they chose instead to leave before the job was done, and attack Iraq, a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. We didn't know that at the time you say? I did. Many people did. The fact that the only information regarding possible evidence of weapons of mass destruction (the supposed reason for our starting the war) was debunked prior to Bush's final decision was not widely reported, but it was reported. Bush and Cheney chose to ignore it. In fact, there is evidence that Dick Cheney pressured the intelligence community to manipulate the data to support the conclusions that he preferred.

Empower our intelligence community? Is that what you call identifying an undercover operative assigned to middle eastern affairs to the media? Putting the lives of her contacts at risk in so doing?

Why is she complaining today that we need to work closely with our allies? We were alerted that two packages were being sent to synagogues in Chicago, and they were intercepted in Dubai and Britain. They never reached U.S. shores, and all other packages sent from Yemen and Dubai were examined prior to their release for delivery. That obviously required a lot of coordination and cooperation with our allies and intelligence community.

She obviously is not concerned about the economy or the fact that her father enabled policies that sent jobs overseas, resulting in the high unemployment we have today. Haliburton, Daddy's previous employer and the author of a significant portion of our energy legislation (and the lucky winner of billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq) is directly responsible for the loss of thousands of jobs in the Gulf region of the U.S. as it's defective materials built the defective oil rigs that have destroyed not only jobs, but ecosystems.

Yes, we are a nation at war. One of the two wars that we wage was completely unnecessary. The climate of fear and hate bred by the GOP has ensured that the war continues as we damage what little goodwill remains in the world towards us, and continues to provide al Qaeda with limitless recruitment materials. What Liz is doing is demanding that the administration take actions that are being taken. She implies that President Obama is soft on terrorists and because we successfully prevented bombs from arriving in this country, we must continue the war in Afghanistan (?), she gets herself on the tv machine and once again, injects herself into a situation that allows her to promote her organization and agenda.

Liz, go home. You are a bitter and ignorant woman. Your father was responsible for most of what is wrong with this country today and your belief that you somehow have all the answers is breathtakingly egotistical.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teabags: Don't Confuse Me With the Facts

 Image: friendlyathiest.com

Things are heating up. The ads are getting nastier and the lies thicker. I'm seriously considering following my sister's example and de-friending about half my family on my Facebook page as they are very conservative Christians, fans of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, and this past week, my cousin (from Washington), joined the "I Like Meg Whitman" group. Facebook to me is social, not political, and I am usually able to ignore the comments and video clips (and most of that side of the family), keeping them around because there are times when, as family, we need to communicate. What I hear from them, and the right-wing pundits, and the right-wing blogs, and many of the "neutral" mainstream media, is that the teabags, who appear to have a real chance of taking over at least one house of Congress, claim to want to cut regulations, overturn health care reform, reduce taxes, and take us back to the Constitution the way it was supposed to be, the original.

The politicians and pundits know they're lying. It's possible that some of them believe their own press because it's the only way they can behave the way they do, but for most, it's a matter of expediency and money.

President Bush's administration produced two solutions to the economic downturn; TARP, and the stimulus bill. Additionally, when the auto industry was failing after the election, Bush asked that President-elect Obama pursue a solution as it would have to be carried out under his leadership. Although millions are still out of work and the foreclosure problem is still huge, the job numbers are better than a year ago, the auto industry is actually making a profit, has re-hired many of its workers (1500 about a couple of weeks ago), the DOW is almost back to where it was pre-downturn, everywhere I turn I see "this project paid for by stimulus funds" signs, and job growth numbers already exceed those of Bush's entire two terms. In fact, more jobs were created in the private sector in the first eight months of the Obama Administration than in the entire Bush presidency, and they want to go back to those policies?

There is really no way to compare a president who arrives with a $200 billion dollar surplus and leaves with us with a $407 billion deficit eight years later.

The next time someone says it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs, perhaps you could refer them to the famous "bikini" graph courtesy of Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly:

As you can see, job growth was negative the entire duration of the Bush presidency. The trend continued downward the first quarter after Obama came into office until it's first positive growth in Dec. 2009. Obviously, it takes time, but except for one dip, growth has been slow, but measured.

To continue on this comparison of Republican administrations and policies to those of Democratic presidents, below is a quick chart going back to Truman showing the rate of job growth.

Graph: KyraMoment
 
Obviously, I made the Democrats blue and Republicans red. I am not going to go into a discussion of private vs. public sector jobs, small businesses vs. large, the job loss to job growth numbers by sector and the net growth. This graph took about ten minutes to create using numbers easily available with a Google search so anyone can fact-check me if they want.

We also hear that it's taxes. President Obama gave us a tax cut by reducing withholding rather than sending out checks. The latter would have been a better political option, but the small, incremental increase in available cash was better for the economy overall, thus few people know about it. Very few understand that last year we paid the lowest taxes in 60 years. So, if it is in fact about taxes, then obviously they will want to vote Democratic.

We hear over and over again that we have to do something about the deficit, created by Obama (not). Had President Bush written the budgets properly and not ignored the costs of war, the country would have been aware of our debt much sooner. The fastest way to send us into a real depression, is to try to bring down the deficit. When people are working, goods and services are moving through the economy and the associated taxes arriving at the appropriate local, state, or federal tax agency, then the deficit will begin to come down on its own.

Additionally, government's function is to spend money. As an unemployed social services worker, I know that after 20 years of budget cuts, there is very little waste left in government (except perhaps military spending). In California, state employees are on mandatory furlough each month because our constitution requires a balanced budget. The best way for the deficit to be reduced, is for the government to collect taxes and spend them. Unlike the top 5% of our citizens who have millions and billions of dollars tucked away, the government does not keep its money. It spends it. Money spent moves into the economy. Government hires workers, and purchases supplies, and makes capital purchases. Government spends money on infrastructure, which puts money into the economy through employment of private contractors and materials.

People are upset because they don't have money to spend so don't want their taxes raised, but that is a completely disingenuous argument. If you don't earn, you don't pay taxes. If you elect teabags or other Republicans and they get their way, we'll have a national sales tax instead of an income tax. This benefits the wealthy (poorer people tend to spend all of their income, the wealthy generally do not). The poorer you are, the more likely that you will spend every dime that you earn. If income taxes were abolished in favor of a national sales tax, people who currently pay no income tax, and a sales tax of perhaps 8.5%, will have to pay about 23% in sales taxes every time they spend if the likes of Rand Paul and his ilk have their way.

People say they know best what to do with their money, but government provides the social safety net, the social contract we make with each other. We pay taxes to cover these costs, pay for the poor and needy knowing that should we ever be in need, those services will be there for us. A teabag on "The Last Word" suggested that if the government did not return social security withholding to him, it would be stealing. Perhaps they would prefer a bill for defense, border control. the electric grid, other infrastructure, air traffic control, etc. I noticed that they all wanted to move programs to state control, which means that state level socialism is fine, just not federal. hmmm.

When people talk about the government's overreach and want less regulation, I have to ask, which regulations? Food safety? Air traffic control? The FDA? EPA? CDC? Some talk about doing away with the Dept. of Education, believing home schooling is the thing, or at least local standards, but what a disservice we do to those children as they try to compete in a national marketplace. When they try to attend college, they'll be severely limited. If they attend, for example, Oral Roberts U, they will be limited in their job search. Personally, I'm glad that someone is out there making sure that my food is safe, my  medications are consistently made, and that when I fly, someone is keeping track.

I've spent hours over the past few days speaking with ultra right-wing family members and like many teabags, cannot get rational answers to simple questions. I give them data as I've listed above, and they argue, saying it's my opinion. I refer them to Dept. of Labor websites, they hem and haw. Tonight on "The Last Word," Lawrence O'Donnell had representatives of four teabag organizations. They all agreed that socialism was the biggest concern of their movements. (I always heard, at least at the beginning) that it was taxes. Oh well. It's obviously whatever is expedient at the moment. Anyway, it was immediately apparent and reinforced through O'Donnell's questioning that not one of them understood what socialism is. While talking to a cousin, she used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, repeated the myths about Canadian-style health care, and reinforced my opinion that a party and group of parties that can love a book called by the oxymoronic "Liberal Fascism," is too stupid for the courtesy of debate.

The problem? These ignorant people will likely win enough seats to push this country over the edge into disaster, destroy the small strides President Obama has made towards restoring our good name, and take the rest of us along for the ride. The next time someone proposes de-regulation, or to repeal health care reform, ask them to define their terms. Define which regulation, which aspect of health care. I would bet that not one of them can be specific. None of the candidates are, so it is unlikely that their followers could be either.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Making Ignorance Chic & Some Fact-Based History

IMAGE: Trever, Albuquerque Journal
I've always had mixed feelings about columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, believing that some times she was spot on, at others that she was so far out in the ozone that I wondered how she kept such prime real estate in the Times. Of course, anyone that writes regularly hopefully generates similar emotions in their readers as even negative reactions are a sign that there is some depth and energy to what is written. Her most recent column illustrates very well the problem with the current teabag belief in the need to be "just like you" and the reality of the history of our country.

In the Oct. 19, 2010 issue of the Times, Dowd writes of the change in our society as we seem to appreciate ignorance over education. Using Marilyn Monroe as an example, the comparison to Sarah Palin and other teabags is made, noting of Sarah Palin that:
"She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you."
As Dowd notes, Marilyn was an intelligent woman posing as a dumb blond while reading Dostoyevsky and Proust (Russian and French authors respectively). She suffered from a disconnect between her public and private self, caused by a deeply self-reflective personality that she tried to self-medicate leading, ultimately, to her death.

I agree with Dowd that teabags, particularly Sarah Palin, trumpet their ignorance, a bizarre behavior for a woman constantly talking about "American exceptionalism." As I watch these people in action, Palin complains that Obama refuses to acknowledge this exceptionalism as he "kowtows" to foreign leaders. I am constantly puzzled at someone who is so proud of her ignorance yet demands that we maintain this position as the world leader and as we are, she says, better than anyone else. Never mind that it is exactly this attitude that adds to the negative image of America that we have enjoyed since Watergate days.


IMAGE: Dhonig, hypnocrite.blogspot.com
Exceptionalism requires that we be exceptional. We cannot just say it, we need to be it. Just as the teabags seem unable to define their proposed agenda, other than to decimate the Constitution, they are also seemingly unable to define just what are the factors that are important to them that make us exceptional. Palin et al sneer at "elites" which includes anyone from an ivy league school (except Joe Miller), disregarding the fact that President Obama is a classic example of the American dream. He may have attended an elite school, but it is our life in total - particularly the early days - that shapes our character and defines who we are.

I'm not sure how we have come to the point where ignorance is embraced and someone who is "just like you" is our best choice for high office. Certainly our government is designed on a foundation of citizen politicians, but I doubt that the current teabags understand that the citizen representatives in the days they claim to want to return to were not "just like you." People who were able to travel to Washington to serve in Congress were not ignorant. Education was valued and people who had the privilege of learning studied philosophy and literature, science as it was known at the time, and maintained a close connection with their European counterparts. Ignorance was not a value prized by the Founders.

In a time when only white, landowning men could run for office, sons were tutored at home, typically studying, in addition to math and reading and writing, science, Greek, Latin, geography, and history. Even this list is incomplete. In addition to this daylong, thorough education, boys frequently attended boarding school in England, and after completion, often trained as doctors or lawyers prior to returning to America to run their estates. Even then, there was an understanding of the complexity of our world, and the complexity of a democracy made up of a society that included people from varied backgrounds learning to come together. A reading of any early document shows clearly that education was highly valued by our founders. Just the complexity of the language used and the knowledge of law, philosophy, and history are clearly illustrated in the development of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

I understand the disconnect that many people feel during these difficult times when those in Washington seem more and more enclosed in a bubble. When one has lost a job, a home, or is at risk of those losses, when you watch your neighbors experiencing the same, and all around you your world is changing in a direction that frightens you, it is easy to allow yourself to be manipulated by others who claim to have all the answers. We tend to believe people who are like us, so teabag candidates bend over backward trying to demonstrate how like "the people" they are. The phenomenal GOP public relations efforts of the past 40 years has done an excellent job of creating sound bites and buzzwords that appeal to our instant information culture. Conditioned to absorb information in 30-second ads and to understand an entire story in 46-minutes, people who are afraid are vulnerable to others with no moral compass. An attractive, charismatic women such as Sarah Palin turns her lack of intelligence, her ignorance, and her moral  vacuum into a positive as she appeals to peoples' fears.

As Dowd said, back then, it "was cool to be smart." I believe that our Democratic leadership needs to come our of their bubble and understand that the teabags and others in the GOP have filled this need for reassurance in our country by taking the social problems in our country and making them positive campaign talking points, a truly remarkable feat.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k
SOURCES:
The History of Education in America
Education in the Thirteen Colonies
American Education

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Palin, Angle, Paul, Miller, & O'Donnell - What Do They Say About Us?

 IMAGE: Hebiclens Clown Collage/Mashup BoingBoing


Today's teabags are righteously indignant that the Democrats and bloggers and any journalist not on Fox is being mean. It is outrageous that anyone should expect them to open up their private lives or backgrounds to inspection and question their right to cast slurs and aspersions on their campaign opponents. They are so steadfast in their beliefs (although I have my doubts about that), that they think it is perfectly acceptable to override the will of the majority of the people and impose their narrow-minded, rigid ideologies on everyone else. Refusing to participate in the electoral process other than to demand that we just trust them, I am having a hard time understanding why they have so much support, or wonder if they really do. They refuse to talk to any but a select few in the media, and then only answer previously vetted questions. What do they say about us?

So my question is, why is this acceptable? They all campaign on their history, yet refuse to discuss it. They all campaign on their values, but refuse to share them unless you are an upper- or middle-class white person with a job, in which case they don't need to. Sarcasm, slurs, and put downs raise chuckles and they all think they're pretty cute, but only succeed in making this country look foolish, and even more so if they are actually elected.

Sarah Palin, when asked a perfectly reasonable (and common) question about where she gets her information immediately takes offense and sees it as an attempt to make her look like an uneducated hick (please refer to my earlier writings on projection). She attacks Michelle Obama for something said over two years ago, and misrepresents it at that.

Sarah Palin also complained a few days before the 2008 election that the media were attacking her and that they were violating her 1st Amendment rights, which were there to protect her from the media.


Sharon Angle says she will talk only to media who will ask her the questions that allow her to give out only the information she wants to give out and who will allow her to ask for contributions.

She also said, while speaking to a high school Latino club, that they didn't all look Hispanic, that some looked Asian.

IMAGE: Crooks & Liars

Rand Paul said he wasn't sure he would debate against someone who attacked his religion, and attacked his opponent for bringing up something that happened 30 years ago (although you will note, he did not deny the event). Interesting though that when Clinton came to campaign in Kentucky, Paul was comfortable bringing up Monica Lewinsky, something with great relevance to this election, especially as it happened so recently.

Joe Miller says he will no longer answer questions about his past or his personal life. [Although he did just admit to committing ethics violations.]

Each day brings up new information reaffirming the idea that Miller is about as ethical as other nationally prominent Alaska politicians. Today, a close examination of his (many, many months late) campaign disclosure forms show that he paid himself rent on office space that he owned (legal) that was up to four times what it was actually worth and paid himself a salary that was less than $10,000 (something that the IRS frowns on). Why is that a problem? He pays income tax on all income, but payroll tax only on salary. Pretty tricky accounting.


In a debate with Chris Coons, Christine O'Donnell appears shocked that the separation of church and state is a part of the 1st Amendment. Trying to walk back her gaffe, she and other GOPher apologists claim that she was correct because the exact wording "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution and that it was Coons who appeared ignorant because he could not name the five freedoms listed in the 1st Amendment as if that were the point of the exchange.

Sigh.


Sarah Palin recycles slurs and attacks from the 2008 campaign and complains about what she perceives as insults to her from that campaign in every speech and interview that she gives. If anyone has done anything recently to offend her, apparently her rage at President Obama's nerve at winning the election overrides that fact. It's too bad that it wasn't Todd Palin interested in politics as I believe that Sarah Palin would far prefer being First Lady than President. She has demonstrated an inability to actually perform work, a lack of intellectual curiosity (favored reading material OK Magazine? Favorite television show Bridezilla?), and rather than try to learn and understand complex issues facing our nation today, she becomes defensive when asked questions for which she has no answer. Her continued reference to having a "title" rather than holding an office suggest a fascination with her beauty pageant days that holds more interest than it probably should.

Sarah Palin gets (to her) ideas from one-note entertainers on Fox News, believing they hold great insight into governance, and disparages education, believing that ignorance is suggestive of "real" people regardless of the complexities involved in being a leader. To suggest that being on the city council and the mayor of a town of approximately 5,000 (and doing so badly), and then serving for one year on Alaska's Oil & Gas Commission (does anyone have any record of what she actually accomplished in that capacity? Meeting minutes maybe?), and two failed political campaigns as commensurate with serving three terms in the State Senate and then the United States Senate is on par with something a high school student might say prior to taking their required US Civ class.

Sharon Angle is a comical figure and I am amazed that she is in such a close race. Nevada reporter John Ralston said yesterday that her position in the race has nothing to do with her, but the state's displeasure with Harry Reid. Hopefully they'll wake up soon to what an Angle win will really mean. She claims God as her guide, yet displays herself as a mean, bitter woman willing to lie to get her own way. She is somehow of the opinion that hers is the only opinion that matters - a common failing of teabags and Republicans everywhere. A majority of the country decided that they didn't like the policies of the Republicans so voted them out. The willingness of the GOPhers to lie, manipulate, and ignore the needs of their constituents has created an environment that allowed a small minority to shout so loudly that the national media, also responding to their corporate masters, manipulate the news to suggest that most of the country is dissatisfied with the direction of the new administration.

Rand Paul has the thinnest skin I have seen on a politician and I thought no one could top Sarah Palin. After his debate with Conway, he sounded like the little boy crying that he was going to take his ball and go home because someone was mean to him. That's what politics is. It's dirty and it's nasty. The people decide how much they're willing to put up with and politicians ignore them at their peril, although with a newly activist Supreme Court determined to legislate from the bench, we now have a government that will be determined by whomever has the most money and therefore the loudest voice. To say that politicians such as Paul feel comfortable saying some of the outrageous things that he does is truly remarkable yet bizarre that he can't take any of the heat.

Probably the most ludicrous figure of this election season is Christine O'Donnell. Each time I think I can't hear anything worse, I hear something worse. It's not just the bizarre statements, but her lack of self-awareness to understand how she is being perceived. During the debate with Coons in which she demonstrated her lack of understanding of the Constitution, she thought the audience was laughing with her, at Coons (they weren't). Every time I hear her, she seems a step off and I wonder that her followers don't see it (of course, why they can't see the other teabags either I can't fathom). Today in Michelle Malkin's blog (no, I won't link), she claims that it is Coons who does not understand the Constitution.

While debating at a law school, O'Donnell went on and on about her superior knowledge of the Constitution, yet when asked by the moderator about the 14th, 16th, and 17th Amendments, she had to ask what each of them was about because she didn't have her copy of the Constitution with her. First of all, one principal planks of the teabag movement is the Constitution and she is appearing at a law school. O'Donnell has, repeatedly, claimed her superior knowledge of application of the Constitution. Wouldn't you think that she would bone up on the three amendments that are at the core of the teabag movement or at least bring her copy of the Constitution with her? Or write it on her hand? 14th (immigration), 16th (income tax), 17th (senate). Easy, should fit on anyone's hand.

Forgetting, as they all do, that there is video all over the web, O'Donnell and her cohorts have tried to re-write the event. What they've done, is taken everything out of context, something they claim as a tactic of the left. Replying to a discussion of schools teaching creationism and intelligent design, Coons stated that it was a violation of the separation of church and state. O'Donnell replied that he just demonstrated his ignorance of the Constitution if he thought that it said that local school boards could not decide to teach anything they wanted to teach, and he then brought up the 1st Amendment. Within the context of the discussion, the exact phrasing and whether or not it appears in the document is a moot point. The whole debate was in a similar vein, with O'Donnell displaying her ignorance as she also displayed her rudeness talking over Coons attempts to answer not only the moderator's questions, but hers.

I haven't had much time to blog every day, but between now and the election I am going to try to write about each of the major components of the campaign. I know many teabags, and this election, am no longer able to remain silent when I hear people repeating outrageous claims that are easily disproved. People who are unwilling to listen to facts and insist on holding on to their beliefs because they like the person who says them or because the individual belongs to the correct religion or party is dangerous to this country and I for one, am not keeping quiet regardless of the personal consequences.

The fact that these, and other teabag races, are so close says as much about us as it does about them. A few years ago, these people would have gotten no traction. The media would have been all over the inconsistencies and when caught in the lies, these people would have been forced to drop out of their respective races. Many, if not all of them, probably do not believe half of what they say, but simply want either the attention, the adulation, or the money that they know they will receive once they reach national political office, and then retire. Doesn't say much about us does it?

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
k