Lazy Caturday Reads

By Jackie Morris

Good Afternoon!!

The lies come thick and fast from the Trump administration. It’s not just Trump; it’s his entire gang of shameless prevaricators.

Remember those MAGA hats that Trump signed for service members in Iraq? The White House swore up and down to CNN that they didn’t distribute the campaign merchandise, but people who were there say otherwise.

Of course we can’t be sure these tweets are legit, but come on! Who actually believes these soldiers bought Trump hats and banners and had them shipped to Iraq? Give me a break. I know this is a minor scandal in the scheme of things Trump, but still…

And besides, this was supposed to be a secret, surprise visit, so are we supposed to believe these folks always carry their MAGA hats and banners around with them and to the mess hall?

OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I get so tired of all the gaslighting.

Now check this out. Remember that NYT story awhile back about undocumented immigrants working at Trump’s New Jersey golf club?

The New York Daily News: New Jersey AG has obtained evidence of possible crimes at Trump’s golf club — and Mueller, FBI are involved in probe.

New Jersey prosecutors have collected evidence that supervisors at President Trump’s Garden State golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes — and the FBI as well as special counsel Robert Mueller have played part in the inquiry, the Daily News has learned.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents several undocumented immigrants who used to work at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said Friday he recently met with investigators from the state attorney general’s office and handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that management at the club allegedly procured and gave his clients, Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz.

Before he met with the state prosecutors, Romero said he reached out to Mueller’s office because, while he wanted to contact federal authorities, he was concerned about looping in the Justice Department, which was headed by Jeff Sessions at the time.

Mueller’s office got back to Romero and said the issue was out of their jurisdiction, but they apparently passed the information on to the FBI.

A few weeks later, an FBI agent in New Jersey called Romero.

“He said to me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he already knew the specifics and that he wanted to meet with me in person,” Romero said.

By S. Telari, Deviant Art

Romero then met with two agents at a federal office in Branchburg, N.J., and outlined the same evidence he had already given the AG prosecutors. The agents said they would “coordinate” with the AG’s office, according to Romero.

Romero said he’s stayed in touch with the FBI and the attorney general’s office but declined to confirm whether either of the agencies have formally opened investigations.

“I’m confident that federal and state authorities will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Romero said.

How many states is Trump under investigation in now? I’ve lost count.

Here’s a funny media story from by Ashley Feinberg at HuffPost: The Thinnest Skins In Media In 2018. Their diapers runneth over. You’ll have to click on the link to read the details, but here’s the list of included media figures:

Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor And Respecter Of Troops

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Columnist And Scab

Jim VandeHei, Axios CEO And Co-founder, Unofficial Spokesman For Zuckerberg 2020

Maggie Haberman, Nonpartisan New York Times Non-non-reporter

Jonathan Swan, Axios-Branded Dictaphone

Chris Cillizza, CNN Something-Or-Other

Glenn Greenwald, Prophet Of Civil Liberties And Ironic Capitalization

Salena Zito, Gas Station Oracle

Chris Cuomo, Famous Brother Haver

Ben Wittes, Prose Torturer

Ashley Feinberg, Professional Corncob

Now go read. You won’t be sorry.

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor just signed a new law regulation short-term rentals. The Boston Globe: Baker signs long-awaited Airbnb bill, opening new era for industry.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed first-of-its-kind legislation to tax and regulate the short-term housing rental market in Massachusetts, capping years of debate over how to navigate an industry that has exploded through companies like Airbnb.

The new rules will take effect July 1 and could transform a market that spans the state, from Cape Cod summer homes to Boston apartment buildings to Western Massachusetts vacation retreats.

The bill requires every rental host to register with the state, mandates they carry insurance, and opens the potential for local taxes on top of a new state levy. A chief negotiator for the House said the goal is to register every short-term rental in the state by September, and local officials, including in Boston, say the new law will help buttress their own efforts to regulate the booming market.

Airbnb is fighting back.

But before Baker’s ink could dry, the law drew a sharp rebuke from Airbnb, which called it “flawed” and unnecessarily complex. Advocates who have closely followed the process — including Airbnb’s decision to sue in federal court to overturn Boston’s municipal regulations — warn a lawsuit against the state could also follow.

More details on the law:

Beyond requiring all hosts to register and carry insurance, it also subjects short-term rentals to the same 5.7 percent state levy now paid by hotels — but exempts people who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year. Officials have estimated that tax could raise at least $25 million annually.

It also would allow cities and towns to impose their own taxes of up to 6 percent, except in Boston, where it would be 6.5 percent, with occasional hosts also exempted.

Additional taxes would be levied on hosts who own multiple units. And an extra fee would also fall on units in Boston, Cambridge, and a handful of other cities that support the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, but only after bonds are paid off on the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.

Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, have used short-term rental registries to rein in the industry, but this law makes Massachusetts the first state to require all hosts to register. That, more than the taxes, has been the focus of debate in recent months.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Time Magazine has a new story on Paul Manafort: Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch.

When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

Jackie Morris for Amnesty International

A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.

But those connections could be potentially important to the Special Counsel’s inquiry. They would mark some of the clearest evidence of the leverage that powerful Russians had over Trump’s campaign chairman. And they may shed light on why Manafort discussed going right back to work for pro-Russian interests in Eastern Europe after he crashed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to numerous sources in the TIME investigation.

Read the rest at the link. It’s a long story.

One more from Buzzfeed: These Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook In 2018.

By Max Carlier

After spending two years launching third-party fact-checking programs, rolling out News Feed updates, and investing in other anti-misinformation initiatives, Facebook is still the home of viral fake news.

For the third year in a row, BuzzFeed News compiled a list of 50 of the most viral false stories on Facebook and measured their total engagement on the platform. And in spite of a prediction from Facebook’s top anti-misinformation product manager that these articles would see a decline in engagement in 2018, this year’s top-performing hoaxes generated almost as many shares, reactions, and comments as last year’s.

The top 50 fake stories of 2018 identified by BuzzFeed News generated roughly 22 million total shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook between Jan. 1 and Dec. 9, 2018, according to data from BuzzSumo and Trendolizer. This was only 7% fewer engagements than the 23.5 million engagements generated by to top 50 of 2017, and slightly more than the top 50 fakes identified by BuzzFeed News in 2016, when those links generated 21.5 million engagements.

Read the whole thing at Buzzfeed. How long before Facebook goes the way of AOL?

So . . . what else is happening on this long holiday weekend? Post your recommendations in the comment thread below.

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Thursday Reads

 

Good Morning!!

It was 3 degrees in my town when I woke up, and the high today will be 10 degrees with a wind chill up to 27 below 0. The previous record for the Boston area was 18 degrees in 1924. I’m not budging outside until the temperature gets up to at least 20 degrees.

In the news, the ugly old dotard is golfing again, so I thought we might have some peace for a few hours, but he found time to send out an idiotic tweet.

The moron doesn’t know that the new editor of Vanity Fair is Radhika Jones. Anna Wintour is the editor of Vogue. Daughter Ivanka probably knows that, but the moron was on the golf course and couldn’t ask her.

Meanwhile Vanity Fair is still dealing with the aftermath of their millennial editors’ insulting advice to Hillary Clinton, who was just voted the most admired woman for the 16th year in a row.

So many young “journalists” can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that Hillary got nearly 3 million more votes than the dotard or that she has stated clearly that she is not going to run for political office again.

Up in Minnesota, where it’s much colder than it is here, people don’t want Al Franken to resign.

Public Policy Polling: Minnesotans Don’t Think Franken Should Resign; Franken Remains Popular, Especially With Women.

-50% of voters think he should not resign, to only 42% who think he should go through with his planned resignation. There is little appetite from Democratic voters at the state level for Franken to go, with 71% opposing his departure. A majority of independents- 52%- as well think he should not resign, with just 41% favoring his exit.

-Franken remains well above average in popularity for a Senator, with 53% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 42% who disapprove. PPP rarely finds Senators with majority approval in their home states. Franken’s continued popularity is being driven especially by women. 57% of them like the job he’s doing to 37% who don’t. By contrast Donald Trump stands at 40/58 with women in the state.

-Minnesotans don’t like how the process with Franken’s resignation has played out. 60% think the Senate Ethics Committee should have completed its investigation (including 79% of Democrats and 61% of independents) before any decision was made about Franken’s future, while only 35% think he should resign immediately. Beyond that 76% of Minnesota voters think their voices should have been more important in determining whether Franken stayed in the Senate or not, to only 12% who think that should have been determined more by his fellow Senators in Washington.

I said awhile back that I thought the rush equate the past inappropriate behavior of men like Franken would lead to a backlash against women that will hurt the cause of fighting sexual harassment and sexual assault. I still believe that. I want to share two articles on the subject that I read yesterday. I don’t agree with everything in them, but I think they are making important points.

Feminist psychologist Carol Tavris writes at The Skeptic: I, Too, Am Thinking About Me, Too.

Our whole country is living in a constant state of hyper-dissonance: “my political candidate/my most admired actor/a brilliant artist/my dear friend has been accused of sexual abuses and misconduct; how do I cope with this information? Do I support him/see his movies/enjoy his art/keep the friendship or must I repudiate him entirely?” Living with dissonance and complexity is not easy, but surely skeptics, of all people, must try. We hear a story that outrages us and, just like true believers and justice warriors of any kind, we’re off and running, and once we are off and running we don’t want to hear quibbles, caveats, doubts, complexities. Thus, when the Guardian (Dec. 17, 2017) reported Matt Damon’s remarks that there was “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated,” Minnie Driver blasted him: it’s not for men to make distinctions; “there is no hierarchy of abuse”; men should just shut up for once. “If good men like Matt Damon are thinking like that then we’re in a lot of fucking trouble,” she said. “We need good intelligent men to say this is all bad across the board, condemn it all and start again.”

No hierarchy of abuse? Really? That is one of the universal symptoms of revolutionary zealotry: go for broke, ignore gradations of villainy, who cares if some innocents are thrown over the side, we are furious and we want everything at once. No wonder those of us in the boring older generation, who have lived through cycles of anger and protest, are so annoying. “Wait!” we keep saying. “Be careful! Remember the stupidity of ‘zero tolerance’ programs in schools, where a kid who brings a pocket knife for show-and- tell, or a 6-year-old boy who kisses a 6-year-old girl, got expelled?” We have also learned that while there is a time and place for revolutionary zealotry, the hardest challenge comes next, because change will not be accomplished without allies.

While many celebrate the courage of the accusers who are coming forth to tell their stories, let’s keep in mind that in today’s climate it also requires courage to raise dissonance-producing dissent.

Tavris refers to a piece by Claire Berlinski at The National Interest: The Warlock Hunt. Berlinski argues that “The #MeToo moment has now morphed into a moral panic that poses as much danger to women as it does to men.” I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

Among us, it seems, lives a class of men who call to mind Caligula and Elagabalus not only in their depravity, but in their grotesque sense of impunity. Our debauched emperors, whether enthroned in Hollywood, media front offices, or the halls of Congress, truly imagined their victims had no choice but to shut up, take it, and stay silent forever. Many of these men are so physically disgusting, too—the thought of them forcing themselves on young women fills me with heaving disgust. Enough already. Check out the latest news about satellite media tour here.

All true; yet something is troubling me. Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. “No,” said his female interlocutors. “Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.” But I’m part of that “we,” and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

Again, I want to emphasize that I disagree with some of Berlinski’s arguments; nevertheless, her article is worth reading. As I said before, I’m afraid the “Me Too” movement is going to end up backfiring on women.

In political news, Roy Moore refuses to go away. David Wiegel reports: Roy Moore asks Alabama court for a new Senate election.

Roy Moore, the Republican nominee who lost Alabama’s closely watched Senate race this month, has filed a last-minute legal complaint alleging “election fraud” and asking the state not to confirm the victory of Democrat Doug Jones.

In the complaint filed in state court, Moore’s campaign argues that Alabama “will suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.” It cites rumors of election fraud that have already been investigated and refuted by the Alabama secretary of state, argues that high Democratic turnout in key areas was statistically unlikely, and reports that Moore himself has taken a polygraph test — an attempt to disprove allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Moore’s lawyers filed the complaint at 10:33 p.m. Wednesday night and announced it to reporters less than two hours later. At 1 p.m. Thursday, Alabama’s election officials — all Republicans — are scheduled to certify the election. Early Thursday morning, they gave no indication that they would delay that process. In Washington, leaders of both parties expect Jones to take his oath of office when the Senate returns next month.

This is the man the dotard insisted on supporting in the Alabama special Senate election.

Last night, we learned that Trump and his gang plan to paint Michael Flynn as a liar if he testifies that Trump or his gang “engaged in wrongdoing.”  A liar calling another liar a liar doesn’t sound like a very convincing defense. Plus the dotard swore again and again that Flynn was a fine man who was treated unfairly.

New York Magazine: If Flynn Is Just a Liar, Why Did Trump Keep Defending Him?

As we’ve seen with Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos, Trump’s default position is to downplay his relationship with any former associates who happen to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. However, it’s harder to distance yourself from a former top White House official who memorably led a “lock her up” chant on the first night of your nominating convention.

The leniency of Flynn’s plea agreement suggests that he’s promised Mueller’s team valuable information, so Trump’s team has come up with another strategy. The Washington Postreports: “President Trump’s legal team plans to cast former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy.” As one person working on the plan put it, “He’s said it himself: He’s a liar.”

Who are you going to believe, an admitted liar or the president of the United States? sounds like a logical defense until you plug in what we know about this particular president, and his relationship with the liar in question. Aside from the hypocrisy of Trump attacking anyone for misstating the truth, the plan revives questions about why the president went out of his way to defend Flynn, even after he fired him for lying.

In the days after Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation, he said he had to go because he misled Vice-President Mike Pence about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition. However, Trump argued that by making those calls Flynn was just “doing his job,” and stressed that he still considered him a man of fine character.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. I know there’s lots more news, but I’m ignoring it for the moment. What stories are you following?

 


Is Paul Ryan a Pathological Liar?

As we at Sky Dancing have been discussing for months, Mitt Romney lies constantly. He lies about facts that can easily be checked. He lies about President Obama’s record and about his own record. He has told multiple conflicting lies about why he won’t release his taxes, the latest excuse being that he doesn’t want to reveal how much he gives to his church. In my opinion, Romney isn’t a very good liar, but he doesn’t seem to care if he gets caught.

A few weeks ago, Romney chose a running mate–Paul Ryan–who may be a more practiced liar than he (Romney) is. Is that just a coincidence, or did Romney take a shine to Ryan because they are alike in their aversion to the truth? It seems to me that Ryan’s lies are smoother and more brazen than Romney’s are. In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention last Wednesday night, Ryan lied so easily and so frequently that it was hard to keep up. I think that someone who hasn’t been following the campaign as closely as we do could have easily been fooled because of Ryan’s seemingly sincere demeanor as he told lie after lie.

In a post at Politico, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm spelled out Ryan’s elaborate lies about the closing of the GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Graholm clearly demonstrates that Ryan knew the truth about the history of the plant closing in detail; yet he deliberately constructed elaborate lies in order to blame President Obama for something that happened on George W. Bush’s watch. Granholm wrote:

But for Ryan and the Romney campaign, the truth doesn’t matter. Their campaign pollster admitted it: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Neil Newhouse said this week.

That’s painfully obvious. Fact-checkers should take the weekend off after going through Ryan’s lie-larded speech on Wednesday. Factcheck.org; Politifact; Glenn Kessler from The Washington Post — all must be exhausted from labeling as untrue the lies flowing from Ryan’s mouth. Like a river.

….

I couldn’t help thinking last night, we have been sold a bill of goods by a slick-haired, earnest-looking, fast-talking salesman. Harold Hill, move over. Apologies to Meredith Wilson of “The Music Man” fame, but if these guys win — we surely got trouble, my friends. Trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “Paul.”

Ezra Klein fact checked Ryan’s acceptance speech and found that only two of his factual statements were true–the rest, all lies. In a follow-up post, Klein concludes that Romney and Ryan have taken political lying to a new level. He even went back and compared Ryan’s speech with Sarah Palin’s in 2008:

After rereading Ryan’s speech, I went back to Sarah Palin’s 2008 convention address. Perhaps, I thought, this is how these speeches always are. But Palin’s criticisms, agree or disagree, held up. “This is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate.” True. She accused Obama of wanting to “make government bigger” and of intending to “take more of your money.” That’s not how the Obama campaign would have explained its intentions, but the facts are the facts, and they did have plans to grow the size of government and raise more in tax revenues. Palin said that “terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay” and “he wants to meet them without preconditions,” which was true enough.

By comparison, Klein wrote:

The Republican ticket, when it comes to talking about matters of policy and substance, has some real problems – problems that have nothing to do with whether you like their ideas. Romney admits that his tax plan “can’t be scored” and then he rejects independent analyses showing that his numbers don’t add up. He says — and Ryan echoes — that he’ll bring federal spending down to 20 percent of GDP but refuses to outline a path for how well get there. He mounts a massive ad assault based on a completely discredited lie about the Obama administration’s welfare policy. He releases white papers quoting economists who don’t agree with the Romney campaign’s interpretations of their research.

All this is true irrespective of your beliefs as to what is good and bad policy, or which ticket you prefer. Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation. Even if you bend over backward to be generous to them — as the Tax Policy Center did when they granted the Romney campaign a slew of essentially impossible premises in order to evaluate their tax plan — you often find yourself forced into the same conclusion: This doesn’t add up, this doesn’t have enough details to be evaluated, or this isn’t true.

Amazingly, even the corporate media has begun to call out Romney’s and Ryan’s lies instead of using their usual methods of claiming that “both sides do it” or simply reporting that one campaign says something and the other disagrees.

At least when a politician is lying about his opponent’s record or about his own policies you can understand the motivation; but what about when he lies about something insignificant, yet easily checked?

Shortly before the Republican Convention, Paul Ryan was caught in a lie about his “best time” in running a marathon. In an interview with right wing talk host Hugh Hewitt, Ryan claimed that he was a serious long-distance runner in college.

HH: Are you still running?

PR: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or yes.

HH: But you did run marathons at some point?

PR: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.

HH: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?

PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.

HH: Holy smokes.

Runner’s World magazine was so impressed that they asked Ryan’s campaign where they could find the records of Ryan’s sub-3-hour marathon run. The campaign didn’t hesitate to provide the information, so Ryan’s staff must not have been aware he was lying. They soon learned that Ryan had run only one marathon and his time was slightly over 4 hours!

It turns out Paul Ryan has not run a marathon in less than three hours—or even less than four hours.

A spokesman confirmed late Friday that the Republican vice presidential candidate has run one marathon. That was the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, where Ryan, then 20, is listed as having finished in 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds.

After Runner’s World learned the truth Ryan’s campaign released this statement:

“The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.”

Why would Ryan lie about something so meaningless and so easily proven false? If we didn’t already know about Ryan’s lies about Obama’s welfare to work policy and the multiple lies in his acceptance speech, maybe we could dismiss it as just ordinary bragging and exaggeration. But in the light of Ryan’s frequent lies, a number of writers have taken the marathon lie more seriously. See here and here and here.

Here’s what Michael Cohen of the New York Daily News had to say about this:

Now to be sure, politicians exaggerate, mislead and stretch the truth all the time. For example, at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Joe Biden claimed that Sen. John McCain wanted to give oil companies a tax break of $4 billion. This was a clever bit of extrapolation by the Obama campaign the ignored the fact that McCain’s tax proposals would benefit all corporations. It wasn’t a lie, but it certainly misled. In addition, Biden gave Obama fulsome credit for legislation passed in Illinois that was almost certainly overstating Obama’s role in ensuring these bills become law.

But an exaggeration is not the same as a falsehood. And even in the case of Ryan, there were plenty of assertions that were “true” but were so devoid of context that they certainly misled his audience. But there were also lies, legitimate untruths that deserve to be called as such.

All of this brings us back to Ryan’s somewhat innocuous marathon lie. In a vacuum no one would care – or necessarily should care – that an exaggeration this like was proffered. While I find it a bit hard to believe that any marathoner would forget their final time by an hour, it’s of course possible that Ryan simply misspoke as his spokesman has claimed. While I have my suspicions, I cannot look inside Ryan’s soul to divine the truth.

But if you look at it in the larger context of Ryan’s speech on Wednesday, it takes on greater significance – and suggests that Paul Ryan is not just an occasional fibber but rather a person for whom lying is routine activity. It’s pretty hard to imagine a situation in which that pattern of lying isn’t a relevant political issue.

Could Ryan be a pathological liar? This isn’t a topic I know a lot about. I do know that habitual lying isn’t considered a disorder in itself; it is a characteristic of a number of psychological disorders such as biopolar, sociopathic or narcissistic behavior. Here’s brief definition of pathological lying:

Most people tell lies for a variety of reasons: to gain favor with someone, to hide a mistake or to avoid conflicts in interpersonal relationships. A pathological liar, however, will often lie for no reason at all. That’s because the pattern of lying is so pervasive, it becomes a habit. A pathological liar will often lie about routine and mundane things that are really of no consequence. In addition, when confronted with a lie, a pathological liar will pile on more lies to get out of the situation.

Well Ryan at least admitted the marathon lie right away. But was that his own choice or that of his campaign advisers?

Here’s a bit more:

A pathological liar is usually motivated out of fear or poor self-esteem. Therefore, the lies are usually designed to make the person appear more important, smart, brave or otherwise impressive. These lies are often easy to discern due to their fantastic nature or the utter lack of logic and reason. For instance, pathological liars will often claim to have close friendships with famous people or have accomplished amazing athletic feats….

Pathological liars are usually unconcerned or unaware of the consequences of these fabrications. When caught in a lie, these individuals usually make no effort to apologize for the lie or admit that they were wrong. One way to identify a pathological liar is by recognizing a history of broken promises, ruined relationships and an inability to complete important tasks on time. While most people feel some remorse for telling lies, a pathological liar will simply move forward and act as if nothing is wrong.

Here’s an interesting piece on pathological lying from Psychiatric Times. An excerpt:

Pathological lying (PL) is a controversial topic. There is, as yet, no consensus in the psychiatric community on its definition, although there is general agreement on its core elements. PL is characterized by a long history (maybe lifelong) of frequent and repeated lying for which no apparent psychological motive or external benefit can be discerned. While ordinary lies are goal-directed and are told to obtain external benefit or to avoid punishment, pathological lies often appear purposeless. In some cases, they might be self-incriminating or damaging, which makes the behavior even more incomprehensible.

….

PL is noted for the chronicity and frequency of the lies, and the apparent lack of benefit derived from them. The lies are easily disprovable tales that are often fantastic in nature and may be extensive, elaborate, and complicated. There often appears to be a blurring of the boundaries between fiction and reality. The magnitude, callousness, or consequences of the lying behavior are irrelevant. Even when there appears to be an external motive for the lies in PL, the lies are so out of proportion to the perceived benefit that most people would see them as senseless. Such characteristics of PL have led some researchers to conclude that the lying behavior appears to be a gratification in itself,5 the reward is internal (usually unconscious) to the liar, unlike ordinary lies, for which the expected reward is external.

We would need to know much more about Ryan’s childhood and see more examples of his lying behavior over time to characterize his behavior as disordered. But the sample we have so far of his public pronouncements has certainly convinced many of us that he is a habitual liar. Many of us have a similar impression of Mitt Romney. Is it possible Romney was attracted to Ryan because he recognized this similarity?

What do you think?


Obama Talks Down to Us; Boehner Just Lies.

President Obama at his press conference this morning, responding to a question by Ben Feller of the Associated Press (emphasis added):

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. Two quick topics. Given that you’re running out of time, can you explain what is your plan for where these talks go if Republicans continue to oppose any tax increases, as they’ve adamantly said that they will? And secondly, on your point about no short-term stopgap measure, if it came down to that and Congress went that route, I know you’re opposed to it but would you veto it?

THE PRESIDENT: I will not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension. That is just not an acceptable approach. And if we think it’s going to be hard — if we think it’s hard now, imagine how these guys are going to be thinking six months from now in the middle of election season where they’re all up. It’s not going to get easier. It’s going to get harder. So we might as well do it now — pull off the Band-Aid; eat our peas. (Laughter.) Now is the time to do it. If not now, when?

We keep on talking about this stuff and we have these high-minded pronouncements about how we’ve got to get control of the deficit and how we owe it to our children and our grandchildren. Well, let’s step up. Let’s do it. I’m prepared to do it. I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done. And I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing — if they mean what they say that this is important.

That’s pretty insulting. We’re not children after all. I guess the President was aiming his remarks at Congress, but really we serfs are the ones who will have to face the pain of these decisions aren’t we? That’s the real issue here.

President Obama has made some kind of proposal to the Republicans and hasn’t shared the details with us or with his fellow Democrats, as far as I know. All we know for sure is that two programs that we pay for with a separate revenue stream are on the table–Social Security and Medicare. Well, as of today, we know a little more. Sam Stein reports that Obama offered to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

According to five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations — including both Republicans and Democrats — the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues.

The proposal, as discussed, would not go into effect immediately, but rather would be implemented down the road (likely in 2013). The age at which people would be eligible for Medicare benefits would be raised incrementally, not in one fell swoop.

Sources offered varied accounts regarding the seriousness with which the president had discussed raising the Medicare eligibility age. As the White House is fond of saying, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. And with Republicans having turned down a “grand” deal on the debt ceiling — which would have included $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, in exchange for up to $1 trillion in revenues — it is unclear whether the proposal remains alive.

Social Security and Medicare are vital programs that no one should be talking about cutting, especially now when unemployment is at levels not seen in this country since the Great Depression. Furthermore, we pay into these programs with our hard-earned money–they are not “entitlements.” But that’s mostly what we’re hearing about from the President and his Republican buddies–they are just drooling over the prospect of slashing the social safety net.

This isn’t a joking matter, Mr. Obama. Show a little respect for the people who pay your salary. Actually, one group liked the President’s remark about eating our peas, The Peat and Lentil Council.

A spokesman for the pea council said it wasn’t interpreting the remarks in a negative context.

“We take President Obama’s comment on the need to ‘eat our peas’ as a reference to the first lady’s push to get all Americans to eat a more healthy diet as part of the Let’s Move campaign,” Pete Klaiber, the council’s director of marketing.

“We know that if tasty and nutritious meals featuring peas are served more frequently in the White House and in the cafeterias of both Houses of Congress, it will contribute to a balanced diet, if not a balanced budget.”

Klaiber added, “Eating more lentils couldn’t hurt, either.”

If the President is really serious about “sharing the pain,” perhaps he should tell the White House chef to serve split pea soup and lentil loaf at his next dinner party.

Now to House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks.

Read the rest of this entry »


Late Night: Is Tim Pawlenty Secretly Pro-Choice?

Tim Pawlenty, "closet moderate"

Wow, breaking news! I know Mitt Romney isn’t really anti-abortion, but Tim Pawlenty? In an op-ed headlined “The Manufactured Candidate,” Shawn Lawrence Otto, a long-time acquaintance of the Minnesota Governor and GOP presidential candidate, claims that Pawlenty told him he was “personally pro-choice.”

I’ve known Pawlenty since he was a young Republican state representative from Eagan, Minn. We had some of the same friends and used to golf together once in a while. His campaign treasurer was my accountant…

Pawlenty is a very talented guy, and I respected his opinion. His first question was, “What’s your position on choice?” I hadn’t ever been asked the question quite so pointedly. “You’ve got to take a stand on that first,” he said. “Well,” I said, “OK. I don’t like abortion; I think it’s a really tough personal decision, but not something the government should be getting into one way or the other, so I guess I’m pro-choice.”

He looked at me over his lunch and said, “Well personally, so am I, but here’s the thing. You’ve got to find a way to get your mind around the language of saying ‘pro-life.’ It’s in how you phrase it.”

I’ve since learned I’m not the only one Pawlenty has said this to.

This is the political reality for Republicans. You have to pretend to be crazy to get elected.

Otto isn’t comfortable with what he sees happening in the GOP:

This integrity issue doesn’t seem to bother Pawlenty the way it bothers me. He’s wanted to be president for as long as I’ve known him, and ambition can cause principles to take a back seat. He has shown a similar cynicism in his more recent about-faces on climate change and health care, stunning many Minnesotans and former allies and causing some to wonder: Do you really have to sell your soul to succeed in Republican politics?

The answer seems to be yes. And judging by the non-reaction of Democrats to the war on women taking place around the country, they are learning to accept same “reality.” And as a result, millions of women will suffer and die because of the disgusting cowardice of these amoral politicians.

As Bob Dylan wrote in another context, “we’re only a pawn in their game.”


Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama, and Fake “Hostage Negotiations”

Demon Mitch

I am really angry right now, but I’m going to try to write this as calmly as I can. As we all know, Mitch McConnell, who somehow got himself elected to the Senate from the State of Kentucky is holding the entire economy hostage, insisting that the only way Republicans will allow an increase in the debt ceiling is if the Democrats agree to drastic cuts in Medicare.

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, what McConnell and other Republicans are doing is “playing chicken with financial markets.” We are in serious danger of another Great Depression. These freaks are suggesting that they will tank the economy in their efforts to win points for their party. Michael Tomasky writes:

McConnell has made it abundantly clear that his goal is not to help the economy or anything else; his overriding concern is making Barack Obama a one-term president. When he said Sunday that there will be no deal on raising the debt ceiling without substantial Medicare cuts, he made his motives clear again.

Tomasky is saddened because

…there was a period in the history of this republic, and of the world’s so-called greatest deliberative body, when senators really did, at some crucial point in deliberations, put their partisan differences aside and work out solutions to the country’s pressing problems.

[….]

McConnell benefits from the lingering good feeling that still permeates the institution in which he serves—because people insist on presuming that the leader of the minority party speaks in good faith. But there’s no good faith here.

The only question is whether the Democrats will accede to the hostage-taker’s demands. They’re in a tough position, especially after yesterday’s vote in the House, where nearly half of the Democrats joined all Republicans in refusing to raise the debt limit without deep and permanent cuts. Raising the ceiling is extremely unpopular in polls (of course it always has been, but that fact that didn’t prevent a certain M. McConnell from voting to raise it seven times during George W. Bush’s presidency).

Dakinikat isn’t alone in her warning about the insanity of what McConnell and his Republican pals are doing to us. Even the Wall Street Journal is questioning McConnell’s motivation. Author Stan Collender concludes that McConnell is willing to sacrifice his party’s chance at the White House in an effort to set himself up to be the next Majority Leader in the Senate.

…McConnell has decided that the GOP winning the White House in 2012 isn’t as important to him as the GOP getting the majority in the Senate and that requires continually energizing the base rather than trying to win over independents and Democrats.

If Obama wins and the GOP takes over the Senate, (Roger Ailes aside) McConnell will be the most important and powerful Republican in the United States. That won’t be true if there’s a Republican president, of course. But if all of the best known GOP candidates lose the Republican nomination in 2012 and the 2012 nominee then loses in the general election, the next tranche of potential Republican presidential candidates will be at least two years away. In the meantime, McConnell will be the one negotiating with the White House and stopping its initiatives.

The McConnell statement makes a great deal of sense in this context. Openly attacking Medicare as he did strengthens his credentials with the base even if it weakens them with everyone else. But that’s okay because it’s the base that’s needed to elect Republicans to the Senate next year and that would strengthen McConnell even if it makes life harder…or impossible…for the GOP presidential candidate.

At Market Watch, Rex Nutting writes of Republican threats to cause the U.S. to default on its debts:

This is an insane idea cooked up by political consultants who can count votes but not dollars. Assuming they are willing to go through with their threat, it’s simply terrorism — a sort of tea-party suicide bomb.

Both parties have played games with the debt ceiling, but never has anyone suggested out loud that default is really an option. Until now.

Default would make our problems immeasurably worse. Our borrowing costs would soar, and no one has quite explained how that would make our debts more affordable. Moody’s said Thursday that it might downgrade our debt (making it more expensive for us to borrow) if there were just a chance of default. Imagine the costs if we actually reneged on our promises. Read our full story about Moody’s warning on U.S. debt.

Taking all this into consideration, any reasonable person would be able to see that the Republicans are simply playing games and that in the end they are going to raise the debt ceiling. They aren’t going to go against the wishes of their Wall Street masters. Even McConnell’s hometown paper agrees:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, won a prominent place in the weekend news cycle when he made pointed statements last Friday about Medicare, taxes, and what it would take for him to support an increase in the debt ceiling.

He chose his words carefully. Amid blustery talking points, McConnell painstakingly did not say that Republicans would refuse to increase the debt limit. Ultimately, the only threat he issued was about his own individual vote — not about what Republicans will do in general.

[….]

Because the threat is not credible, the only value it has is the value Democrats choose to give it. If they agree with the Republican proposals and want their own political cover, they will treat the threat as credible. They will “save America” from the dastardly Republicans. If they have more responsible strategies they will call the bluff. They hold all the cards.

Therefore, the Democrats and President Obama should simply sit back and let them throw as many tantrums as they want while pointing out how idiotic they are and laughing uproariously.

So what does our President do? He calls Republican and Democratic legislators to the White House for bogus deficit talks that are nothing but an obvious charade to enable these elite criminals to continue stealing American taxpayers blind. He even plans to hold a “golf summit” with Speaker of the House John Boehner.

There can be no other explanation for President Reagan’s Obama’s behavior than that he agrees with McConnell that Paul Ryan’s plan to eliminate Medicare is the way to go. He apparently also thinks it’s worth it to trade our collective economic futures for another four years in the White House. Next up, Democrats and Republicans “compromise” on Social Security “reform.”


CBO Analysis: Budget Deal Cuts 2011 Spending by $352 Million, not $39 Billion

Boehner and Obama agree to pacify the proles with lies

This is hilarious. From the National Journal:

A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the fiscal 2011 spending deal that Congress will vote on Thursday concludes that it would cut spending this year by less than one-one hundredth of what both Republicans or Democrats have claimed.

A comparison prepared by the CBO shows that the omnibus spending bill, advertised as containing some $38.5 billion in cuts, will only reduce federal outlays by $352 million below 2010 spending rates. The nonpartisan budget agency also projects that total outlays are actually some $3.3 billion more than in 2010, if emergency spending is included in the total.

The astonishing result, according to CBO, is the result of several factors: increases in spending included in the deal, especially at the Defense Department; decisions to draw over half of the savings from recissions, cuts to reserve funds, and mandatory-spending programs; and writing off cuts from funding that might never have been spent.

According to Fox News, Congress is in a uproar about it.

Liberal Democrats remain opposed to the plan because of its trims and because of policy points, like its restriction of abortion subsidies, but a rebellion is spreading among conservative members of the House and Senate.

The problem is that in heralding the deal, Obama, Boehner and Reid played up $39 billion in cuts, which were assumed to be for the current fiscal year. But those cuts include some gimmicky accounting and the savings obtained from not tapping reserve funds for programs like Medicaid.

When the CBO crunched the numbers on how the deal would affect the projected $1.65 trillion deficit for this year, the result was a reduction of .02 percent.

So I guess we could still be headed for a shutdown? The House will vote on the bill today.

The real danger zone for the deal would be around 70 Republican defections. That would cast doubt on whether there are enough moderate Democrats [i.e., DINOs] to fill the gap and get to the requisite 217 votes. It would also be nearly a third of the Republican caucus in opposition, a weak showing for the GOP ahead of the even bigger battle over Obama’s request for an increase to the government’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit.

Bond buyers will be watching for major fractures here. If the House GOP is in a riot, watch U.S. debt prices start to climb.

We are so f’d.