Thursday Reads: Through the Looking Glass?

Reading Woman, Armando Barrios

Reading Woman, Armando Barrios

 

Good Morning!!

I’ve spent the past week or so reading escapist literature and watching old TV shows in an effort to anesthetize myself against the overload of bad news we’ve been hit with lately. Yesterday I was feeling a lot better–my escapism seemed to be working to improve my overall mood.

Then last night as I was surfing around in search of interesting reads for this morning’s post, I came across something that jumpstarted me right through Alice’s looking glass.

You’ve probably heard about it too. Lois Lerner, who used to work for the IRS and who is at the center of one of the GOP’s crazy efforts to create a scandal that will bring down President Obama used the word “crazies” in a private e-mail to a colleague who was complaining about right wing radio hosts. Here’s the text of e-mail as quoted in The Washington Post yesterday.

During the exchange, Lerner says she is traveling in Great Britain. The name of the person she is emailing with was blacked out.

Lerner: “I’m ready. Overheard some ladies talking about American today. According to them we’ve bankrupted ourselves and at through. We’ll never be able to pay off our debt and are going down the tubes. They don’t seem to see that they can’t afford to keep up their welfare state either. Strange.”

Other person: “Well, you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”

Lerner: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many assholes.”

Other person: “And I’m talking about the hosts of the shows. The callers are rabid.”

Lerner: “So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”

GOP crazies2

My initial response was the same as that of Mark NC at News Corpse (a site that makes fun of Fox News), So F**king What? Former IRS Official Says That GOP Crazies Are…CRAZY!

Republicans and their friends at Fox News have mastered the art of building mountains of bullshit from the lowliest troll-hills. It’s one of their favorite tactics to malign Democrats. Just grab a sentence fragment from a long speech and pretend that it is the whole of the comment from which it was extracted. Then feign outrage that such an awful remark could have been uttered.

The latest example of this rhetorical deceit was demonstrated when the GOP chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, unscrupulously and selectively released some emails purported to be from Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who has been hounded by malevolent cretins like Rep. Darrell Issa in an attempt to fabricate ammunition to use against President Obama. Despite hundreds of wasted hours (costing millions of taxpayer dollars) engaged in hyper-partisan investigations, the Republican Inquisition has produced nothing implicating the President in any untoward activity.

The emails that Camp is now crowing about are just as meaningless as all of the other bogus “smoking guns” that these wingnuts have claimed would topple the administration. The headline that Camp has wrenched from the documents is that Lerner may have referred to certain individuals as “crazies” or “a-holes.” And, of course, this would only be an atrocity if those individuals were Republicans. Suffice to say that Camp wouldn’t give a Fig Newton if they were Democrats.

As Camp characterized this affair, Lerner was allegedly caught red-handed expressing her disgust for Republicans. And as the person at the center of the controversy over whether the IRS improperly subjected Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, Camp believes that these emails prove that she was biased. Consequently, Camp regards the emails as justification for appointing a special prosecutor and escalating the legal assault on Lerner and, ultimately, the White House.

There’s just one problem. The emails don’t don’t say what Camp alleges they say. And even if they did it wouldn’t mean anything. Most people in government have personal opinions and allegiances. There isn’t anything wrong with that, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the fair execution of their duties. And the evidence shows that Lerner’s department scrutinized applications of all political persuasions. The only organization that was denied tax-exempt status during the time in question was a liberal group.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. (center), flanked by the committee's ranking member, Sander Levin, D-Mich. (right), and Sam Johnson, R-Texas.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. (center), flanked by the committee’s ranking member, Sander Levin, D-Mich. (right), and Sam Johnson, R-Texas.

Please read the rest at the link.

So this humorous site agrees with me, but more mainstream sites are seemingly going along with the Camp’s notion that this e-mail is evidence of a major scandal. For example, Dave Wiegel characterized it as a “bombshell,” although he does point out that Lerner’s anonymous “e-mail partner” was talking about talk radio hosts, not Republicans in general. Huffington Post reported that Lerner had made “two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP.” Both HuffPo and Politico write that in one e-mail Lerner referred to Republicans as “a–holes,” but they sidestep the fact the context was a discussion of right wing talk show hosts.

As we approach the midterm elections, I can’t help but feel that most of the mainstream media is cheering for a Republican takeover. Am I the crazy one?

Here’s another example from self-described libertarian Nate Silver, Democrats Are Way More Obsessed With Impeachment Than Republicans.

House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that Republicans have no plans to impeach President Obama, and that all the impeachment talk was driven by Democrats hoping to stir up their base.

Boehner’s statement isn’t literally true: There have been mentions of impeachment around the edges of the GOP and by some Republican members of Congress. But on the whole, Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about impeachment than Republicans.

Consider, for example, the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, which tracks words spoken in the House and Senate. So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.

Impeachment chatter has also become common on cable news. On Fox News this month, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, called for Obama’s impeachment, for instance. But for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.

OK, so that’s this month. And this proves what? Democrats are throwing around the word “impeachment” in hopes of calling attention to what Republicans have been saying for years!  So f$%king what?!

Impeach obama

Again, I must resort to News Corpse for a sensible interpretation of the impeachment talk, CONSPIRACY: President Obama Is Trying To Impeach Himself.

Ever since the first inauguration of President Obama, right-wingers have been trying to undo the people’s decision to make him America’s chief executive. They declared that their top legislative objective was to make Obama a one-term president. In pursuit of that goal they have blocked most of his policy initiatives, judges, and government reforms. At the same time they have been hyper investigatory on everything from Fast and Furious, to the IRS, to ObamaCare, to his birthplace. All of this was squarely aimed at crippling or revoking his presidency.

This year Obama’s critics came out of the impeachment closet and began openly advocating for that legal nuclear option despite not having any legal basis for it. While many Tea-Publican whack jobs were earlier to the gate, Sarah Palin burst onto the scene a couple weeks ago with her own demand that Congress do their duty and trump up some phony articles of impeachment. It got so absurdly intense that Obama addressed it himself with fitting mockery.

So of course the next shoe to drop in this melodrama is that, along with everything else in the world, Obama is to blame for this too. In fact, according to some in the rightist crackpot community, it was all part of his nefarious plot to embarrass the GOP. Here is what Texas Republican Steve Stockman had to say about it when interviewed by the ultra-fringe rightists at WorldNetDaily:

“President Obama is begging to be impeached. […] He wants us to impeach him now, before the midterm election because his senior advisers believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote.”

There you have it. The evil genius in the White House orchestrated the whole Obama-hate campaign from its earliest days in 2008 just so that he would be able to use impeachment, which is every president’s dream, as an election strategy six years into his presidency.

Earth to Nate Silver and the rest of the mainstream media: Steve Stockman, although insane, is an actual member of the House of Representatives, not some fringe character with no influence. And he has plenty of company in the House and even in the Senate (Ted Cruz anyone?). These people are crazy and they are in positions of awesome power.

GOP idea men?

GOP idea men?

Here’s one more example of mainstream acceptance of GOP insanity before I end this post and run screaming into the street while pulling my hair out in handfuls. From John Dickerson of Slate (via CBS News), Why the GOP’s class of 2016 hopefuls may be the best in generations.

What if they held a presidential campaign and a think tank broke out? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who is considering running for president, offered his thoughts on poverty last week. Sen. Marco Rubio has been giving regular policy speeches on poverty, college loans, and helping the middle class. Former senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is promoting a book of policy proposals on education, family, and revitalizing American manufacturing. Sen. Rand Paul is offering ideas on criminal justice and will give a big foreign policy speech in the fall. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has given speeches on health care and education aimed at a national audience. His staff recently sent an email titled “policy leader” that linked to a Time piece about how he is preparing to be the candidate of ideas in 2016.

What the f&cking f&ck? Rich Santorum? Bobby Jindal? Marco Rubio? Paul motherf&&cking Ryan?! These are “candidates of ideas?” Dickerson continues,

Who isn’t trying to be the ideas candidate in the 2016 campaign? Texas Gov. Rick Perry is working to overcome his 2012 debate aphasia, so he’s trying to show some policy chops. Though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush holds controversial ideas on Common Core education standards and immigration, those close to him say he won’t run unless he can promote those ideas with gusto.

It isn’t usually this policy-thick in the GOP presidential field. In primaries, there is sometimes one conservative candidate who tries to position himself through the creativity of his proposals, but mostly candidates engage in displays of strength on questions of orthodoxy–how much they want to cut taxes, shrink regulation, and lock up the borders. Now the Republican candidates are not only seeking to distinguish themselves from each other with the quality and originality of their ideas, but they are making the case that unless the party promotes new ideas, it will not prevail.

The class of candidates for 2016 has the potential to be the most robust in almost 40 years–perhaps in modern Republican history. It depends on who finally decides to run, of course, but six governors and four senators are thinking seriously about it.

GOP idea men?

GOP idea men?

I’m sorry. Dickerson thinks these morons are competing with each other on “quality and originality of…ideas?” Am I nuts? Am I hallucinating this crap? Surely Dickerson can’t really believe this sh#t.

Here’s a little sanity from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, Can the Big Brains of the GOP Survive the Primaries? and Damon Linker of The Week, Why GOP reformers are bound to fail. But even Kilgore seems to believe that Republicans will take over the Senate. From Talking Points Memo:

It’s true that public opinion surveys are not showing any 2010-style GOP “wave,” but Democrats are rightly nervous that when polls begin identifying likely voters closer to November, superior Republican “base enthusiasm” could put a thumb on the scales in their favor.

At least Kilgore thinks that catering to the base could hurt Republicans in the 2016 presidential election.

Why? Why would anyone vote for these insane right-wingers? And why is the media rooting for them? I just don’t get it. Am I crazy or what?

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

 


Saturday Reads: Polls, Ro-mentum, and Forced Mating

Good Morning!

I should be at my mom’s house by now, but I had to stop for another night because I drove right into one of the three monster storms that are expected to crash into each other somewhere along the east coast. At least I got out of the Boston area, where I might have ended up without power for days. But I’m kind of wondering if I’ll still have a home to go back to. Anyway, I drove into a downpour in Ohio. At times it was raining so hard I could barely see, and it was also very foggy. I finally gave up and stopped for the night in Sandusky, Ohio. How weird is that? I hope tomorrow’s weather will be better.

I’ve got some links to get you started today–please forgive me if some of them are old news to you.

I’m going to start out with the latest on the polls. Even though the corporate media is still pushing the story that Romney’s winning, the real statistic nerds are saying that Romney basically got about a 4-5 point bump after the Denver debate, but that has dissipated and now the polls are favoring Obama again. Truthfully Obama never really lost his leads in the swing states he needs to win, but either lots of the media types are rooting for Romney (e.g., Joe Scarborough, Dancin’ Dave Gregory, Jim Vandehei) or they just want to make things seem close for career purposes.

Here’s the latest from Nate Silver: The State of the States

Thursday was a busy day for the polls, with some bright spots for each candidate. But it made clear that Barack Obama maintains a narrow lead in the polling averages in states that would get him to 270 electoral votes. Mr. Obama also remains roughly tied in the polls in two other states, Colorado and Virginia, that could serve as second lines of defense for him if he were to lose a state like Ohio.

On the national level, of course, the race is still basically tied; but Obama has a baseline of 237 electoral votes. He only needs to pick up a couple of swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Nevada to get to 270. Silver says it doesn’t look like Obama actually got a bump from the third debate–it’s more likely that the numbers are just regressing to the mean. Whatever the cause, Obama is leading in electoral votes

Last night, Silver’s model predicted that Obama will win 295 electoral votes and has a 74 percent chance of winning the election.

Lately I’ve been finding Sam Wang’s blog even more fun to read than Silver’s. On Tuesday Wang had a post on “Ro-mentum,” meaning the mainstream media’s latest narrative that Romney has the big mo and is probably going to win the election. Wang summed up that post as follows:

What is apparent is that the large plunge after Debate #1 came to a stop last week, right around the time of the VP debate. After that and Debate #2, Obama made some recovery. Now we are at a plateau, in which Obama is slightly – but decisively – ahead….

Today, the race is quite close. However, note this. In terms of the Electoral College, President Obama has been ahead on every single day of the campaign, without exception.

I would then give the following verdict: Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words – but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.

The popular vote is a different story. I estimate an approximately 25% chance that the popular vote and the electoral vote will go in opposite directions – a “Bush v. Gore scenario”. I regard this as a serious risk, since it would engender prolonged bitterness.

In summary: Ro-mentum!

Yesterday, Wang wrote a follow-up post in which he hilariously mocked David Brooks’ attempts to make sense of all the polls and falling for Ro-mentum.

It was fun to learn of David Brooks’s addiction to polling data. He spends countless hours on them, looking at aggregators, examining individual polls, and sniffing poll internals. From all of this, what has he learned?

1. Today, President Obama would be a bit more likely to win.
2. There seems to be a whiff of momentum toward Mitt Romney.
(Emphasis mine.)

I am having a sad. All of that effort, and his two conclusions still have two major errors. Evidently he does not read the Princeton Election Consortium. Let us dissect this.

You should go read the whole thing, but basically, on point one if the election were held today Obama would have at least a 90% chance of winning; and on point two Brooks has fallen for the media narrative of Ro-mentum.

Today Wang found another Ro-mentum victim. Ro-mentum watch: John Dickerson, CBS/Slate. John Dickerson (son of Nancy Dickerson) is the quintessential Villager, and I can’t stand him–so I really enjoyed this one.

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. The latest, from John Dickerson at Slate:

It’s a fool’s game to guess whose momentum is greater. But Romney is peaking at just the right moment.

Ah, yes. The Great Election of October 13, 2012. I remember it well.

Wait a minute.

The subject of “political momentum” is a favorite among political pundits. I will guess that John Dickerson and David Brooks (“David Brooks – now with Ro-mentum!“, October 25) might not have found high school calculus to be their favorite subject. I wonder how they did in it.

And John Dickerson responded, completely missing the point.

The funniest thing about Dickerson’s Slate article is that it was a description of a speech Romney made in Defiance, Ohio on Thursday night in which Romney said something absolutely shocking that Dickerson didn’t even pick up on.

During the speech Romney set off a panic in Northwestern Ohio by announcing–based on some internet rumor that he read on a right wing blog–that Chrysler was planning to close the local Jeep plant and outsource all the jobs to China. From the Detroit News:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told a rally in northern Ohio on Thursday night that Chrysler was considering moving production of its Jeep vehicles to China, apparently reacting to incorrect reports circulating online.

“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”

Romney was apparently responding to reports Thursday on right-leaning blogs that misinterpreted a recent Bloomberg News story earlier this week that said Chrysler, owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, is thinking of building Jeeps in China for sale in the Chinese market

People in Defiance and nearby Toledo and other surrounding cities and towns were so freaked out that they started calling Chrysler and the company had to rush out and correct Mr. Mittmentum.

“Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

How irresponsible can you get? Can you imagine if Romney were president? We’d have a major crisis once a week or so.

TPM has an interesting piece up on polls: Live Polls Show Obama With Bigger Leads In Ohio.

Surveys of the Buckeye State have been all over the board in recent weeks as the election draws near. While most show President Obama with the lead, the size of it depends on whether the pollster was using human beings or robots to do the interviewing.

TPM compared the two methods and found that polls conducted by a live interviewer, the method widely considered to be the gold standard, have shown the President with larger leads than polls conducted by automated calls, which are prohibited from contacting people through cell phones. Since early September, live polls have shown Obama with an average lead of 4.5 percentage points in Ohio while his average lead in robo-polls has been less than 2.

Ohio has been the most polled state of the presidential campaign since the national conventions, edging both Florida and Virginia for that distinction. The 44 polls conducted there since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6 include 22 done by automated calling, 16 performed by live phone interviews, five conducted online and one based on mail-in responses.

Check out the chart at the link.

Just a couple more recommended reads for you.

Alternet has a must read piece on the horrors the government covered up during the BP oil gusher. Coverup No More: Shocking Photos and Emails of Dead Wildlife from Gulf of Mexico Spill Emerge

Some two and a half years after the BP oil spill, Greenpeace has obtained emails and photos from a U.S. government agency that reveal the extent to which the government tried to shield the public from the wildlife casualties of the spill.

Alternet links to their source article at the Guardian: US downplayed effect of Deepwater oil spill on whales, emails reveal.

Read only if you have a strong stomach.

Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic has a piece on the Republican rape and abortion obsession that provides a historical take that fits with terrific post Dakinikat wrote on the subject yesterday.  It’s titled Richard Mourdock, Mitt Romney and the GOP Defense of Coerced Mating.

Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have enthusiastically endorsed Mourdock, and have stood by him even after he claimed that if a women becomes pregnant through rape, “god” must have willed that zygote to be conceived and therefore a the raped girl or woman must carry and bear the child, no matter how that affects her life. Franke-Ruta writes about the history of forced marriage and makes the argument that other feminists have made–that sexual violence is a means for keeping women under control.

Coerced and not entirely voluntary mating have occurred throughout human history. I had a friend many years ago whose mother was a prize of war in a national conflict; it made for complicated family dynamics. But one sees rape, forced marriage and war go hand in hand throughout the ages, including our own; it is another form of conquest to create the next generation in your image from the bodies of the conquered. Violating women is a way of subjugating a population — sowing fear among the women, blocking the men from access to the future, and rupturing and weakening all the social bonds that made up the society that fought and lost. But for this to work there must also be children of rape. “If one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community,” former head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International Gita Sahgal has explained. Women must learn to love the image of their conquerors written in the faces of the children they suckle, and to despise themselves, and their weakness. If captives come to identify with those who hold them, it is only a tale as old as our ability to survive by orienting our beings around whoever has power over us.

This is one reason Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s mid-August comments that “if it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” set off such a firestorm — his beliefs showed deep biological and historical ignorance about the way rape-created pregnancies have been used to transform and dominate whole populations. But in his denial of the possibility of rape-created pregnancy he was acknowledging the truth that would erupt again into public view with Mourdock’s remarks: Post-rape pregnancies are where blanket anti-abortion views become de facto support for coercive mating and the legally sanctioned denial of agency to women not only on the question of whether to have a child, but who the child’s father should be.

Outside of the context of war, rape historically has been something more akin to a property crime than a crime against women per se — the injured party was the husband or father to whom the woman belonged, and recompense for the crime was made to him for the injury to his standing and damage to the marital or social value of the woman. It was also an honor crime, and in large parts of the world rape continues to be seen as one for which women bear primary responsibility. As such being raped is viewed as a female sexual transgression that creates a justification or even obligation for male relatives and community members to shun the assaulted, or, rarely, even avenge familial honor by killing victims.

I hope you’ll read the whole post–it’s very powerful.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?