Debt or Default?

Here is a poll demonstrating how low-information voters are misled by Republican misinformation–Poll: More Americans fear higher national debt than default.

The impact of right wing propaganda becomes even more severe when the Republican Party, which has been responsible for running up the bulk of the deficit, now uses the issue to promote themselves. Recent history demostrates that we cannot trust Republicans with our money.

David Weigel notes that Bill Clinton has suggested that maybe we should default for a couple of days because most people don’t know what will happen. Weigel concludes:

…a plurality of voters have no idea what the hell is going on. The information failure on the debt limit has been… well, not surprising, but ranking pretty high on the Obama administration’s Parade of PR Failures. Part of the failure is reality-based. It’s theoretically possible, as Pat Toomey has pointed out, to hit the debt ceiling and start stripping the rest of the government for cash — selling off parks, selling Gold, holding up Social Security payments. That would force a crisis that would probably shift public opinion pretty quickly. Not enough people are worried about that, though, so the GOP has plenty of leverage.

Dishonest Editing In NPR Hit Tape Exposed, Surprisingly By Glenn Beck’s Web Site

It comes as no surprise to learn that James O’Keefe video was selectively edited to exaggerate the case against former NPR executive Ron Schiller. After all, dishonest editing is a common right wing  tactic, such as with the ACORN tape. What is surprising is that the first site to expose the falsified editing was Glenn Beck’s site The Blaze.

Among the portions which were edited included those which indicated a connection to the Muslim Brotherhood and editing to falsely suggest that Schiller was amused or approving of the group’s support for Sharia law:

The cadence is jovial and upbeat and the narration moves on.  The implication is that the NPR exec is aware and perhaps amused or approving of the MEAC mission statement. But when you look at the raw video you realize he was actually recounting an unrelated and innocuous issue about confusion over names in the restaurant reservation.

The full tape demonstrates that Schiller’s criticism isn’t of all Republicans but of the extremist elements. The Blaze found that “in the raw video, Schiller also speaks positively about the GOP. He expresses pride in his own Republican heritage and his belief in fiscal conservatism.” Many of the strongest critics of the extremists now in control of the GOP are former Republicans and opposition to the far right does not make one a leftist.

The attack on the Tea Party as racist was also edited:

NPR exec Ron Schiller does describe Tea Party members as “xenophobic…seriously racist people.”

This is one of the reasons why he no longer has a job!

But the clip in the edited video implies Schiller is giving simply his own analysis of the Tea Party. He does do that in part, but the raw video reveals that he is largely recounting the views expressed to him by two top Republicans, one a former ambassador, who admitted to him that they voted for Obama.

Yet more evidence that, even if Schiller’s views were representative of those of NPR, this is the view of Republicans who are opposed to the radical right taking control of the GOP and not of liberals. Undoubtedly these portions were left out of the initial release as this moderate conservative view from NPR doe snot fit the far right narrative that NPR is biased towards the left.

David Weigel discussed this point and provided another example:

Hypothetical time. Let’s say I’m interviewing a senator, and he said: “I was talking the other day to a businessman, who said he can’t support Obama anymore because he’s clearly a communist.” What if I wrote:

“He’s clearly a communist,” said the senator, referring to Obama.

That would be a lie — the senator didn’t say that, he quoted someone who said it.

Review of the full tape supports my argument that NPR was foolish to force people out of the organization based upon the initial reports. The full tape provided quite a different story from what James O’Keefe originally released. Once again, for the benefit of any conservatives who might think that this is just some sort of liberal cover up, the exposure of O’Keefe’s dishonest tactics came from Glenn Beck’s web site.

Right Wing Smear Campaign Against NPR

With conservatives dominating broadcast and cable news (and with much of it being of poor quality regardless of whether there is any bias), NPR has become the primary source for quality, objective broadcast news. This makes it a prime target of the right wing, which requires that people be exposed to their falsehoods as opposed to the actual facts in order to obtain support.  The latest attack on NPR comes from James O’Keefe, the same person responsible for the faked tapes in the right wing smear campaign against ACORN.

The attempted smear against NPR has multiple problems. O’Keefe used people pretending to be Muslims connected with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood offering a contribution. The person caught on tape, Ron Schiller, previously worked in fund raising at NPR and had nothing to do with editorial or news content of shows. He is not even currently working at NPR. The statements which the right wing finds sh0king are quite true:

Schiller: The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian — and I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move… it’s been hijacked by this group that…

Fake Muslim: The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?

Schiller: It’s not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.

The tape was heavily edited, but regardless of context these statements about extremist elements taking over the Republican Party and Tea Party are true. He also discussed government funding of NPR:

Republicans play off the belief among the general population that most of our funding comes from the government. Very little of our funding comes from the government, but they act as if all our funding comes from the government… it is very clear that in the long run we would be better off without federal funding. And the challenge right now is that if we lost it altogether, we’d have a lot of stations go dark.

NPR gets about $90 million out out of a budget of $800 million a year from the federal government. In responding, NPR points out that the view that Schiller’s statement that “in the long run we would be better off without federal funding” is  “a position in direct conflict with the organization’s official position.” Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s senior vice president of marketing, communications and external relations, has released this statement:

“The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.

“We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for.

“Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.”

There were also some portions which are of questionable meaning, such as laughing at NPR being referred to as “National Palestinian Radio” due to both editing of the tape and due to questions as, if true, they simply represent pandering to potential donors.  As David Weigel (who also found at least one case of dishonest editing of the tape) put it, “Schiller is a professional fundraiser, not a journalist. His pandering to the group is actually sort of masterful.”

Here we have a case of someone who spoke the truth about the Republican Party, but which NPR is still not going to accept to preserve their journalistic integrity. (It is a totally different question as to whether these standards of objectivity are a mistake, making it easier for the right wing media to spread misinformation by giving a false equivalency to honest news and right wing propaganda.) The right wing regularly defends Fox for making statements which not only are biased towards their side but which are also untrue.

Here we have a statement from someone who is not at NPR, who was never involved in editorial decisions, and which (while true), NPR objected to. The donation offered was not even accepted. There’s nothing here to support the right wing crusade against NPR.

Republicans Think They Can Come Back Without Changing

David Weigel has an article on how things have changed for those who talked about rebranding the Republicans after their 2006 and 2008 loss. Some Republicans were looking at ways the party should change direction and possibly take some less extreme position son some issues. At the moment, with Republicans appearing on the brink of doing well in the off-year elections, it looks like such rebranding might not have been needed. Republicans believe they are doing fine by sticking to their old views or moving even further to the right.

That is a rather short sighted view of the situation. In a two party system one party can have some victories even when on the wrong side of the issues. Many people are bound to vote for the party out of power when the economy is bad. Republicans also have an advantage this year because Democrats are trying to defend a large number of seats which have traditionally been held by Republicans.

Under these conditions it would come as no surprise that the Republicans could do well this year without changing, but it could be a dead-cat bounce. Numerous polls have shown that people who say they intend to vote Republican are doing so out of frustration but also have a very low opinion of the Republicans. Many even agree with the Democrats as opposed to the Republicans on the issues.

If the Republicans win under such a situation it could lead to another cycle of the voters being angry and voting them out in two years. Once elected to office, Republicans have to actually show they can govern responsibly, and that they are not pursuing positions opposed by most of the country. Those who vote for the Republicans out of a sense of frustration are not going to stick with the Republicans if they just provide a repeat of past mistakes. Regardless of how the Republicans do this year, their long term prospects are poor if they continue with the same policies.

Liberaltarians Leaving Cato

Brink Lindsey and Will Wilkinson are both leaving the Cato Institute for other jobs.They are two leading proponents of liberaltarianism, promoting greater cooperation between libertarians and liberals, which is counter to the larger trend for libertarians to work with conservatives. David Weigel reports that some see this as a purge of the liberaltarians, while Ilya Somin of The Volokh Conspiracy disagrees.

I have no idea if this is a conscious decision by Cato to remove the liberaltarians. As we are dealing with only two people it is certainly possible that it is coincidental that both are moving on to other jobs at the same time. Regardless of whether the two are at Cato, I do hope that they maintain some degree of influence in the libertarian movement. Libertarians are greatly in need of such influence, as I’ve seen far too many libertarians take on too many attitudes of the conservative movement.Libertarianism corrupted by such authoritarian beliefs tends to become ridiculous. (For example, look at Ron and Rand Paul).

Of course it works both ways. Many liberals can also benefit from exposure to some libertarian ideas, and far too few libertarians can communicate their ideas intelligibly to those who don’t already share their views. With many on the left being primarily concerned about civil liberties, social issues, and opposition to the war, the “big government” attitudes of the past are far less prominent among many liberals, leaving room for consideration of some libertarian views.

Unfortunately there does not appear to be any benefit coming from conservative exposure to libertarians. While many libertarians have adopted conservative ideas, conservatives are far less likely to change their ideas. Besides, if they do they risk being drummed out of the conservative movement.

Related: Right Wing Confusion Over “Statism”

Many conservatives mistakenly believe that a fundamental view of liberalism is “statism” and having big government control everything. While this view is spread by Fox and conservative talk radio it is not only false but it is the opposite of the real differences. The left is a big tent containing a variety of views bu…t one view held by many is opposition to the authoritarianism and disregard for knowledge and reason coming from the right wing.

David Weigle Gets Position At MSNBC

I’m glad to see that David Weigle found another job so soon after leaving The Washington Post (for reasons discussed here). Mediaite reports that he will be working for MSNBC. Keith Olbermann introduced him at the end of Countdown as new a “MSNBC contributor.” Mediaite has a video of the announcement and reports, “Mediaite has confirmed from MSNBC that Weigel’s role will be both paid and exclusive to the network. It’s likely, then that we’ll see Weigel show up on other non-Countdown programs on MSNBC as well.”

David Weigel Leaves Washington Post Following Leaks Of Criticism Of Right Wing

David Weigel provides a demonstration of how nothing on the web is really private–even on closed lists where such privacy is assumed. Weigel is a left libertarian whose views of the right wing seem to be similar to my own. It is not so much their views which repel myself and I believe Weigel, but that their actual policy positions turn out to be quite different from their limited government rhetoric. On top of that, there is the anti-intellectualism, adherence to conspiracy theories and revisionist history, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism which, while not true of everyone on the right, is far too common for comfort.

Weigel was hired to cover the right wing for The Washington Post to some degree  I did question a major newspaper hiring him for such a position, suspecting from the start that his views might give conservatives more fuel for their attacks on the imaginary “liberal media.”

If this was the outcome, it wasn’t because of  any unfair bias being displayed in Weigel’s work. Even some conservatives were supportive of Weigel, such as at The American Spectator:

To start with, it’s important to note that all of the comments at the center of the recent uproar were made on a private email list that was supposed to be off the record. Just for a moment, think of the things that you’d say if you were joking or venting anger among friends, and imagine if they became public with context removed. If everything we said privately were public, I wonder how many of us would be able to maintain jobs or friendships. Weigel is being attacked for writing that the world would be better if Matt Drudge could “set himself on fire.” But people make off hand remarks like that all the time without literally wishing bodily harm upon other humans.

This and other private comments by Weigel have contributed to the charge that he’s hostile toward conservatives and a standard issue liberal, but I don’t think that’s accurate. I could just as easily report on private conversations in which he’s revealed a fondness for Ronald Reagan, a willingness to vote for Bobby Jindal as president, and agreed that Van Jones should have been fired for his 9/11 trutherism. Plus, it should be noted that in the past, he’s even contributed to the American Spectator.

It should also be noted that he went on Keith Olbermann’s show and shot down a story about Sarah Palin committing perjury that had been lighting up the liberal blogs and defended Cato’s Michael Cannon against a “dishonest and unfair hit” by the Center for American Progress.

I’ve disagreed with Weigel on a number of occasions, and have called him out when I’ve felt he’s placed an inordinate amount of focus on fringe characters or extreme statements made by conservatives. But I also know that he isn’t some “drive by” journalist. He knows his subject matter well, reads constantly, goes to lots of conservative events, maintains friendships with conservatives, and talks to a lot of conservatives for his articles and quotes them accurately.

Weigel’s resignation came not as a result of any signs of bias in his work but because of comments written on Journolist, a private email list, which were leaked. Unfortunately Weigel probably saw his comments as being the equivalent of private conservation when in reality any comments made on line can wind up being as public as anything posted on a blog.

It is unfortunate that Weigel is no longer at The Washington Post, but I am confident that he will find other sources to write for. I certainly hope so as we certainly need voices like his to help counter all the ignorance, hatred, and misinformation being spread by the authoritarian right.

Sarah Palin Gets Her Facts Wrong and Advises Seeking Divine Intervention From God

Sarah Palin spoke before the Tea Party convention, both rewriting history and suggesting that a top government priority should be asking for divine intervention from god. David Weigel reports on how she got her facts wrong about recent election results:

Palin adroitly re-wrote the history of the past three months of elections, giving the Tea Party movement credit for Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts and calling the White House “0 for 3″ in recent elections–leaving out the New York special election where her candidate, the Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman, lost in a last-minute upset.

“You know,” said Palin of Brown, “he was just a guy with a truck, and a passion to serve his country,” said Palin. Brown, however, was a state senator and state representative whose campaign staffers cut their teeth with Mitt Romney.

The Guardian reports that things got even weirder at the Q&A session:

The weirdest part of the evening came not during the speech but during the following Q&A session. Asked what she thought that a Republican-controlled congress’s top three priorities should be, she answered: stop spending, energy policy and … well, here’s the whole quote, judge for yourself:

“I think, kind of tougher to put our arms around, but allowing America’s spirit to rise again by not being afraid to kind of go back to some of our roots as a God fearing nation where we’re not afraid to say especially in times of potential trouble in the future here, where we’re not afraid to say, you know, we don’t have all the answers as fallible men and women so it would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren’t afraid to go that route, not so afraid of the political correctness that you know – they have to be afraid of what the media said about them if they were to proclaim their alliance to our creator.”

So, one of the US congress’s top priorities should be … asking for divine intervention from God? “I can think of two words right now that scare liberals: President Palin,” the moderator ended the evening by saying. A brief chant of “Run, Sarah, run,” broke out, although not one shared by the whole room. Proving, perhaps, that you don’t have to be a liberal to be worried by Sarah Palin.

Opposition To Mandates Uniting Left And Right Against Health Care Reform

Throughout the primary campaign when it was an issue I argued against including an individual mandate in health care reform. It does makes it easier to write a bill eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions if there is a mandate to prevent people from gaming the system, but there are many other ways around this problem.

What supporters of the mandate failed to understand is that such government requirements greatly magnifies potential for opposition to health care reform. To be accepted by a majority, any health care reform plan needed to provide assistance to those who desired it without being seen as interfering with others. Even though Republicans initially supported the mandate along with most Congressional Democrats, this has now become an issue which could backfire against the Democrats.

David Weigel believes that Firedoglake, a liberal blog which opposes the bill, is paying for polls to undermine Democrats whose seats are in trouble. Questions include:

Under one proposal, if a person does not carry health insurance from a private insurance company, they would be fined up to 2% of their income. Is this fair, or unfair?

Nate Silver commented more on the polling and Weigel concluded:

The question, raised by Nate Silver and others: Is Firedoglake trying to scare vulnerable Democrats into retirement in order to kill health care reform? All indications point to “yes.” I’m hearing that FDL will conduct more polls in vulnerable Democratic districts, based largely on this chart of the “top 20 Democrats who could lose their seat over health care vote[s]. Snyder was at the top of that list, posted by FDL’s Jane Hamsher on Jan. 6. (One irony: Snyder is a fairly progressive member of Congress, and not a member of the Blue Dogs.)

Tension between FDL and some other progressive sites has increased since the Senate’s health care compromise took shape–Hamsher has campaigned aggressively to “kill the bill.” A month ago she predicted that “left/right populist outrage” would do so, and she hasn’t slowed down since.

Liberals can question Hamsher’s actions. It is certainly possible that killing the bill could lead to even worse results than a flawed bill which might still be improved upon. Nate Silver has a point that, “The survey fails to provide context about the individual mandate, and arguably biases the respondent against it through its choice of question wording and question order.”

Despite this, the fact remains that including an  individual mandate decreases the chances of passing health care reform along with increasing the potential for losing seats in 2010. Democrats need to consider  how this plays into the often distorted picture of them generally painted by Republicans. Independents who rebelled against the policies of the authoritarian right in recent election cycles, and who were willing to accept bigger government involvement to help those who desire help, can only view coercive government mandates as reason to question whether Democrats are any better.

It is rather late in the process but changes can still be made. Obama should go on television and admit he was wrong for changing his position and going along with Congress on the mandate and that he hears the popular objections to the current health care plan. I believe that many of the independents who supported Obama last year would respect such an admission and back him. This might also provide momentum for support of an improved version of the health care plan and deny the Republicans the ability to win by campaigning against much-needed improvements in the health care system.

News Not As Gloomy For Democrats As Media Describes

If this year follows historical trends for an off-year election, the Republicans should pick up at least 25 to 30 house seats. Beyond the usual advantage for the party out of power in such off-year elections, the Democrats have to defend many House seats which have traditionally been in Republican hands. Repeating the victories of the last two election cycles will be difficult in some of these areas without Obama on the ballot and with Bush gone. Despite this, recent news has sometimes been overly pessimistic for the Democrats.

There has been a lot of talk about Democrats retiring, which can be taken both as a sign of pessimism and as another obstacle to holding onto some districts. Chris Cillizzia shows that the situation is not as bad as much of the media has described:

While much of the focus for the last month (or so) has been on Democrats’ retirement problems — set off by a quartet of announcements in swing and Republican-leaning districts over the last month — a broad look at the open seat playing field suggests more parity in terms of the two parties’ opportunities and vulnerabilities than conventional wisdom suggests.

Republicans currently carry 14 open seats while Democrats have 10. Each side has three seats won by the other party’s presidential candidate in 2008; for Democrats, that’s Louisiana’s 3rd district and Tennessee’s 6th and 8th districts while for Republicans it’s Delaware’s at-large seat, Illinois’ 10th district and Pennsylvania’s 6th district…

All told, Republicans are defending nine open seats that McCain either lost or won with less than 60 percent of the vote in 2008 while Democrats are on defense in seven seats lost by Obama or won with less than 60 percent…

What a close examination of the current open seat landscape reveals, however, is that the talk of a doomsday scenario for House Democrats simply hasn’t materialized yet. Are they likely headed to double-digit losses come November? Yes. But, talk of a switch in House control is, at least at this point, premature.

Republican Open Seats (14)
Delaware’s at-large (Obama 62 percent)
California’s 19th (McCain 52 percent)
Florida’s 12th (McCain 50 percent)
Georgia’s 9th (McCain 75 percent)
Illinois’ 10th (Obama 61 percent)
Kansas’ 1st (McCain 69 percent)
Kansas’ 4th (McCain 58 percent)
Michigan’s 2nd (McCain 51 percent)
Missouri’s 7th (McCain 63 percent)
Oklahoma’s 5th (McCain 59 percent)
Pennsylvania’s 6th (Obama 58 percent)
South Carolina’s 1st (McCain 56 percent)
South Carolina’s 3rd (McCain 64 percent)
Tennessee’s 3rd (McCain 62 percent)

Democratic Open Seats (10)
Alabama’s 7th (Obama 74 percent)
Florida’s 17th (Obama 87 percent)
Hawaii’s 1st (Obama 70 percent)
Kansas’ 3rd (Obama 51 percent)
Louisiana’s 3rd (McCain 61 percent)
New Hampshire’s 2nd (Obama 56 percent)
Pennsylvania’s 7th (Obama 56 percent)
Tennessee’s 6th (McCain 62 percent)
Tennessee’s 8th (McCain 56 percent)
Washington’s 3rd (Obama 53 percent)

While I don’t know the specifics in most of these districts, don’t expect a Democrat to win  Pete Hoekstra’s seat in Western Michigan despite the 2008 presidential election results.

Republicans have tried to capitalize on Parker Griffith’s defection, but this means little as he was previously a conservative Democrat who fit in better with the GOP. It appears that things are not even going all that well for Griffith. His staff has walked out on him in protest over his change in party affiliation. Most of his political consultants already dropped him. Steve Benen and David Weigel have also noted how the Republicans are not exactly welcoming him as he faces challenges from the far right.