Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Some probes are more exciting than others
There may be some rule that I'm not aware of, prohibiting coverage of Republican scandals, but while a House Democrat's ethics problems intensify, a sitting Republican senator is still the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, which is also getting more serious.
The Senate on Thursday night quietly approved a resolution that will allow Sen. John Ensign's aides to testify to a federal grand jury investigating the aftermath of the Nevada Republican's extramarital affair with a former campaign aide.
By voice vote, the Senate approved the resolution that would authorize employees of the Senate to give testimony to a grand jury in Washington.
Senate aides said that the resolution was necessary because Senate rules would prohibit employees from testifying outside of the halls of Congress.
Politico added that the move, which nearly every major outlet ignored, "is the latest sign that the investigation ... continues to move swiftly."
This development comes just a week after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a former Ensign housemate, announced that he'd agreed to cooperate with the federal criminal investigation surrounding the conservative Nevadan. Coburn turned over more than 1,200 pages of documents to the Justice Department, including emails from Ensign.And that development came on the heels of news that Ensign's aides have told investigators that the senator knew he was violating ethics rules on lobbying restrictions, but did it anyway
To recap: John Ensign, defense of marriage scold, had an affair with the wife of his friend and staffer. He then had his parents offer to pay the couple to keep the story quiet and used his office to try to get a lobbyist job for the husband, violating ethics rules.
Charlie Rangel, Korean War hero, had a Harlem apartment he didn't live in that he may have used as a campaign office and didn't disclose a vacation home, among a handful of other "serious" ethics violations.
The point is that Mr. Obama’s attempts to avoid confrontation have been counterproductive. His opponents remain filled with a passionate intensity, while his supporters, having received no respect, lack all conviction. And in a midterm election, where turnout is crucial, the “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats could spell catastrophe for the Obama agenda.
Which brings me back to Ms. Warren.
The debate over financial reform, in which the G.O.P. has taken the side of the bad guys, should be a political winner for Democrats. Much of the reform, however, is deeply technical: “Maintain the requirement that derivatives be traded on public exchanges!” doesn’t fit on a placard.
But protecting consumers, ensuring that they aren’t the victims of predatory financial practices, is something voters can relate to. And choosing a high-profile consumer advocate to lead the agency providing that protection — someone whose scholarship and advocacy were largely responsible for the agency’s creation — is the natural move, both substantively and politically. Meanwhile, the alternative — disappointing supporters yet again by choosing some little-known technocrat — seems like an obvious error.
So why is this issue still up in the air? Yes, Republicans might well try to filibuster a Warren appointment, but that’s a fight the administration should welcome.
O.K., I don’t really know what’s going on. But I worry that Mr. Obama is still wrapped up in his dream of transcending partisanship, while his aides dislike the idea of having to deal with strong, independent voices. And the end result of this game-playing is an administration that seems determined to alienate its friends.
Just to be clear, progressives would be foolish to sit out this election: Mr. Obama may not be the politician of their dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of their nightmares. But Mr. Obama has a responsibility, too. He can’t expect strong support from people his administration keeps ignoring and insulting.
"Ain't nobody messin' with you, but you"
Labels: grateful dead
Party of nos
Labels: Republican outreach
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A nation of idiots
*I'm probably being unfair to the press. As I sought out links, it became evident that the press -- with a reliably predictable exception, of course -- did pretty well in debunking the "death panel" nonsense. Because of that, the entire episode make me despair for our political and health care systems even more.
Brown-eyed handsome man
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Palin is the liberol media's fault, obviously
One should say this, however: I have no way of knowing what the DC has omitted, and how it has shaped this information. The thread stops rather abruptly. Maybe there is context that adds to what we know. I do not trust in any way the ethics of the Daily Caller. Nonetheless, I was obviously not alone in those August days, when I was pilloried for saying out loud what the entire chattering class was saying in private. Check these quotes out. First Ezra, setting down the line:
Seriously, folks? Best case scenario, what’s your outcome here: Her daughter, hounded by the tabloids, breaks down that it was her child, and her mother heroically took on the burden and welcomed the disabled boy as one of her own? Palin’s relationship with her children — however they may have come to her — strikes me as pretty far out of bounds. By all accounts she’s a wonderful mother, and devoted to her fifth son. Leave this be.
If you want to know why the allegedly liberal media didn't touch - and still won't touch - this story, look no further. It has nothing to do with the facts, and everything to do with their politics. Notice the core modus operandi of the political operative, not the journalist. When dealing with a story: first ask yourself not if it is true but whether the outcome benefits your side. Second, write things in defense of this that you cannot possibly know. Palin a "wonderful mother"? How on earth did Klein know that?
Here's Katha Pollitt, untroubled by the possible truth:
I like what you said about this possibly being a dirty trick, intended to blow up in our faces. so let’s just leave it alone…
“We” don’t have to do any digging. There’s enough reason for suspicion that the entire GOP research team is probably off the Obama-Biden job for the weekend to figure out what they don’t know, but should have, about Sarah Palin.
Actually, we know that the McCain team never asked her about this at all - and still don't know. They just played the simple denial game, demanded deference, worked out an agreement with the liberal media not to inquire into the story, and never, ever asked about it. But they sure felt that there was something fishy here. Laura Rozen:
seriously, if her water broke and the baby was what two months premature, it doesn’t seem normal to have not gone straight to the nearest hospital. again, if the official story is true. but that just doesn’t make any sense.
Er, yes - but if a story doesn't make sense and inquiring into it might backfire, the liberal journalists won't inquire. "Leave this be" comes the instructions from Ezra, and leave this be they dutifully did. Lamar Robertson:
all right. this is getting way fishy now. 1) getting onto the plane TO ALASKA after your water breaks? i’m sorry. that does not happen. i live 2 minutes from the hospital. my wife went to the hospital immediately after her water broke w/ my second child and it was almost too late to get the epidural. 2) the baby was 6 lbs, 2 oz? That’s a healthy sized baby for a preemie. it’s also incongruous w/ the notion that she — a thin person — wasn’t showing at 7 months.
If the date on this photo from the Anchorage Daily News web site is correct, she is absolutely, positively, not seven months pregnant.
When I first heard this story, I thought it was preposterous. (And btw, a scenario similar to this lurid tale occurred last season on Desperate Housewives). And maybe I really am losing it, driven over the edge at last by my hatred of all things Republican, but at this point I’m starting to believe it.
All great points. Especially the latter. But nothing was to be aired in public, for fear of backlash from the right.
This is your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen: totally partisan, interested in the truth only if it advances their agenda, and devoid of any balls whatsoever. And people wonder how this farce of a candidate now controls one major political party and could well be our next president. One reason is that we do not have a functioning adversarial media uncorrupted by partisan loyalty and tactics.
Note, none of those listed above are journalists in the sense of reporters covering politics for an established newspaper, but rather opinion writers working for what are generally partisan, liberal, activist publications/web sites. But no matter. Their "collusion" in basically agreeing that the weird but inconsequential* birth of Palin's baby is probably not worth talking much about and could have the effect of increasing Palin's popularity is a sure sign that the "adversarial media" allowed Palin to be where she is today: one of the least popular political figures of any note in the country.
Well done liberols.
*And, yes, I know it would be further proof of the grifter's penchant for making shit up. But, really, we're talking about an infant, not a bridge to nowhere. There's already plenty of evidence of her grifterhood.
Tuesday's just as bad -- Champagne and Reefer edition
Monday, July 26, 2010
The lynching continues
I have to admit, just when you think you've got these motherfuckers figured out, they come at you from a new, yet more disgusting angle.
Labels: Republican shark jumping
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Contador wins the Tour
Haven't written much about this year's Tour, but I gotta say, it was one of the most compelling in years, from the cycling gods making clear to Lance that it's time to retire, to the battle in the Pyrenees, right down to today's time trial and what is shaping up to be one of the great rivalries. Congratulations, Alberto Contador. Next year, Andy Schleck.
Labels: Tour de France
Friday, July 23, 2010
Dan Schorr, 1916-2010
Mama seemed to know what lay in store
Labels: Merle Haggard
The Hatch Act?
They can't quit him, man
Again, Republicans aren’t trying to rescue George W. Bush’s reputation for sentimental reasons; they’re trying to clear the way for a return to Bush policies. And this carries a message for anyone hoping that the next time Republicans are in power, they’ll behave differently. If you believe that they’ve learned something — say, about fiscal prudence or the importance of effective regulation — you’re kidding yourself. You might as well face it: they’re addicted to Bush.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Random thoughts In These Great Times,
Tea Party aficionados appear to be motivated...well besides by astroturf groups...by vague anxiety about losing an America they once thought they had. More to the point, they're certain they're losing entitlements in favor of people not like them.
And their intellectual leader doubles down on their insanity by insisting America stand up to the Islamofascists through religious intolerance. That'll show those towel heads.
* Yes, I know his colleagues in the movement were shocked, shocked by his parody letter and "dismissed him from the movement." I'm sure that amongst friends he's never been known to express those sentiments. He only does it for public consumption.
As he got ready to manage in a World Series game for the first time, against the Cincinnati Reds in 1961, Houk was asked if he was nervous. “Why, is somebody going to be shooting at me?” he replied, according to “The Man in the Dugout” (Crown, 1992) by Leonard Koppett.
Houk had displayed his courage as an armored corps officer in World War II, winning the Silver Star. Upon returning to baseball, he was known as the Major, a tribute to his commanding presence, whatever the uniform.
When he became manager of the Yankees in October 1960, Houk stepped into a pressure-filled situation: he was replacing a man who had won 10 pennants and 7 World Series.
“There’s only one Casey Stengel,” he said. “I’m Ralph Houk.”
Why does the president hate me?
Ya know, we all recognize that the tactics of Breitbart, Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox News generally are to fire up the wingnut base in hatred of Democrats. What we often fail to recognize is that the same tactics are intended to fire up the liberal base as well...also, to hate Democrats.
They're masters of the media. We're putzes.
Labels: Mainstream wingnuttery
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
It's been almost two years since America collectively patted itself on the back for electing a black president. And since then, we've proved conclusively that we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race. I'm just wondering when we're going to finally grow up?
We don't know -- maybe never will know -- whether the White House told Vilsack to demand Shirley Sharrod's resignation, or whether Vilsack -- deploring "the unseemly" history of the USDA's history of discrimination against black, native American, and latino farmers -- acted entirely on his own. But I do know this: the administration is now running scared away from any and all accusations of "reverse racism," no matter the disreputable source. They need to stop running and take a stand against these cowards who through edited videos and cabalistic etch-a-sketch blackboards, are willing to destroy people's reputations in order to score points and web traffic.
It doesn't matter now. All the pushback in the world doesn't change these fuckers' sick minds.
UPDATE: Oh, my mistake. Shirley Sharrod is the victim of left wing race-baiting.
It was intended to be "effective?"
MEXICO CITY — Despite claims by the United States and Mexico that drug traffickers are feeling the effects of the countries’ joint offensive, a review by the Government Accountability Office has found that millions of dollars have been spent without enough regard for whether the money is doing any good.
The office did say in a report to be released Wednesday that the Obama administration had done a better job in recent months of spending the roughly $1.6 billion set aside to fight drug traffickers in Mexico and Central America. Critics in the region have said bureaucratic hurdles have delayed the aid, which includes training and helicopters.
But the report said the State Department, which is overseeing the so-called Merida Initiative to combat drugs in the region, had failed to set specific targets to determine whether the money was having the desired effect of disrupting organized crime groups and reforming law enforcement agencies.
“Without targets to strive toward, State cannot determine if it is meeting expectations under the Merida Initiative,” the report said.
Officials in Washington and Mexico City typically point to the huge quantities of drugs, guns and money being seized and the number of arrests being made as evidence that traffickers are on their heels. Critics, however, point to the continued violence in Mexico as a sign that the traffickers remain strong.
Now there is an opportunity for deficit reduction and the potential job loss in the U.S. would be minimal.
The new new Mighty Wurlitzer, this time with More Evil
The Atlantic's Josh Green puts it best.
Breitbart focuses on race. Today's episode with Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from the Agriculture Department on the basis of a doctored and intentionally misleading videotape (see below), is an especially ugly case in point, calculated to stir the very worst racial resentments. This time the political world--the NAACP, the Agriculture Secretary--moved as quickly as the media world to unthinking response, and I suspect it happened precisely because race was involved. I don't doubt that the administration's understandable desire to avoid racial issues played a big part in how this turned out.
But what's galling to me--gut-wrenching, really, like watching old news footage of blacks being beaten and clubbed at lunch counters--is that Breitbart obviously understood the powerful effect his tape would have, posted it anyway, and then assumed the role of ringmaster, expertly conducting the media circus, fanning the flames. It's hardly the first time. But the moral ugliness of what's just happened is glaring, and it's hard for me to see how the media can justify continuing to treat Breitbart as simply a roguish provocateur. He's something much darker.
Breitbart wants to claim this isn't about him or Sherrod. It's about the NAACP, he says, which "spent an inordinate amount of airtime trying to brand the Tea Party as racist”. But no, it's about Breitbart and the rest of the cowardly motherfuckers, like Beck and Limbaugh who see no problem in using the power of their medium and the turnip pickers in the press to destroy a person's reputation and livelihood in an effort to punish some group that had the audacity to criticize them or an organization with which they share "values." That the press still, Pavlov's dog-like and after this and this, responds to their provocations and their videos (which, inevitably turns out to be less then meets they eye) so predictably, makes me almost too furious to write. At least coherently.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Stop whining, start hiring
After an eight-year slumber, the Environmental Protection Agency is again issuing regulations. Two years after an appalling financial debacle, Congress has finally moved to regulate Wall Street. But to hear our nation's corporate chieftains tell it, it's enough to plunge us back into recession. "We have to become an industrial powerhouse again, but you don't do this when government and entrepreneurs are not in sync," lamented GE CEO Jeff Immelt in a recent speech. On July 12, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Federation of Independent Business held a "Jobs for America" summit. While President Obama met with CEOs at the White House, the summiteers called for—wait for it!—cutting taxes for companies, extending tax cuts for the wealthy, and opening up federal areas for resource exploration.
The notion of these guys holding a jobs summit is a little like BP holding a deepwater-drilling safety summit. Between 2001 and 2009, corporate America designed the playing field to its specifications—easy money from the Federal Reserve; lower taxes on capital gains, dividends, and income; an administration that let industry essentially write its own regulations. But the players proceeded to put up goose eggs. In January 2001, there were 111.6 million private-sector payroll jobs in the United States. In January 2009, when Bush left office, there were 110.9 million. The stock market is basically where it was a decade ago. The lost decade ended with the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
It's the tax payers that should be pissed -- at these CEOs. Truth of the matter is, in addition to their expertise at taking the boardroom equivalent of soccer's "flopping," they're very good at cutting jobs, very piss poor at innovation or even just "new product development." For Immelt to use the word "entrepreneur" -- implying that he is a member of that club -- would be hilarious...unless I were a GE stockholder who's watched the stock price decline some 60% since Immelt took over while the S&P has been flat.
Labels: CEOs and soccer stars
The new Al Sharpton
In recent days, the New Black Panthers have been at the center of an unrelated furor over what conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin say is reverse racism in the Obama administration. And the New Black Panther Party is itself a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even Bobby Seale, a leader of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s, has called it “a black racist hate group” that is usurping the original Panther name.
My emphasis, nach. Actually, if thee was any "reverse racism," it occurred while the Bush administration was still in office, at least in the case the Palin and Limbaugh -- our leading lights on racial outreach-- mention. It would be helpful if the newspaper of record could put the record straight on that rather than further hype charges that have no basis in fact.
Friday, July 16, 2010
He should have just focused on "Midnight Basketball" programs, I suppose
Politico's big news analysis yesterday made a similar point. As this appears to be a new conventional wisdom -- Obama's big policy agenda has driven down his popularity -- it's worth considering a counterfactual: what if Obama didn't have an ambitious domestic agenda? Some downsides spring to mind immediately: he'd be abandoning his campaign platform, he'd be seen as weak and ineffectual, his base would be in full revolt. Would Republicans be less wild-eyed with rage? They were no less apoplectic at Bill Clinton even after Clinton abandoned his ambitious agenda. The conservative mood is like the sound system in Spinal Tap, always set at 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, but occasionally cranked up to 11.
He then goes on to revisit the one term of George H.W. Bush who, in the midst of a much milder recession than we have today, was attacked for lacking a domestic agenda.
Even if Obama had the political space with Democrats to abandon his campaign platform, and even if he could have enacted some non-controversial stimulus without any economic ill effects, voters would still be upset over the economy. The accusation would simply be that he's an impotent bystander to the crisis. It's certainly true that voters disapprove of the stimulus. But that's no reason to assume that Obama had any more politically expedient course of action at hand. Different world leaders have tried all sorts of domestic approaches during the economic crisis, and pretty much all of them have seen their popularity fall.
That's pretty much spot on, but I take exception with his implication that somehow a smaller stimulus package would have avoided "any economic ill effects." Truth is, the stimulus that was enacted was too weak, but it did keep the unemployment rate from rising any higher. A larger one -- a more controversial one -- likely would have helped much, much more, particularly in aid to state governments.
Anyway, I'd go further than Mr. Chait. Ever since Obama first announced his candidacy, the media has underestimated he and his team's relentless focus on the long view, and I think they're underestimating that now. The Washington press also has consistently misunderstood Obama's approach. I'm sure they think he's bullshitting them when he says he'd rather be a successful one-term president then a two-term president who fails to get anything meaningful accomplished. I don't think he is bullshitting when he says that. He and his team were also keenly aware, from the morning following that wonderful night in Grant Park, that they had an extremely limited window in which to work. Only a fool would have expected that in this economy and with a history of the president's party losing seats in midterms, that they could take their time in rolling out their agenda. They understood that momentum is all and that the largest majorities in 40 years was not going to be permanent (though I doubt they understood just how lock-step Republican opposition to...anything...would be).
The fact that within 18 months or so the administration has helped (with all props to Pelosi and Reid) push through Congress major stimulus, Lily Ledbetter, the hugely successful "cash for clunkers" program, the 60 year old dream of health care reform, the most comprehensive reform of the financial system since FDR's administration all point to indications of a very impressive first term.
But yes, that is all BIG political accomplishments. BIG, at at time when the CWIB keeps reminding us that we don't do BIG anymore. At a time when the opposition party can take advantage of the size and scope of the accomplishments and cynically manipulate ignorant voters, and that getting 61 votes for a bill is "bludgeoning." At a time when the press does little to push back on rhetoric about "socialism," "job-killing," "bank bailouts," and "death panels." At a time -- let's face it -- when the racism and unhinged hatred that had been bubbling just at the surface during the campaign, has bloomed like red algae in August.
At a time when unemployment stubbornly remains at over 9% even as the business climate steadily improves.
At a time for chrissakes, when Republicans stroke claims that Obama's very presidency is unconstitutional.
And come the August congressional recess, when the campaign season finally begins in earnest, I think much of that misrepresentation is going to start getting pushed back on in a big way. Maybe that push back doesn't prove successful, but to say that Obama's policy achievements are political failures because of poll numbers in July or because Dems may lose a seat or two in the Senate and a few more in the House is short sighted indeed.
But. Oh. Shit. I'm on the same page as Krauthammer?
Time will show the wiser
Labels: Fairport Convention
"Veeck, rhymes with 'wreck'"
The RiverDogs are owned by Mike Veeck, the son of Bill Veeck.
In response to his critics, Veeck once said, "All I ever said is that you can draw more people with a losing team, plus bread and circuses, than with a losing team and a long, still silence."
Labels: baseball and politics
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The giggles and munchies
And, just to ask it, just how dweebish were these blowdried "reporters" in high school?
Yes, but I was expecting a pony
"Don't make me cut your mic"
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Limbaugh keeps it classy
Hey, fat boy, don't let the door hit you on your way out.
And their eyes sparkle
One more reminder that this is all Bush's fault
George Steinbrenner, RIP
Coincidentally, I just began reading Steinbrenner -- I hadn't been aware of just how successful he'd been during his formative Cleveland years...nor just how venal and dishonest he could be with the people around him. The more involved he was with building teams, the less successful were those teams (the best teams were built while he was banished from the game, for illegal campaign contributions to CREEP in the early 70s and, in the early 90s, for "consorting with a gambler" in a pathetic effort to get dirt on the Dave Winfield foundation during a contract dispute with his right fielder).
But he knew the value of the brand that he owned, and he was the first owner to really understand the power of free agency -- he knew the latter would enhance baseball rather than destroy it, the position of most of his fellow owners. And he has been proven right. He saw that if you put quality on the field -- if the fans know the organization demands winning -- the fans will come to the Stadium. He wasn't the first to recognize the power of a super-regional TV network, but under his ownership the Yankees took it further, faster than any other organization, turning "super-regional" into "nationwide."
Mostly, though, I will miss "the missives."
UPDATE: More from the Pinstriped Blogger on George and Bob.
UPDATE: Fixed link
The world's oldest rock star dies
The Fugs was formed in 1964 in Mr. Sanders’s Peace Eye Bookstore, a former kosher meat store on East 10th Street in Manhattan. By then Mr. Kupferberg, already in his 40s, was something of a Beatnik celebrity. He was an anthologized poet and had published underground literary magazines with titles like Birth and Yeah.
He had also found notoriety as the inspiration for a character in Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” As Ginsberg and Mr. Kupferberg acknowledged, he was the one who “jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten,” a reference to a 1945 suicide attempt (off the Manhattan Bridge, not Brooklyn) that had been preciptated by what he called a nervous breakdown.
The fame that episode earned him caused Mr. Kupferberg a lifetime of chagrin and embarrassment. “Throughout the years,” he later said, “I have been annoyed many times by, ‘Oh, did you really jump off the Brooklyn Bridge?,’ as if it was a great accomplishment.”
The Fugs’ first album, “The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Points of View and General Dissatisfaction,” was released in 1965. The band became a staple of underground galleries and theaters, as well as antiwar rallies. In concert Mr. Kupferberg was often the group’s mascot or harlequin, acting out satirical pantomimes — an American soldier who turns into a Nazi, for example — or sometimes not singing at all.
On subsequent albums the band changed its lineup many times and acquired a more professional sound, though its scatological themes got it kicked off at least one major record label.
With his bushy beard and wild hair, Mr. Kupferberg embodied the hippie aesthetic. But the term he preferred was bohemian, which to him signified a commitment to art as well as a rejection of restrictive bourgeois values, and as a scholar of the counterculture he traced the term back to an early use by students at the University of Paris. Among his books were “1,001 Ways to Live Without Working” — and for decades he was a frequent sight in Lower Manhattan, selling his cartoons on the street and serving as a grandfather figure for generations of nonconformists.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Truth won't out
“Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be,” read a recent Onion headline. Like the best satire, this nasty little gem elicits a laugh, which is then promptly muffled by the queasy feeling of recognition. The last five decades of political science have definitively established that most modern-day Americans lack even a basic understanding of how their country works. In 1996, Princeton University’s Larry M. Bartels argued, “the political ignorance of the American voter is one of the best documented data in political science.”
On its own, this might not be a problem: People ignorant of the facts could simply choose not to vote. But instead, it appears that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout. More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. (Most of these participants expressed views that suggested a strong antiwelfare bias.)
Studies by other researchers have observed similar phenomena when addressing education, health care reform, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and other issues that tend to attract strong partisan opinion. Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”
What’s going on? How can we have things so wrong, and be so sure that we’re right? Part of the answer lies in the way our brains are wired. Generally, people tend to seek consistency. There is a substantial body of psychological research showing that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views. If we believe something about the world, we are more likely to passively accept as truth any information that confirms our beliefs, and actively dismiss information that doesn’t. This is known as “motivated reasoning.” Whether or not the consistent information is accurate, we might accept it as fact, as confirmation of our beliefs. This makes us more confident in said beliefs, and even less likely to entertain facts that contradict them.
New research, published in the journal Political Behavior last month, suggests that once those facts — or “facts” — are internalized, they are very difficult to budge. In 2005, amid the strident calls for better media fact-checking in the wake of the Iraq war, Michigan’s Nyhan and a colleague devised an experiment in which participants were given mock news stories, each of which contained a provably false, though nonetheless widespread, claim made by a political figure: that there were WMDs found in Iraq (there weren’t), that the Bush tax cuts increased government revenues (revenues actually fell), and that the Bush administration imposed a total ban on stem cell research (only certain federal funding was restricted). Nyhan inserted a clear, direct correction after each piece of misinformation, and then measured the study participants to see if the correction took.
For the most part, it didn’t. The participants who self-identified as conservative believed the misinformation on WMD and taxes even more strongly after being given the correction. With those two issues, the more strongly the participant cared about the topic — a factor known as salience — the stronger the backfire. The effect was slightly different on self-identified liberals: When they read corrected stories about stem cells, the corrections didn’t backfire, but the readers did still ignore the inconvenient fact that the Bush administration’s restrictions weren’t total.
Glenn Beck understands this.
Labels: Glenn Beck demagoguery
The Voice of God
From the last days of DiMaggio through the primes of Mantle, Berra, Jackson and Jeter, Sheppard’s precise, resonant, even Olympian elocution — he was sometimes called the Voice of God — greeted Yankees fans with the words, “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Yankee Stadium.”
“The Yankees and Bob Sheppard were a marriage made in heaven,” said Paul Sheppard, a 71-year-old financial adviser. “I know St. Peter will now recruit him. If you’re lucky enough to go to heaven, you’ll be greeted by a voice, saying: ‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to heaven!’ ”
In an era of blaring stadium music, of public-address announcers styling themselves as entertainers and cheerleaders, Sheppard, a man with a passion for poetry and Shakespeare, shunned hyperbole.
“A public-address announcer should be clear, concise, correct,” he said. “He should not be colorful, cute or comic.”
Labels: Bob Sheppard voice of God
Friday, July 09, 2010
It should turn out better than "Disco Demolition Night"
Friday dog blogging
Labels: dog blogging
The view from Bristol, CT
Thursday, July 08, 2010
"I was trying to survive"
“This guy came up to me a little while ago,” Gibson says. “Did you hear him? He goes: ‘You were so mean when you pitched. You hit all these guys.’ Stuff like that. I mean, that’s all right, people can think what they want. They can have their own memories. But you know how many times I’ve heard that? And I was thinking: Who comes up to you and says something like that?
“I wasn’t mean. I don’t buy into any of it. I was just doing my job. You hear people talk about this glare that I had. You know, I’ve been wearing glasses for almost 60 years. I wasn’t glaring … I just couldn’t see the catcher’s signals. I was just trying to see. That’s all. But people turn everything into something else.”
He shakes his head. People turn everything in something else. He’s not angry, or anyway he does not sound angry. That voice. So friendly. He seems almost amused by it all — the reputation, the aura, the way people seem endlessly fascinated by the way he looked, the way he threw a baseball. It’s like there was this part he once played, when he was young, this part of a pitcher who scowled and raged and struck out hitters on high fastballs … and that part lives on, grows bigger every year.
Only he doesn’t play the part anymore.
The comments section includes an interesting "twist" to the story as well.
I have nothing against Massachusetts politicians running for president. But the world's most important elected office carries responsibilities, including the duty to check your facts even if you're in a footrace to the right against Sarah Palin. More than that, you need to understand that when it comes to nuclear danger, the nation's security is more important than scoring cheap political points.
If it was a just world, that would leave a mark. But it is not a just world. Nevertheless, if Romney wants to debate his world view versus the president's, he's free to do so. If he wants to extol the virtues of the "Bush doctrine (assuming he knows what it is)," endorse the experiment in American hegemony for which we're still paying a massive price in Afghanistan and Iraq, if he wants the world to do our bidding out of fear rather than mutual self-interest, if he is willing to accept that some countries won't cooperate because they despise our arrogant behavior, then he should do just that. Not hide those attributes in an attack on a treaty that has the support of the Pentagon, Sen. Lugar, Henry Kissinger, et. al., and of which he appears entirely ignorant.
Rich journalistic portraits
That is, I was roused to contempt for Nicholson's whole generation based on the example of some rich kid.I'm not so sure that that's entirely the Times' motives. The economy's effect on the children of the wealthy is simply of inherent interest to the readers of the Times. They know these kids. Good lads who did all the right things, attended the right schools, made the right connections and still cannot find a job that meets their expectations and their location requirements.
Were I a more paranoid sort, I might think that by using Nicholson as an avatar of disenfranchised youth, the Times was trying to minimize the situation of all jobless young people by making me think of them as slackers. But having been inside the sausage factories I know better. The story is more likely to have had its genesis in a specific access opportunity than in a memo from the Committee for Manufacturing Consent. But a clever editor who heard of it may have foreseen how it would come out, and looked forward to a wave of outraged and dismissive linkage from across the internet. So far I've only seen this, from an apparatchik who can read but still wants to believe ("On the other hand, this story shows that even the privileged, spoiled, affluent youth are hurt by the ObamaEconomy"). But give it time.
I was similarly struck by the story in today's paper about the widow of Robert Parker who assuaged her grief through...redecoration. I wondered, why do editors come up with these stories? Why do they think New York Times readers care?
Then, I notice it's the ninth most emailed story of the day.
Labels: the rich are different
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
WASHINGTON — As a sign of the pride Representative Darrell Issa takes in annoying the Obama administration, consider his account of a recent exchange with Rahm Emanuel, a former congressman and now the White House chief of staff. In describing the episode — a chance encounter outside the House gym — Mr. Issa smirked and raised his middle finger.
“That’s the only thing Rahm did when he saw me,” Mr. Issa, a California Republican, boasted in an interview in his House office. He waved the unfriendly digit in the air like a trophy before folding it into a nub (to mimic Mr. Emanuel, who lost part of his finger in a long-ago meat-cutting accident). More annoying? Mr. Emanuel, through a spokeswoman, said the incident did not occur.
Ha, ha, ha, he's missing a finger! But what's really funny is how often folks claim to have run in to Rahm Emanuel while showering. Now that should lead to calls for a congressional investigation.
Much is made in the article about Issa's felonious youth, but, oddly, the piece fails to mention a particular tick of the Times -- excoriating politicians for lying about their military service. Another omission by the paper from New York is Issa's attitude towards Ground Zero workers.
But I digress. Issa, who has said he will unleash a blizzard of subpoenas on the Obama administration and take us back to those fun years of 1998, has been
shameless tireless in going after the alleged Sestak "deal" with the White House.
Mr. Issa calls himself a Reagan Republican, but his true compass these days seems to be whatever gets under the administration’s skin — and gets him on television. His highest-profile pursuit has been to investigate the White House’s attempts to “clear the field” of Democratic challengers in Senate races in Colorado and Pennsylvania. According to an internal report, White House officials had urged Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania — through former President Bill Clinton — not to challenge the incumbent, Arlen Specter. They dangled possible unpaid positions in the administration as an incentive (Mr. Sestak ran anyway and won).
But, sadly, The "Reagan Republican" has a short memory.
"Similarly, multiple nuclear warheads that are mounted on bombers are effectively not counted. Unlike past treaty restrictions, ICBMs are not prohibited from bombers. This means that Russia is free to mount a nearly unlimited number of ICBMs on bombers—including MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) or multiple warheads—without tripping the treaty's limits."
This is where I began to wonder if Romney had fallen prey to someone, perhaps a spy from Sarah Palin's camp, who wanted to make him look like an idiot.
ICBMs are not "mounted on," or loaded inside, bombers. The only nuclear weapons carried by bombers are bombs; that's why they're called bombers. (Many years ago, some B-52s and B-1s were equipped with air-launched cruise missiles, which flew through the atmosphere, as opposed to intercontinental ballistic missiles, which arc outside the atmosphere. These ALCMs no longer exist, in any case.) Certainly bombers are incapable of carrying MIRVs (which, by the way, are "multiple warheads" loaded onto the tips of missiles).
I think Romney's ghostwriter might have mixed up one of his talking points. New START counts each bomber as if it is carrying just one nuclear bomb, even though it almost certainly carries several. This counting rule was established for practical reasons. A bomber might carry three bombs one day, a dozen the next, with no need to alter its design. There's no way to verify how many it's carrying. So they agreed just to count one bomber as one bomb.
The thing is, this counting rule is to the United States' advantage, not Russia's. We have 113 heavy bombers; they have 77. So, if this is what Romney's ghostwriter meant to take note of, it's not a problem with the treaty, not from the U.S. point of view.
The problem is, as Marc Ambinder muses, if Romney is pushing out propaganda about the treaty, it means he means to make it part of the 2012 campaign. Which means the treaty, which has the support of most U.S. experts as well as the Pentagon brass, will be another Republican talking-point and will surely not get the bipartisan support these treaties generally receive, whether negotiated by a Democratic or a Republican administration.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
The Man and His Cutter
Vote for Trot?
Hope you had a terrific Fourth of July -- and I hope you'll afford me what the Senate calls a "point of personal privilege." All 3 million of you in the johnkerry.com community have done incredible work these last seven years on some of the biggest fights of our lives. This isn't one of them. But it's not small potatoes either if you're a Red Sox fan. (If you're a Yankees fan, read no further.)
of the is an All Star in anyone's book. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, he hustles, he has a great bat and a glove to match, and he brings with it the kind of intensity we respected for years in guys like . Youk deserves to be in the All-Star game -- while the team has grinded it out in spite of injury after injury, he's been a rock. But now he needs to win a fan vote to make it to Anaheim next week.
Really? I guess it's not unseemly for a politician to pull for a local sports hero, but...really. And comparing Youkilis to Trot Nixon...well, sheesh. The former is a career .892 OPS, and currently holds an astronomical 1.002 OPS. He can also play 3rd as well as 1st. Little Trotman, on the other hand, was a right fielder whose career OPS was 70 points lower and had only two seasons when he appeared in more than 140 games.
And he was annoying to this Yankee fan, but I guess that was the main attraction for Boston. So, just for that, you know what to do.
Labels: Baseball villains
A quick note on David Brooks’s column today. I have no idea what he’s talking about when he says,
The Demand Siders don’t have a good explanation for the past two years
Funny, I thought we had a perfectly good explanation: severe downturn in demand from the financial crisis, and a stimulus which we warned from the beginning wasn’t nearly big enough. And as I’ve been trying to point out, events have strongly confirmed a demand-side view of the world.
But there’s something else in David’s column, which I see a lot: the argument that because a lot of important people believe something, it must make sense:
Moreover, the Demand Siders write as if everybody who disagrees with them is immoral or a moron. But, in fact, many prize-festooned economists do not support another stimulus. Most European leaders and central bankers think it’s time to begin reducing debt, not increasing it — as do many economists at the international economic institutions. Are you sure your theorists are right and theirs are wrong?
Yes, I am. It’s called looking at the evidence. I’ve looked hard at the arguments the Pain Caucus is making, the evidence that supposedly supports their case — and there’s no there there.
And you just have to wonder how it’s possible to have lived through the last ten years and still imagine that because a lot of Serious People believe something, you should believe it too. Iraq? Housing bubble? Inflation? (It’s worth remembering that Trichet actually raised rates in June 2008, because he believed that inflation — not the financial crisis — was the big threat facing Europe.)
The moral I’ve taken from recent years isn’t Be Humble — it’s Question Authority. And you should too.
UPDATE: And Dean Baker thinks Brooks is an ill-informed idiot, too.
Get out the vote initiative?
Labels: legalize it
Monday, July 05, 2010
But there are also, one hopes, at least a few political players who are honestly misinformed about what unemployment benefits do — who believe, for example, that Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, was making sense when he declared that extending benefits would make unemployment worse, because “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.” So let’s talk about why that belief is dead wrong.
Do unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work? Yes: workers receiving unemployment benefits aren’t quite as desperate as workers without benefits, and are likely to be slightly more choosy about accepting new jobs. The operative word here is “slightly”: recent economic research suggests that the effect of unemployment benefits on worker behavior is much weaker than was previously believed. Still, it’s a real effect when the economy is doing well.
But it’s an effect that is completely irrelevant to our current situation. When the economy is booming, and lack of sufficient willing workers is limiting growth, generous unemployment benefits may keep employment lower than it would have been otherwise. But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn’t booming — again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work — but they can’t take jobs that aren’t there.
Wait: there’s more. One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.
But won’t extending unemployment benefits worsen the budget deficit? Yes, slightly — but as I and others have been arguing at length, penny-pinching in the midst of a severely depressed economy is no way to deal with our long-run budget problems. And penny-pinching at the expense of the unemployed is cruel as well as misguided.
So, is there any chance that these arguments will get through? Not, I fear, to Republicans: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, in this case, his hope of retaking Congress — “depends upon his not understanding it.” But there are also centrist Democrats who have bought into the arguments against helping the unemployed. It’s up to them to step back, realize that they have been misled — and do the right thing by passing extended benefits.
As Krugman writes at the start of his column, extending benefits in the midst of a massive downturn and unemployment used to be taken for granted. Nowadays, as Republicans cynically calculate and far too many Democrats impotently dither, not so much.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Tour blogging 2010
“I do think controversy is part of the rich history of the sport,” Stapleton said. “It’s not like you have a controlled message in cycling, something coming from a commissioner or a league office. Here, you have every team commenting on what’s going on and every big cycling fan commenting on what’s going on. For the past 100 years of the Tour de France, there has been controversy. The sport thrives off it and breeds it.”
But Cancellara has not been happy about it, at least when he is at the center of it. After his victory, he wondered if as many people watched him race on Saturday as watched the video of his alleged motorized doping on YouTube.
Others did not take the allegations so seriously. After the Garmin-Transitions rider David Zabriskie’s bike was X-rayed, the Garmin team director, Jonathan Vaughters, commented about it on Twitter.
“Zab’s bike is the first to go through the bike scanner,” Vaughters wrote. “They didn’t find a motor, but they did find an old 8 track of the Eagles.”
Crazy Stage One today, with awesome crashes.
And congratulations to Rafael Nadal whose knees looked ok to me. NBC is about to replay the Borg/McEnroe match from 30 years ago, considered the best tie-breaker of all time.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Don't do it
Have a great holiday instead.
Labels: The Band
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Grant's last days
Labels: Still fighting the Civil War
Holding the unemployed hostage to midterms
Unemployment bill fails to beat filibuster, 59-37
Republicans, along with a delusional Ben Nelson, believe the prospect of picking up a few more seats in Congress is more valuable than easing the burden for the unemployed in an economy that still isn't adding jobs. Or aiding states whose coffers are exhausted, which could make a real impact on the national economy. The cynicism is, even by current standards, stunning...and since most of the media simply reports, "Senate fails to extend jobless benefits," the real villains here go unmolested.
The pity, though, is that this dispute has gotten quieter and quieter, even as its results have become more and more dire. The vote last night means that 2 million Americans will lose their unemployment checks by July 12. But neither the New York Times nor The Washington Post are carrying it on their homepages above the fold.
As my unmarried partner Annie Lowrey points out, the nature of these benefits, which expire every few months and force a new round of votes and battles, has left everyone -- particularly the Senate exhausted by the subject. Promoting another story about another vote to extend another round of another jobless program blends into the background at this point. And that means that even if the Senate does manage to pass one more extension when they return in mid-July, it's likely to be the last of the extensions. The problem, of course, is that unemployment does not share their exhaustion.