Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last Call

Politico's Ben Smith still doesn't get it.
The nice thing about the new-media space is how quickly it self-corrects. Breitbart's sites now have a growing credibility problem. Mike Flynn defends Big Government by pointing out that it merely posted what it had but doesn't say if it  sought the fuller context, as I hope most reporters would have.

And for all the talk of the speed of the Internet, online, like offline, reporting is a long, endless game, and with fewer and fewer trusted institutions to dispense it at will, credibility is a scarce and extremely valuable commodity.
Dude, wake the hell up.  There's two types of "media" in America as far as the Wingers are concerned, FOX News, El Rushbo, Beck,plus Drudge and Breitbart and the right wing blogs on one side, and The Rest Of You Liberal JournoList Scum on the other.

Benny my boy, as far as tens of millions of Americans who want their "truth" rather than actual facts are concerned, Breitbart is 100% right and always will be after this.  He's a hero to them and he knows it.  Best case scenario for the Left -- best case, mind you -- is that Breitbart broke even nationally on credibility.  Worst case is America will now have to stop whatever it is doing when Breitbart unleashes his next batch of "truth" and the Village falls for it again.

He didn't have any goddamn factual credibility in the first place.  But it's not like anyone at Politico would check "credibility" as opposed to parroting the Republican attack lines on say, ACORN for a year.

Charlie, Wrangled

Dem Rep. Charlie Rangel is reportedly is serious ethics trouble.
After a nearly two-year investigation, a House investigative panel has concluded that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated a range of ethics rules, dealing a serious blow to Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, in the twilight of his political career.

The investigative panel did not disclose any details about the nature of the violations that it found, but one House official who has been briefed on the findings said that they included the most serious allegations that had been examined.

“All I know is that it was a majority of them,” the House official said, asking not to be identified as the ruling is supposed to remain confidential for one week.A lawyer involved in Mr. Rangel’s defense, who also asked not to be named, disputed that characterization, adding that the case is not over yet.

“He has not been found guilty of anything,” the lawyer said.

The committee had been investigating claims that Mr. Rangel improperly rented four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem at a price well below market value, despite rules forbidding House members from accepting gifts worth more than $50.

It also had been investigating allegations that he improperly used his office to provide legislative favors for an oil-drilling company that pledged a $1 million donation for an academic center named for Mr. Rangel and improperly failed to report taxable income received from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. 
If it's already too late to find another Democrat to replace Rangel, then this could turn into a political disaster really, really quickly.   We'll see where this goes, but you can bet the calls for Rangel to be expelled from the House will be made on an hourly basis by the Right.

They may not necessarily be wrong.

Quote Of The Day

"I am public enemy No. 1 or 2 to the Democratic Party, the progressive movement and the Obama administration based upon the successes my journalism has had."

--Andrew Breitbart

He's a big pile of No. 2, alright.

This Is The End, My Only Friend

Climate change legislation is officially dead as Republicans didn't even have to filibuster it, just threaten to, in order to kill it.
After a meeting of Senate Democrats, party leaders on Thursday said they had abandoned hope of passing a comprehensive energy bill this summer and would pursue a more limited measure focused primarily on responding the Gulf oil spill and including some tightening of energy efficiency standards.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a champion of comprehensive climate change legislation called the new goal “admittedly narrow.”
At a news conference, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, blamed Republicans for refusing to cooperate. “We don’t have a single Republican to work with us,” Mr. Reid said.
Democrats said they would continue to pursue broader climate change legislation.
“This is not the only energy legislation we are going to do,” Mr. Reid said. “This is what we can do now.”
And of course in 2011 it'll be easier cause there will be more Democrats in Congress, right?   Hottest June on record since 1880 during a cycle of minimal solar activity, and it's "but Climategate!  Tax and Cap!"  To a person, the Republican Party has abandoned the environment.

What makes anyone think the scaled-down "oil spill and maybe some environmental regulations" bill will pass?

Wheels Within Wheels

Rachel Slajda makes the case that Andrew Breitbart's real target with the Shirley Sherrod story was the Obama administration's settlement with black farmers through the USDA.
In defending his decision to fire Shirley Sherrod, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained multiple times that his department has a "sordid" and "checkered" history of both overt and institutionalized racism. But with the term "racism" being tossed around rather a lot recently, it is important to understand both what he meant -- and what role that acknowledged racism played in Shirley Sherrod's life.

It's also important to understand that Andrew Breitbart's timing of the release of the grossly distorted video of Sherrod, which he admits having had for weeks, may not be entirely random. Congress will soon vote on whether to fund part of a settlement between the USDA and African-American farmers who faced acknowledged discrimination -- farmers like Sherrod and her husband used to be. It's a tiny piece of the upcoming war supplemental bill.

The USDA settlements with African-American farmers are a longtime bĂȘte noire of the right, which they deem a giveaway to a core Democratic constituency. It's not clear whether Brietbart's release of the video was specifically intended to hurt the chances of other African-America farmers to receive recompense from decades of discrimination that caused them to lose their farms, but conservatives immediately used the video to attack the settlement. The discrimination claims, known globally as the Pigford settlement, is the elephant in the room, so here's the background.

For years, and continuing through the 1990s, the USDA denied loans and grants to scores of farmers simply because they were African-American. Timothy Pigford finally sued the department in 1997; the suit became a class action with 400 additional plaintiffs and 2,000 farmers thought eligible; and the result was what's known as the Pigford settlement, decided in 1999.

The Pigford settlement offered two tracks: Track A offered $50,000 (plus loan forgiveness and tax offsets) to each eligible African-American farmer who had complained of discrimination since 1983, subject to applications and reviews; Track B offered the possibility of larger damages, provided plaintiffs could show a preponderance of evidence to arbitrators, prove their losses were greater than $50,000 and, of course, wait out the process. Less than 1 percent of the 22,721 class members chose to pursue Track B.

According to multiple sources that TPMmuckraker has not independently confirmed, Sherrod and her husband, Charles, were two of only 170 plaintiffs that chose Track B. Vilsack acknowledged in his press conference that Sherrod was a claimant in the Pigford settlement. 
This is all consistent with why Breitbart was sitting on the story until now.  The confluence of the USDA black farmers settlement and the NAACP was too much for him to resist, and he pulled the trigger with the intent of ruining her life.  Mission Accomplished.

Steve M. picks up on this larger battle:  reparations.
What I mean is that the MSM believes it owes the right endless recompense for the alleged sin of having been "the liberal meda" all these years. Right-wingers have been guilt-tripping the MSM for decades. It's beyond just "working the refs" -- they've whined that they're the victims of persistent discrimination; they insist that they have a right to banish all objectivity on talk radio and Fox News because the ill effects of the discrimination they perceive haven't come close to being reversed ... and guilt-tripped editors accept this line of argument, and thus won't treat the Breitbarts and Limbaughs and Coulters and Ericksons as pariahs, no matter what lies or slurs they utter, because they feel it would be prejudicial to do so.

Right-wingers see "reparations" for African Americans taking place everywhere they look, even though no one else can see what they see. Meanwhile, real reparations -- for grossly exaggerated or nonexistent suffering -- take place every time another irresponsible demagogue of the right-wing media is given the floor by the mainstream press. And it's not likely to end soon.
Not hardly.  And now the other shoe in this messy matter falls:  the Mean Ol Liberal Media is picking on Poor, Heroic Andrew Breitbart as Dan Riehl takes to Human Events to pen his defense of the man.
The media and progressive-left Democrats now appear in a rush to convict Andrew Breitbart of shoddy journalism, while exonerating Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP from charges of abiding racism within their ranks. Both Sherrod and the NAACP have charged the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party with racism, while offering less proof than Breitbart did of the racism he correctly alleged. In many cases, the Left has outright manufactured evidence of racism regarding Tea Party events, yet no one has raised a voice about that slander at all. If one didn't know better, this wouldn't be today's news, but an Orwellian script circa 1984.
You would think that African-Americans have controlled the media for decades and had flogged whites within an inch of their lives. You're supposed to pick a side here. Andrew Breitbart is under attack by...them! Whose side are you on, anyway? They're the racists here!

And so the poor, abused, put-upon Andrew Breitbart is the hero of this story, and the woman whose life he ruined is the villain, and if you disagree...well, you're the racist, you see.

I have to hand it to Breitbart.  He's pulling out his baton and they're all playing his tune.  He's timed this for maximum damage and done it brilliantly.

Keep a careful eye on that USDA settlement vote.

Watching Them Squirm Trying To Be In Two Places At Once

Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus has backfired miserably for pretty much everyone who's not Michele Bachmann.  Plenty of Republicans want to pretend to support the Tea Party (in fact they have to or they will be expunged from the party, ask Sen. Bennett of Utah or Rep. Inglis of South Carolina what happens if you don't) but going on the record as a member is sure to bring up the specter of the dreaded Hoffman Effect.

As a result, every Republican in the House just got put on the hot seat...join the caucus or else...and so far it's looking like the "or elses" are winning hands down.  Steve Benen reports on the kickoff meeting:
As the overlap becomes formalized, Republicans may want to remember what it is the party is enveloping. At yesterday's gathering, Mark Meckler, a leader of a group called the Tea Party Patriots, tried to distance their efforts from "fringe" elements.

Soon after, speakers of the rally accused Democrats of "21st-century Marxism," compared President Obama to Hugo Chavez, and complained bitterly about "socialism."

That, we're supposed to believe, isn't "fringe" at all.

We also learned yesterday precisely what Republicans/Tea Partiers are concerned about when it comes to their collective public image: "Members of the freshly minted House Tea Party Caucus spent their first day trying to quash accusations that they represent a racist movement." Given the frequency with which it came up, the right-wing activists seem pretty sensitive about the allegations. (One speaker insisted, "We are not terrorists," though I'm not sure anyone has accused this crowd of terrorism.)

As for the caucus itself, as of late yesterday, the House Tea Party Caucus reportedly has 29 members, with a membership list that's nearly identical to that of the right-wing Republican Study Committee. There is, however, some ongoing controversy on this front -- some of the members included on Bachmann's list of caucus members hadn't formally given their permission to be included in the group.
Damned if you do in the general election from the Hoffman Effect, purged from the party by the Bennett Effect if you don't.  I'm sure many Republicans in the House want to "thank" Michele Bachmann right about now.

What Sully Said

Andrew Sullivan nails Newt Gingrich and Moose Lady to the wall.
'The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. The proposed 'Cordoba House' overlooking the World Trade Center site -- where a group of jihadists killed over 3,000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks -- is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites,'' - Newt Gingrich, conflating all American Muslims as Islamists, and ignoring the many non-Americans killed at Ground Zero. Extra points for fake populism, and following Palin's despicable lead.

The Palin-led tone of the GOP is increasingly, well there's no other word for it, neo-fascist. As if it is now un-American to support freedom of religion - especially near a site destroyed by those who oppose it. Palin sees a mosque as a stab in the heart of America. I see it as a sign of America's endurance as a place where freedom of religion is sacrosanct, and where we make distinctions between genuine believers and those who distort and pervert faith for political and murderous ends.

I see the Cordoba project as the best response to Bin Laden's evil that a true democracy can muster.
It's gotten to the point where Palin and Gingrich are declaring war on mosques inside the United States as evil symbols of conquest over the Baby Jesus.   A country founded on religious freedom now must show its resolve by turning to fundamentalist neo-fascism?  Anyone demanding this of a synagogue would be politically immolated in a space of milliseconds, reduced to ash in the dustbin of history and rightfully so.  But declaring jihad against mosques in New York, well...that's okay, because all Muslims are irredeemably evil, right?  That's permissible.  In a fair and just world, Sarah Palin and especially Newt's political careers would be done from this.

The whole Cordoba House flap from the right is empirical evidence of basic intolerance and hatred.  As I've said before, the one thing Bush did right as President was to keep a lid on this disgusting hate for Islam because Muslim-Americans are just that...Americans.  Collective punishment should be impermissible in 2010 in America...but there you go.

And these are the Republican Party's leading lights for President in 2012.  I'd say Obama has nothing to worry about in a fair and just America...but we don't live in one.

Obama De-Race-Ment Syndrome

Today's Village lesson:  When Republicans bring up race and racism, it's always Obama's fault for being black blackity black black black.  Now, keep in mind this isn't MSNBC or FOX, but Reuters saying this...
Many supporters of Barack Obama hoped his election as America's first black president might herald an era of post-racial politics, but race has been an issue his administration just can't seem to avoid.
Division and tension between black and white Americans has cropped up repeatedly over Obama's 18 months in office, hurting his popularity and distracting from his political agenda.
I wonder why that is.  Perhaps somebody should ask Andrew Brietbart or FOX News why every time they bring up Jeremiah Wright, ACORN, Van Jones, the New Black Panther Party, or Shirley Sherrod that Obama is the one to pay the price.

Gosh, you would almost think these media outlets were fomenting racial tension and division on purpose in order to pursue a cynical "neo-Southern Strategy" to constantly terrify white voters across the country into dropping the Democratic Party and voting Republican.

It's not like racial, cultural, or ethnic division has ever been used successfully for political purposes in America before or anything.

Why hasn't Obama solved racism yet?  He's had 18 months!

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims up 47k to 464k.  Continuing claims down big, a 223k drop, to 4.49 million.  That's actually not good news either because we know there's still no jobs out there.

People are falling through the cracks.

Video Killed The Investment Star

Now if only this video was, you know, actually 100% truth.

Which is isn't.

The New Consumer, Same Old Helicopter Ben

The Great Recession (And Probable Depression) is permanently changing the shopping habits of tens of millions of American consumers.  Pat Conroy of marketing research company Deloitte explains:
This new consumer no longer laughs at Depression-era grannies who reuse wrapping paper and gift boxes, and stash Sweet 'n Low and condiment packets in the cupboard. They are too busy re-washing their plastic baggies to use in the lunches they bring to work.

They also take pleasure in beating retailers at their own game. The vast majority of Americans—some 92 percent of those in the survey—have made some kind of change in the way they stock their pantries.

Under the old way of shopping, consumers bought products indiscriminately and often didn't know what items they had in their cupboards, forcing them to frequently throw out items because they bought too much, Conroy said. 

The new way of shopping is much more deliberate. Some 84 percent said they have become more precise in what they buy. 

This shows itself in many ways. For example, many consumers traded down to private-label brands and found they were just as good, if not better, than the branded product. Consumers are now much more willing now to try private-label brands. 

"We had some people saying, 'It only costs me a dollar to try it, what do I have to lose?'" Conroy said.
In fact, there were "less than a handful" of categories where consumers feel they would go out of their way to purchase the branded product. 

"People's brand loyalty has really shifted and shrunk," Conroy.
Buying extra stuff is out for good, folks.  The new consumer is making every dollar count and doing it every day.  The problem is as a consumer-driven economy where demand is shrinking, that means massive deflationary pressure on the economy.  The question is what will replace the spending consumers were doing in order to power our economy?

The answer of course from conservatives is "nothing".  They believe supply always creates demand, when nothing could be further from the truth in an economic downturn.

Prices will continue to crash as the economy ramps downward to the new normal.  That means more layoffs and more cutbacks, and less spending,and less demand for items, and prices will continue to crash...

Something's got to give, which will be one of two things:  A) a depressionary lock-up of our entire economy, or B) Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press is turned on.  The stock markets all dropped yesterday as Helicopter Ben made his report to Congress yesterday afternoon saying that we face an "unusually uncertain" economic outlook ahead and that the Magic Printing Press was in fact fully ready to go.

That to me is the giveaway option B is not only on the table, but the real question is how soon it will be implemented, before or after the elections.

Orange Julius Continues With The Applied Nihilism

Rep. John Boehner thinks everything's fine and when he's Speaker of the House again (which he believes he will be in January) he has a plan to help Americans. 

"The first thing I would do is repeal Obamacare," Boehner said at the Christian Science Monitor luncheon. "It is a giant impediment for employment. Not only will it ruin the best health care system in the world, it will bankrupt our country.
"Secondly, no cap and trade," Boehner added. "You raise the cost of energy, you raise the cost of doing business."
"Thirdly, not raise people's taxes," he concluded. "You want to get the economy going, give some people certainty about what the tax rates are going to be." Democrats hope to let the Bush tax cuts on wealthy Americans expire before the end of the year -- Boehner wants the tax cuts to continue across the board.
He also argued that any unspent stimulus funds ought to be reclaimed.
So lets take stock. Republicans will create jobs by:
1). Rolling back comprehensive health care legislation. (Notably, Boehner also supports repealing financial reform).
2). Simply promising not to do something. An anti-initiative, if you will.
3). Keeping current tax rates in place.
Doing all of these things, which technically represent the status quo pre-Obama, would apparently inspire companies to start hiring.
So taking the political environment back to 2008 when we were losing several hundred thousands of jobs a month is going to make people start hiring again?  Great plan.  Just throw out the last two years and continue down the Bush path.

That's the plan for 2011, folks.  Same as it ever was.


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