Question of the Day

Glenn Beck is calling the disaster in Japan a message from god. Is he allowed to so blatantly steal from Pat Robertson’s act?

Do Conservative Leaders Really Believe The Nonsense They Say?

With the right wing being dominated by people who express views which are ignorant at best and often morally repugnant, it is hard to believe that any educated, intelligent people would actually believe what the right wingers say. It is often suspected that many right wing politicians and pundits are too intelligent to believe the right wing talking points. They continue to use them as they excite the ignorant masses  (including Tea Party members) help elect them them to office and provide a source of income. Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have provided reasons to question whether they actually believe the nonsense they say, or if they are primarily saying what works best to build an audience. Over the last few days we have now had a couple additional reasons to question whether right wingers really believe their own nonsense.

The Des Moines Register recently reported on a Republican inadvertently saying what he really thinks about a gun law he is supporting when he didn’t realize a microphone was live:

A snafu during a legislative debate where a microphone was turned on captured banter between two Iowa GOP leaders, who also joked about a “give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic bill.”

Republicans this week revived a proposal that would allow Iowans to carry weapons in public without permission from a sheriff, without background checks and without training requirements.

The legislation, House Study bill 219, is known as “Alaska carry,” which is law in Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming. Rep. Erik Helland, R-Johnston, is listed as one of the three legislators on a subcommittee assigned the bill.

We see here how a Republican will back a bill that they realize is insane, presumably to both receive the votes of right wingers and to receive contributions from the NRA.

During the 2008 campaign, and even into last year’s midterm elections, most conservatives acted as if Sarah Palin was a legitimate conservative voice. Most ignored all the evidence that Palin is ignorant of the basic facts underlying public policy, and lacks the intelligence to utilize the limited information she is aware of. If the base, which thrives on such ignorance, was supporting her, conservative leaders were generally willing to go along. Now, as it appears she might be planning to run for the 2012 nomination, many conservatives are expressing their fears both that she would be a disaster to the country if elected, and a disaster to the conservative movement if she continues to open their mouths.

There have been many conservatives criticizing Palin over the past few weeks. Daniel Larison summarized the more honest conservative view of Palin which as been emerging at The American Conservative, also conceding that the conservative movement has become more interested in shallow talking points than in being the “party of ideas.”

It’s true that Palin relies on shallow talking points, but where do these come from? They come from the institutions and leaders of the movement that is supposedly so concerned with ideas. Palin is disinterested in ideas, and she has flourished in the conservative media for years. She does rely on shallow talking points, and legions of conservative pundits have repeatedly defended her against charges that she is ignorant and incurious. Everything about her public persona since she received the VP nomination has been built up around tapping into resentment, grievance, and identity politics, all of which are in one way or another antithetical to critical thinking and substantive discussion of policy, and for a while most of her new detractors said nothing or gushed about how wonderful she was.

As long as she was useful prior to the midterms, the institutions, magazines, and leaders of the movement not only tolerated her, but actively promoted her and gave her typically glowing coverage. Those that couldn’t bring themselves to praise her went out of their way not to criticize her. Now that Palin may represent a political threat to Republican chances of regaining the White House, they are suddenly very concerned about her impact on the quality of conservative argument. Their concern would be interesting if it weren’t so belated and narrowly focused on Palin. When Moynihan made that statement about Republicans 30 years ago, it was true. Thirty years later, the label “party of ideas” has simply become another slogan that Republicans trot out in lieu of any policy ideas.

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.

The Tea Party Is Not Winning As Americans Reject Both Extremes

A reader of The New York Times and Washington Post might become quite confused as to who is winning. Today E. J. Dionne tells us the Tea Party is winning. However, yesterday Frank Rich pointed out that things are not going well for the far right:

Glenn Beck’s ratings at Fox News continued their steady decline, falling to an all-time low last month. He has lost 39 percent of his viewers in a year and 48 percent of the prime 25-to-54 age demographic. His strenuous recent efforts to portray the Egyptian revolution as an apocalyptic leftist-jihadist conspiracy have inspired more laughs than adherents.

Sarah Palin’s tailspin is also pronounced. It can be seen in polls, certainly: the ABC News-Washington Post survey found that 30 percent of Americans approved of her response to the Tucson massacre and 46 percent did not. (Obama’s numbers in the same poll were 78 percent favorable, 12 percent negative.) But equally telling was the fate of a Palin speech scheduled for May at a so-called Patriots & Warriors Gala in Glendale, Colo.

Tickets to see Palin, announced at $185 on Jan. 16, eight days after Tucson, were slashed to half-price in early February. Then the speech was canceled altogether, with the organizers blaming “safety concerns resulting from an onslaught of negative feedback.” But when The Denver Post sought out the Glendale police chief, he reported there had been no threats or other causes for alarm. The real “negative feedback” may have been anemic ticket sales, particularly if they were to cover Palin’s standard $100,000 fee.

The news section of The New York Times also points out problems faced by the Republicans:

…in the view of officials from both major political parties, Republicans may be risking the same kind of electoral backlash Democrats suffered after they were perceived as overreaching.

Public surveys suggest that most voters do not share the Republicans’ fervor for the deep cuts adopted by the House, or for drastically slashing the power of public-sector unions. And independent voters have historically been averse to displays of political partisanship that have been played out over the last week.

“If Republicans push too far and overreach their mandate, they will be punished by independent voters, just as they were in 1996,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser to President George W. Bush. “Voters said they wanted bold action. They are getting bold action. But Republicans need to be constantly reminded that the last election was a referendum for change, not a referendum for the G.O.P.

Mr. McKinnon said that although Mr. Obama had claimed a mandate after his election, it turned out to be exaggerated, The president had paid a price for it, he said, and was adjusting.

Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin who was turned out of office in the Republican sweep last year, said the new crop of Republicans was drawing false conclusions from the party’s victory.

“They are taking some kind of public expression of deep concern about the economy and turning it into something entirely different,” Mr. Feingold said. “They are making a mistake. They say: ‘Well, we won the election. Elections have consequences.’ And I say, yes, and we are going to have another election next year.”

What we are really seeing here is a failure for both extremes.

When the Democrats took control of the White House and Congress I recall writing a post warning that the Democrats would again become a minority party if they were to overreach. Looking back at the 2010 election, this should be updated to add the Democrats were also at risk of losing if the Republicans could create a false perception of Democratic overreach. I am glad to see that the article describes the problem of  as “Democrats suffered after they were perceived as overreaching” as opposed to actual overreaching.

The Democrats took a centrist course but failed miserably in explaining their actions, once again allowing the Republicans to define them and create a false perception of a move to the far left and overreaching. In addition, Obama did make one serious mistake in reversing his campaign position against the individual mandate. This allowed Republicans (who initially supported the mandate) to oppose health care reform as something being imposed upon Americans by big government as opposed to a case of government stepping in to provide help to those who need it when the market has failed.

Frank Rich is right that those on the far right are losing because, fortunately, many conservatives out in the real world don’t support the extremism and know-nothing philosophy of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party. Many on the left are also making a mistake when they see any support by Barack Obama or other Democrats for fiscal responsibility as giving in to right wing frames and a victory for the Tea Party.

Cutting the deficit is important in the long run. Republicans were wrong during the Bush years when they argued that deficits don’t matter, and exploded the deficit by fighting two wars off the books while cutting taxes primarily for the ultra-wealthy. It is far better to point out how Republican policies are responsible for the deficit than to shy away from any discussion of cutting the deficit. Rather than avoid the discussion, Democrats must point out that some deficit spending is beneficial, such as Obama’s stimulus which kept us out of a depression. Democrats must also continue to point out how cutting taxes for the ultra-wealthy and spending on Bush’s wars has done far more to increase the deficit than Democratic spending.

Some on the left want to avoid any use of “conservative frames,” but in doing so they actually hurt the left. When they refuse to mention anything discussed by conservatives, they allow conservatives to take credit for positions they do not actually promote. As a result we have conservatives claiming to be champions of freedom and capitalism, despite the reality that they really support more government intrusion in the lives of individuals and confuse plutocracy for capitalism.

This mistaken view that the left must avoid any conservative frames  leads to many of the attacks on Barack Obama from the left. Obama, while certainly not always perfect, at least understands that the way to win a majority is to demonstrate to rational conservatives that the economic policies they desire can better be delivered by his administration than by the extreme right. Those who oppose Obama’s attempts to appeal to conservatives argue that this has not led to any support from Congressional Republicans. This is correct but misses the point. The real target is not Congressional Republicans, who care more about denying Democrats any victories for political reasons than they care about any specific issues, or the good of the country. The target is the more rational voters who might have voted Republican in many of the recent elections but who are not totally brainwashed by the right wing noise machine. Attracting these voters, along with independents,  explains why Obama’s popularity has consistently been higher than that of Congress, and is now moving upward. It might also explain why some are turning off Glenn Beck.

Is Donald Trump Serious About Running For President?

I’ve often pointed out that in recent years conservative beliefs have become so absurd that it is often difficult to tell the difference between real conservative beliefs and parody. Even some conservatives have difficulty with this, such as conservatives who take Stephen Colbert seriously. Jonathan Chait is now having difficulty telling whether Donald Trump is serious about running for president or if this is some sort of a joke.

Donald Trump changed his registration to Republican in 2009 and his views expressed at CPAC and in recent interviews have taken a sharp turn to the right. In 2007 Trump was calling George Bush “probably the worst president in the history of the United States.” He also identified with the Democrats on many issues, even pointing out that “the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republican.” Now Trump follows the conservative line, such as blaming Obama for the loss of respect faced by the United States which he very well knows was caused by George Bush.

Personally I see registration as a Republican and taking up GOP talking points as a sign that someone is considering running in the Republican primaries, but I can see where Chait might see this all as a joke. In 1999 Trump was strongly pro-choice but now opposes the basic right of a woman to control her own body.  Trump not only changed his position on abortion but had a rather ridiculous explanation for the flip-flop from the executive vice president of his organization:

“People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives,’’ said Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and the founder of a website called

I’d love to see a Republican debate where  past statements in favor of abortion rights are pulled up from both Trump and Mitt Romney. I much prefer both the old Donald Trump and the Mitt Romney of 1994.

This explanation for the change in position on abortion rights is not the only item which could lead one to believe Trump’s candidacy is a parody. Take a look at this graphic at

“It’s cold outside…so where’s the global warming?” Sure, any intelligent, educated person would laugh at this, but this is just the sort of nonsense which many Republicans believe. Trump probably does realize this makes no sense, but also realizes that this is the type of thing which needs to be said to attract votes from the Republican base. There’s nothing surprising about people saying things they know are absurd to attract conservatives. People like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh do it all the time.

The White House White Board or Glenn Beck’s Chalk Board

Austan Goolsbee on his white board or Glenn Beck on his chalk board? This shows the difference between left and right in this country. In the video above, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, explained the National Wireless Initiative.

On a typical day, Glenn Beck uses his chalk board to recycle old Bircher conspiracy theories. Of course he adds conspiracy theories of his own regarding more current events, including his fear mongering about the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt.

Some do prefer Glenn Beck’s chalk board to the White House’s white board. This explains why the conservative movement has become out of touch with reality. Looking at the series of White House white boards will also show which party is really serious about promoting business growth in this country, in contrast to the fear mongering about socialism on Glenn Beck’s chalk board.

Conspiracy Theory of the Day

Robert Gibbs and Hosni Mubarak both left their jobs the same day. Very suspicious. I mean, has anyone actually seen both Gibbs and Mubarak at the same time?

(This post is meant for Glenn Beck who could probably do a whole show based upon such speculation. I bet he would find it irresponsible to ignore the possibility that the President of Egypt was the Press Secretary to a Muslim President of the United States.).

Quote of the Day

“While in Egypt, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was attacked and beaten, which raises two questions. Is it safe to send our media into these places? And how do we get Glenn Beck over there?” –Conan O’Brien

Why Glenn Beck Is Sounding Even Crazier Than Usual

No, its not because Beck has gone off his meds.

David Frum points out the obvious about Glenn Beck–he sounds crazy to attract an audience:

Many people have suggested that since the crisis in Egypt began Fox News’ Glenn Beck sounds crazier than usual.

This is a hard assessment to quantify.  But if it is true, the uptick in craziness may be attributable to the decline in Beck’s audience.

Frum supported this view by reprinting an old post by Tim Mak on how “crazy talk” drives talk radio. This could also be supported with Beck’s own words when he described himself as a rodeo clown and pointed out that “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”

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Recap Of Live Blogging Of The State Of The Union Address

Last night, rather than posting on the blog, I utilized Facebook and Twitter to live blog the State of the Union Address.  (I wound up primarily using Facebook due to not having to cut back as much in  a status update as in a tweet, and the discussion was easier to follow). Before the speech I posted this comment to those on the left who were already critical of Obama:

I don’t care about the whining from those on the left who insist on ideological pure thought and speech. Improving competitiveness is a GOOD THING when used to push for spending more on education and to improve our infrastructure.

I started out primarily quoting from Obama (cutting back to Facebook’s allowed length) and later got more into commentary. The full text of the SOTU is available here. I am also proud to say that, contrary to the trend on Twitter, I didn’t resort to a single salmon joke.

“Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”

“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

“Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”

“Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.” –

Does John Boehner realize this is being televised and everyone can see him?

A couple of the responses to this comment:

He can’t be still….he needs his smokes and a Rob Roy….16 hours ago ·

If smug were a source of energy, we could plug Boehner in and power DC for the next year.

Getting back to my own commentary, followed by more quotes: Will Fox attack Obama for playing the race card tonight (Race to the Top)?

“If we take these steps — if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take — we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

“Our infrastructure used to be the best — but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a D.”

“We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

“Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.”

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down.”

“All these investments — in innovation, education, and infrastructure will make America a better place to do business and create jobs”

“When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.”

“What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”

“I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

While Republicans greatly exaggerate the amounts, malpractice reform is one way to cut health care costs without limiting anyone’s care.

I’d love it if Obama ends by pointing to the Fox “News” cameras and shouts “You Lie.”

“And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.”

“And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.” –

“And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.”

“American Muslims are a part of our American family.” Wait until Glenn Beck splices this to claim that Obama admitted to being part of a Muslim family (from Kenya where he was born).

“We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.” –Barack Obama. Unfortunately he is wrong here. For example, large numbers of Republicans deny separation of church and state and claim we were founded as a “Christian nation.”

“We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.” –Paul Ryan in GOP response. If you guys mean this, stop trying to legislate morality and infringe upon reproductive rights.

Next we got into the two Republican responses, preceded by this advice via Twitter:

“To tweet about the President’s speech, use #SOTU. To tweet about Michele Bachmann’s response, use #STFU.” –Andy Borowitz

“We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.” —Paul Ryan in GOP response. If you guys mean this, stop trying to legislate morality and infringe upon reproductive rights.

“,,,patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage” –Paul Ryan. No, his party’s reforms just increase insurance company profits and screw patients.

Why does Paul Ryan comb his hair just like Eddie Munster?

NBC got rid of Olbermann, and now they are having Joe Scarborough give commentary on the main network.

Why did I waste time with the GOP response when Big Ten Network/Classic College Football is airing Michigan’s victory over Michigan State from 2004?

The Conservative News Network (CNN) is now preparing to air the Tea Party response. I can’t believe people see CNN as a counter to Fox, as opposed to a less extreme and generally more fair and balanced conservative alternative.

When someone disagreed with the characterization of CNN as conservative, I added:  Keep an eye on who CNN hires. They’ve hired far more Republicans in recent years than Democrats. They are conservative but still far to the left of Fox, and they make an attempt at real journalism, so conservatives reject them.

Check out CNN just to see Michele Bachmann’s eyes. She looks possessed (and it is not by the spirit of the Founding Fathers who would tell this idiot to shut the fuck up if they ever encountered her).

Bachmann is wrapping up. Next CNN will have Joe the Plumber on.

CNN  turned to what they describe as the best political team on television. I commented: If you guys are really the “best political team” you will all say that Michele Bachmann is a fracking idiot.

If SNL aired Michele Bachmann exactly as CNN aired her we’d be laughing hysterically, thinking they were mocking Republicans.

When someone commented that “Michelle Bachmann is clearly out of touch with the Mother Ship” I responded: Maybe her Mother Ship was off to the right and is what she was looking at the whole time she was talking.

Those who are saying Obama is moving towards the center are missing the fact that Obama is redefining the center.

And this concludes tonight’s live blogging/tweeting of the State of the Union Address delivered by President Barack Obama and the televised responses of two morons.