Paul Krugman Knows His Wingnuts

Earlier today Paul Krugman speculated that conservatives would find a way to blame the oil spill on Obama. He came up with some theories he suggested they might promote which didn’t sound all that different from ones we’ve heard before:

Will it be claims that liberals and/or scientific conspirators sabotaged the rig, to undermine good Americans who want to drillheredrillnow? (Michael Crichton already wrote that novel).

Will it be that oil workers, demoralized by the march of socialism, fell into despair and let the accident happen?

Will it be claims that since this didn’t happen under Bush, it obviously shows that Obamanomics is responsible?

I don’t know. But you know something along these lines is coming.

By later in the day Krugman was proven to be correct:

He shoots! He scores! Media Matters: Rush’s conspiracy theory: “Environmentalist whackos” may have blown up oil rig to “head off more oil drilling”

Democrats Receiving Criticism For Support Of National ID Card

There are various reasons why I consider myself an independent as opposed to a Democrat, despite my considerable distaste for the Republican Party since they moved to the extreme right in recent years. Voting Democratic in recent elections as the preferable choice does not necessarily mean agreement with the party on all. A good example came up today with news of what amounts to a national ID card being included in the immigration legislation. The Hill reports:

A plan by Senate Democratic leaders to reform the nation’s immigration laws ran into strong opposition from civil liberties defenders before lawmakers even unveiled it Thursday.

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

“The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,” states the Democratic legislative proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a civil liberties defender often aligned with the Democratic Party, wasted no time in blasting the plan.

“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.

“America’s broken immigration system needs real, workable reform, but it cannot come at the expense of privacy and individual freedoms,” Calabrese added.

The ACLU said “if the biometric national ID card provision of the draft bill becomes law, every worker in America would have to be fingerprinted.”

A source at one pro-immigration reform group described the proposal as “Orwellian.”

John Cole points out that, besides all the inherent problems in the policy, this shows that the Democrats are tone deaf. That has been obvious for quite a while, and is why the Republicans repeatedly win the spin wars even when wrong on the issues. Requiring a national ID card is about as stupid politically as allowing Republicans (who initially backed the idea) win political points on health care due to Democrats imposing the individual mandate.

Republicans did well for years because Ronald Reagan’s call to get government off our backs resonated with the voters. When it became clear that the Republicans supported a government which is more intrusive in the lives of individuals they were thrown out of power. This was the time when the Democrats needed to promote a clear message in favor of keeping government out of our personal lives and backing individual liberty. Instead they deliver a mixed message by opposing Republican intrusions on our private lives in some areas, but doing the opposite at other times.

Sarah Palin’s Search For Greater Ignorance

The Time 100 features brief essays by various people on the 100 people who most affect our world. Sarah Palin, who is best known for her ignorance of  both the modern world and history, has a choice of someone who she sees teaching about history and government. She picked someone who would further reduce her ability to understand the real world. Palin  wrote about Glenn Beck:

Who’d have thought a history buff with a quirky sense of humor and a chalkboard could make for such riveting television? Glenn’s like the high school government teacher so many wish they’d had, charting and connecting ideas with chalk-dusted fingers — kicking it old school — instead of becoming just another talking-heads show host. Self-taught, he’s become America’s professor of common sense, sharing earnestly sought knowledge with an audience hungry for truth. Glenn, 46, tackles topics other news shows would regard as arcane. Consider his desire to teach Americans about the history of the progressive movement: he’s doing to progressive what Ronald Reagan did to liberal — explaining that it’s a damaged brand.

Beck is “self-taught,” which really means that he makes up most of what he says. That’s why Media Matters named him Misinformer of the Year. There is little truth in Beck’s broadcasts. He tackles topics not discussed by other news shows not because they are “arcane” but because real news shows deal in facts, not paranoid fantasies as Beck does. Palin may see Beck as “explaining” that the progressive movements a damaged brand, but his explanations are rather meaningless considering that pretty much everything Beck says about progressive beliefs has little to do with the actual progressive movement. Beck misquotes and distorts the words of his targets, and his brainless followers, who are incapable of actual fact checking, think he has demolished them by using their own words against them.

Sarah Palin, who knows so little about the world, thinks she can learn from a man who makes it all up for the money. Beck has even described himself as “a rodeo clown” and admitted, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.” In Sarah Palin’s case, this is certainly true.

EPA Staffers Forced To Ignore Science

A government review has found that the Bush administration forced EPA employees to ignore scientific findings in order to both water down concerns about climate change and to protect business. Sheila Kaplan of Politics Daily reports:

The Committee on Science Integration for Decision Making is still working on its investigation, but has quietly posted draft summaries on the agency’s website of 73 interviews with 450 EPA employees — an unusual bottom-up examination that could bring sweeping changes to the 40-year-old federal agency. Some staffers traced the problems in the agency to the Bush administration, while others said the obstacles are longstanding and continue to this day…

The review of the EPA followed accusations by a former agency official that President George W. Bush had pressured agency employees to water down concerns of global climate change, a Government Accountability Office report criticizing the agency’s toxic chemical review process, and stern recommendations by the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences.

Big Ten Network To Cover Obama’s Commencement Address at the University of Michigan

The Big Ten Network has announced they will be carrying Barack Obama’s commencement address at the University of Michigan this Saturday morning. The full commencement ceremony will also be streamed live:

The Big Ten Network will offer live television coverage of President Barack Obama’s commencement address at the University of Michigan. Live coverage of the commencement from Michigan Stadium will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, May 1, as a special edition of the network’s University Showcase programming.

President Obama’s speech will be the first televised commencement address for the three-year-old network, a partnership between the Big Ten Conference and Fox Cable Networks. The entire commencement ceremony will also be streamed live at www.BigTenNetwork.com.

HP Buys Palm

Palm is a company which has made great products but without the ability to compete with the bigger players in the market. If they cannot make it themselves, I’m happy to see them get purchased by HP.  Besides all the business advantages, this gets two companies together which have produced a large number of the devices I’ve carried in my pocket over the years.

When calculators replaced slide rules, my first calculator was a scientific calculator from HP which I believe cost $400 back in 1973. Years later, when calculators were replaced by PDA’s I wound up using a great pocked sized computer from HP. The device ran DOS apps and with Software Carousel it could even run multiple apps at one time.

Eventually as DOS died out I moved from HP to Palm, and I still get a lot of use out of my Palm Tx. The Palm Tx has been so useful that I resisted buying a smart phone for years, carrying both the Palm and a cell phone. I finally gave in and got a smart phone this year. It was a tough decision between a Palm Pre and a Droid. The deciding factor was that, even though there were some advantages to the Pre, I see the Android operating system as being more likely to dominate the market while I feared Palm might not even survive. One big advantage of this acquisition is that consumers will be more confident in purchasing a Palm device which  has the backing of Hewlett Packard.

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Charlie Crist Running As An Independent

The Republican Party’s small tent is getting a little smaller. Charlie Crist is the latest moderate Republican to find that moderate candidates can no longer win in a party which has been taken over by the extreme right wing. Crist is expected to announce tomorrow that he is running as an independent. While he is expected to lose in the Republican primary for the Florida Senate seat, he now appears to have an even shot running as an independent.

Sarah Palin Gets It Right For Once

Normally I don’t think much of someone like Sarah Palin who promotes ignorance as a virtue, and generally attacks the media not for its true limitations but for failing to go along with her bizarre world view. This time, however, Palin is right in attacking the “lamestream media.” As Media Matters notes, the lame media she is attacking is her own employer–Fox:

On last night’s Hannity, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin did what she does best-complain about the “lamestream media throughout our country.” This time, the media’s “lame[ness]” was revealed through their coverage of Arizona’s new controversial immigration law. Palin sniffed: “One of the media outlets the other day just-was killing me on this one, Sean, where they had a caption across their screen that said Arizona law will make it illegal to be an illegal immigrant? Some bizarre type of headline like that where it was just this illustration that they just don’t get it.”

The media she happened to make the claim that “Arizona law will make it illegal to be an illegal immigrant” turns out to be the April 27 broadcast of Fox & Friends:


The Relationship Between Obama And The Press

This story should be filed under generally true but not very significant criticism of Barack Obama. While there has often been the impression that Obama receives favored coverage from the press, there has actually been some friction. Even during the presidential campaign many noticed that Obama was somewhat distant from the press and the campaign was working hard to control the message.

Politco ran a story whining about this today as they noted most reporters prefer to keep this off the record because they “worry about appearing whiny.” They write:

Obama and the media actually have a surprisingly hostile relationship — as contentious on a day-to-day basis as any between press and president in the past decade, reporters who cover the White House say.

Reporters say the White House is thin-skinned, controlling, eager to go over their heads and stingy with even basic information. All White Houses try to control the message. But this White House has pledged to be more open than its predecessors, and reporters feel it doesn’t live up to that pledge in several key areas:

— Day-to-day interaction with Obama is almost nonexistent, and he talks to the press corps far less often than Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush did. Clinton took questions nearly every weekday, on average. Obama barely does it once a week.

— The ferocity of pushback is intense. A routine press query can draw a string of vitriolic e-mails. A negative story can draw a profane high-decibel phone call or worse. Some reporters feel like they’ve been frozen out after crossing the White House.

— Except toward a few reporters, press secretary Robert Gibbs can be distant and difficult to reach — even though his job is to be one of the main conduits from president to press. “It’s an odd White House where it’s easier to get the White House chief of staff on the phone than the White House press secretary,” one top reporter said.

— And at the very moment many reporters feel shut out, one paper — The New York Times — enjoys a favoritism from Obama and his staff that makes competitors fume, with gift-wrapped scoops and loads of presidential face time.

The attempts to control the issues are also understandable considering how much the right wing noise machine distorts the truth. Yes, ideally we would have a White House which is totally open with the press. However, considering how poorly the media (including Politico) often does in covering the issues, this attitude is understandable.

The report notes, “this attitude, many believe, starts with the man at the top. Obama rarely lets a chance go by to make a critical or sarcastic comment about the press, its superficiality or its short-term mentality.” I certainly have to agree with Obama here. I have also read elsewhere that Obama is often very sarcastic but keeps such remarks private, recognizing that his sarcasm might not always come off well publicly. While I don’t always agree with him, I tend to like what appears to be the real Obama as opposed to the Messiah image which some detractors believe is what attracts supporters.

The complaints against the White House might also be summarized in this item from the article:

The New York Times’ Peter Baker, who reported on the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations for the Washington Post, said that the Obama administration is “in some ways … more transparent,” but in other ways, “they’re just like every other White House.”

In some ways they are transparent and in some ways they are not. In some ways they are just like every other White House and in some ways they have changed things. Somehow none of this is terribly shocking, or different from what I anticipated.

Some of the problems might just come from the learning curve as White House staffers must figure out the best way to deal with the press. They must balance openness with trying to get out a message which is not totally distorted by the media. While, as I noted above, I heard these same complaints during the campaign, Chuck Todd believes that the Obama people have become more open since taking office.

“So far, I actually feel like the Obama White House is treating the press with more respect than the campaign,” Todd said, adding that it was a “myth” that the Obama campaign and traveling press corps had a great relationship. “There’s more access to these guys, weirdly enough, than during the campaign.”

Those who thought Obama was going to totally change everything bad about Washington overnight will be disappointed. Those who understand the real world will hardly be shocked by any of this.

Sue Lowden Backs Down on “Chickens For Checkups”

From time to time I’ve received everything from chocolate to venison from patients, but they have never given such gifts with an expectation of using them for payment for medical services. Nevada Republican Sue Lowden has raced a lot of ridicule since she suggested battering for medical services as a potential solution to the health care crisis. When we first heard this, many bloggers along with myself gave her the benefit of the doubt and at least thought she meant bargaining over prices, as opposed to bartering. I also noted that this happened to be the topic of the Dilbert cartoon published that same day.

Lowden stuck with this argument, and made it clear she was really advocating true bartering–chickens for checkups.

“Let’s change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I’ll paint your house,” she said. “[That's] what people would do to get health care with their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people.”

“I’m not backing down from that system,” she added.

Greg Sargent reports she is finally backing down:

It took around two weeks and a good deal of national ridicule, but Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden has finally backed off of her apparent advocacy for a “chickens for checkups” barter policy to bring down health care costs.

In an interview with a local station in Nevada today, Lowden clarified her original comments, claiming she’d been taken out of context. Lowden added she had merely made a “casual statement” designed to describe an ongoing reality, and hadn’t intended to offer a policy prescription.

“They took it way out of context,” Lowden said in the interview, blaming Harry Reid’s campaign tracker for plucking the quote out of an hour-long conversation about multiple topics.

“The truth of the matter is there is bartering going on in this state and in the country,” Lowden said. “It has been going on for years.” She added she had merely made “a casual statement talking about the reality of what’s going on.” Audio here.

In a follow up interview, Lowden spokesperson Crystal Feldman confirmed her intent. “Sue’s comment on bartering was never a policy proposal,” Feldman said, adding it was “an insight on how struggling families in Nevada are working to pay for medical care during these tough times.”

The problem for Lowden stemmed from the fact that she seemed to stray into advocating for a barter system, rather than just describing existing circumstances. In her original quote, Lowden said that “bartering is really good” to “get prices down in a hurry,” urging people to “go ahead and barter with your doctor.”