Pure Deception

Eric Boehlert’s piece on the sad state of the right wing media in the wake of yesterday’s revelations about James O’Keefe’s plans to sexually assault a CNN reporter as a “prank” is a must-read. With O’Keefe, Boehlert sees a recognition that the right doesn’t even care about having the patina of truthiness in their work anymore. Instead, all that matters is being anti-Obama, anti-Democrat and pro-whatever the extremes of the right are saying. Rather than exile O’Keefe – if not for fraudulent and doctored videos of ACORN, then being convicted attempting to bug Senator Landrieu’s office or now for planning to force a reporter into a compromising sexual position – the best that the right musters is silence. This hack should be tossed to the trash bin of politics by Republicans and Tea Party alike, yet he remains a hero and a Member in Good Standing of the Republican Movement.

Beyond lying and deception, what sort of sick mind thinks trying to con and corner a reporter into a sexually compromising situation is a useful political tool? James O’Keefe is a sociopath and you have to wonder what it says about his colleagues on the right.

Daou & Attributing Blame to Liberal Bloggers

Peter Daou has a follow-up to his piece on Obama and the blogs yesterday. He makes a couple points that I really don’t think stand up on their own any more.

First, he continues to cite the critical writings of liberal bloggers like Glenn Greenwald, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher as contributing to a drop in the President’s approval rating:

The title of my post (“How a handful of liberal bloggers are bringing down the Obama presidency“) was largely interpreted as a slam on the bloggers themselves. It certainly wasn’t meant as one, which I hope was clear from the body of the post. Rather, it was intended as a literal observation that a small group with disproportionate influence was contributing to President Obama’s depressed approval ratings by holding him accountable whenever he appeared to undermine core Democratic and progressive principles. [Emphasis added]

It may be true that some people disapprove of the President because of what they’ve read about him on prominent liberal blogs. But I don’t know of a single national poll which has asked this question and certainly not with the degree of specificity Daou is attributing to people like Greenwald, Hamsher and Wheeler. I just don’t buy the notion that a handful of liberal bloggers are significantly or even measurably contributing to a drop in Obama’s approval rating.

Second, he cites blogs and social networks as the source of negative headlines that damage the administration in the public’s eyes:

I’ve argued that the cauldron of opinion that churns incessantly on blogs, Twitter, social networks, and in the elite media generates the storylines that filter across the national and local press, providing the fodder for public opinion and ultimately determining conventional wisdom.

Blogs and social networks are responsive. They notice what the administration or Congress or right wing activists are doing and highlight these activities. They do not create the stories of, say, the President ordering to have a US-born American citizen to be killed without trial. The responsibility for generating news lies with the agents, not the people watching what is happening.

Daou worries that problems for the administration really happen when “left and right come to agree that a political leader is on the wrong track.” But I don’t know of a single notable instance (excepting the audit the Fed efforts) where prominent voices on the left and right have a negative opinion of what the President is doing for the same reasons. For example, the right wing pretty universally opposes health care reform, but a plurality of Americans (and a lot of prominent liberal bloggers) are disappointed with health care reform because it did not go far enough. These are not the same thing! More to the point, the President still has a 78% approval rating among Democrats (PDF) as of last week. The extent that liberal blog readers are being influenced towards not approving of the President seems too small to note.

I think things would be pretty great if the words of Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher and Marcy Wheeler had the power to move public opinion on a national scale. But I think attributing falling approval ratings to the writings of a handful of bloggers not clapping louder is wrong. Sure there are problems beyond the economy, but elevating blog critiques this high is excessive.

Taibbi on the Tea Party

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, on the Tea Party:

Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about…

[T]he Tea Party doesn’t really care about issues — it’s about something deep down and psychological, something that can’t be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are (“radical leftists” is the term they prefer), and they’re coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.

This passage is also good:

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They’re completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I’m an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I’m a radical communist? I don’t love my country? I’m a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It’s not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It’s just that they’re shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid.

Taibbi is really one of my favorite journalists today, particularly with his work on contemporary politics and investigating the causes of the financial collapse.

Daou on Bloggers & The Presidency

Peter Daou makes some pretty interesting points his long and somewhat shrill look into “how a handful of liberal bloggers are bringing down the Obama presidency.” This is happening, Daou says, because key liberal bloggers are refusing to bend their principles to support the political agenda of the administration. Daou writes:

The constant refrain that liberals don’t appreciate the administration’s accomplishments betrays deep frustration. It was a given the right would try to destroy Obama’s presidency. It was a given Republicans would be obstructionists. It was a given the media would run with sensationalist stories. It was a given there would be a natural dip from the euphoric highs of the inauguration. Obama’s team was prepared to ride out the trough(s). But they were not prepared for a determined segment of the left to ignore party and focus on principle, to ignore happy talk and demand accountability.

As president, Obama has done much good and has achieved a number of impressive legislative victories. He is a smart, thoughtful and disciplined man. He has a wonderful family. His staff (many of whom I’ve worked with in past campaigns) are good and decent people trying to improve their country and working tirelessly under extreme stress. But that doesn’t mean progressives should set aside the things they’ve fought for their entire adult life. It doesn’t mean they should stay silent if they think the White House is undermining the progressive cause.

Daou goes on to look at the specifics of the Anwar al-Aulaqi case, where the President has ordered that this American citizen be killed overseas. Not surprisingly, there is intense rage online that the administration would go beyond what even Bush and Cheney had sought to authorize under the auspices of fighting terrorism.

There’s obviously tension between the administration and the online progressive movement. I don’t think this tension’s existence is surprising to many people, though the degree to which it is manifesting itself is surprising to me. Read the whole of Daou’s piece –  he is really identifying important threads that will either continue to be problematic for both the progressive movement and the administration, or be resolve and allow both sides to contribute to effective governance.

Structurally Weak

Paul Krugman’s column today really shows that the only structural problems that exist in our economy today are in the inability of policy makers to confront the employment crisis through bold action. Krugman writes, ” We aren’t suffering from a shortage of needed skills; we’re suffering from a lack of policy resolve. As I said, structural unemployment isn’t a real problem, it’s an excuse — a reason not to act on America’s problems at a time when action is desperately needed.” Things aren’t mystifyingly complicated – we need stimulative government spending to that is specifically designed create jobs.

Incidentally, Duncan Black has been saying for months that it’s just a matter of time before conservatives start doing what Krugman identified today – namely, saying high unemployment is structural and there is little that can be done about it, so everyone should just get comfortable for the long haul. It’s sad to see Duncan proved write.

Singly Assured Destruction

Ryan Grim of Huffington Post reports:

Senate Democrats are looking to punt the tax-cut debate past the November elections, facing pushback on voting from Democrats facing election in 2010, senior Democratic aides say. The party will gather this afternoon for a caucus-wide meeting to set the pre-election agenda, but it appears increasingly unlikely that it will include the much-hyped tax-cut vote.

The White House has been pushing hard for such a vote, circulating polling showing that a majority of Americans, including wide margins of independents, support extending the middle-class tax cuts. Ultimately, though, Democrats up for election feared an assault from the GOP that the party was raising taxes on “small businesses,” even though a vanishingly small portion of those who would face a tax hike are real small businesses. But, in an age of 30-second commercials, it only takes one to stare into the camera and lament the effect of the tax change on hiring.

2002-2004 called. They want their Democratic chickenshittery back.

Seriously, it’s hard to not react to this by screaming and pulling your hair out. The Obama middle class tax cut was a brilliant squeeze play on Republicans that would both provide a strong electoral boost and show that the Democrats are acting with working Americans’ interests in mind. While Democrats are on the verge of pushing through a month-long electoral surge that has effectively put the House back in a holdable place and made keeping the Senate nearly certain, not holding a vote on Obama’s middle class tax cut package will surely cost Democrats seats in both chambers in November. And it’s all because they’re afraid of what attack ads Republicans will run if Democrats vote against a Republican tax cut for the wealthy and big business. News flash: the whole reason this strategy was going to work was that Democrats were the ones who were going to hit their opponents with ads of them voting against middle class tax cuts!

It’s really hard to want to work for people who are so hell-bent on losing the few legislative fights they choose to pick and losing their seats in the process.


Bank of America is trying to foreclose on a property in Florida that doesn’t even have a mortgage and was purchased for cash. Barry Ritholtz writes:

Freeze the Florida foreclosure mills. IF A COURT CAN FORECLOSE ON A HOUSE WITHOUT A MORTGAGE, THERE IS SOMETHING TERRIBLY FATALLY WRONG WITH THAT COURT SYSTEM. They are administratively incompetent, and until they demonstrate they are not renegade organized criminals (i.e., have some basic competency), they must freeze what they are doing.

No kidding.

I think this, like the Ally/GMAC foreclosure fraud that has been recently uncovered, is a good example of the dangers of a system in collapse. The banks are trying to process so many foreclosures, including in situations where it is unclear who owns the mortgage and if a foreclosure is in order, that mistakes unto criminality are surely taking place. It’s hard to believe that the titans of the finance industry are this incompetent by accident.