Saturday, July 31, 2010
President Obama praises the successes of the auto industry restructuring as good news for our economy, and calls on Republican leaders in the Senate to "stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics" by blocking a vote to help them create jobs.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Steve Pearlstein, in a piece blasting the Chamber of Commerce over their opposition to the GM bailout:
The irony is that this set of bold government initiatives that saved the country from economic catastrophe remain as unpopular today as when they were introduced.
Perhaps none was more controversial than the decision to rescue Chrysler and General Motors, using $86 billion in taxpayer funds and an expedited bankruptcy process that wiped out shareholders, brought in new executives and directors, forced creditors to take a financial haircut, closed dealerships and factories and imposed painful cuts in wages and benefits on unionized workers. It was an extraordinary and heavy-handed government intervention into the market economy that left the Treasury owning a majority of both companies. As one participant recalls, public opinion was divided among those who believed that the companies should have been allowed to die, those who believed they would never survive bankruptcy and those who believed the government would inevitably screw things up. Among the most vocal skeptics: the Chamber's Donohue.
A year later, the auto bailout is an unqualified success. The government used its leverage to force the companies to make the painful changes they should have made years before, and then backed off and let the companies run themselves without any noticeable interference.
The results, which President Obama will tout on a visit to Michigan on Friday: For the first time since 2004, GM and Chrysler, along with Ford, all reported operating profits in their U.S. businesses last quarter. The domestic auto industry added 55,000 jobs last year, ending a decade-long string of declines. Auto sector exports are up 57 percent so far this year and, thanks largely to new government regulations, the industry is moving quickly to introduce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Most surprising of all, GM and Chrysler have already repaid more than $8 billion in government loans, while GM is preparing for an initial stock offering later this year that would allow the government to recoup most, if not all, of its investment.
Greg Sargent, also of the Washington Post:
President Obama just delivered a rousing speech at an auto plant in Detroit, and it gave us a glimpse of how the fall elections could go for Dems if things start trending their way.
The tanking economy has left the public highly skeptical of Obama's larger goal of restoring faith in government as an effective agent for reform and a necessary corrective to the excesses of free enterprise. Indeed, a CNN poll out today finds that a whopping 61% thinks the government is doing too much that should be left to private individuals and businesses.
But today, Obama gets to claim that on one front, at least, he was absolutely right about the need for government intervention in the economy -- and that his critics were absolutely wrong. Last year, Republicans derided Obama's auto industry bailout as a dire threat to capitalism as we know it, but today, the auto industry is once again turning a profit and adding jobs in key communities.
And finally, Ezra Klein (what a coincidence!) of the Washington Post:
President Obama's remarks at various Michigan automobile plants today get to the heart of the task facing the administration as we enter the 2010 election. The White House doesn't lack for accomplishments. What it lacks is popular accomplishments.
The auto bailout is a perfect example. By and large, it worked. The automobile sector stabilized. GM, Chrysler and Ford are all posting profits. Millions of workers who would've gone down with the car companies still have their jobs. America retains an automotive industry that's both competitive in developing markets like China and starting to scrap with the Japanese and German automakers in the high-tech, green-car market.
But the policy wasn't popular. Few liked it. Some thought it socialism. Some thought it cronyism. Which presents, of course, a difficulty for the White House: Saving millions of jobs and the American auto industry at an ultimately very small cost to the taxpayer is the sort of major policy accomplishment you should be able to run for reelection on. But what if people don't really understand that you did it, or that it worked, or that it didn't cost them much?
Obama doesn't have to invent accomplishments for Democrats to tout in the 2010 election. Rather, he has to convince the public to also consider those policies accomplishments. You can read his Chrysler speech, which gives this a shot, here. (See above)
In case you didn't already know, the GOP later went on to shoot down this bill.
“They have called us racists. They have called us many names and they have insulted the Americans who are against big government and socialist policies. We do not want a socialist democracy. We want a constitutional republic back to the basics of how it was founded.”
"I started writing this July 13, while the NAACP was meeting to decide whether or not the Tea Party Movement was a racist organization. I could have saved them a lot of trouble because all they had to do is watch me to find out."
Tito, Dan, Bob...
These are Tea Party Comix. Publisher unknown, and granted some of you are disavowing this crap, but still...they're out there, and they're done in your name:
Talking Points Memo has more, but...do I have to say any more?!?!?!?
First off, as a Warner Bros. Employee (and thus the parent company of D.C. Comics), I'm hoping that our Copyright Office is about to sue their asses off. That is clearly Superboy (the ahem villian of the piece identifies him as such). Plus, that racist icon of the President cuts dangerously close to the Parasite, another trademarked property of Time-Warner, Inc.
...and unless that's Kryptonite coming out of the racist icon's hands, that ain't knockin' down Superboy.
So let me be absolutely clear. The position of this blog hasn't changed since April: if you are a teabagger, I suspect you of racist motives in your so-called, beliefs. I say so-called because I don't think have of you know or even understand the definitions of: Fascism, Marxism, or Socialism. Tito, that moron, clearly doesn't.
I was never one who believed that Barack Obama could - in a mere two years - repair the enormous damage of decades of unfunded entitlement and defense spending, two disastrously conceived, off-budget and negligently prosecuted wars, a financial market collapse, the worst recession since the 1930s, two burst bubbles in tech and housing, and the importation of torture into the American way of war. Maybe I over-estimated how much the GOP might learn from their appalling record in the new millennium - but that would require an admission of failure that they seem incapable of.
Nonetheless, the sheer difficulties and resistance that Obama has met with - from the FNC propaganda channel to the balls-free liberal press to the utopian activist left and deranged radical right - is remarkable. But, as P.M. Carpenter notes, this is not an inherently bad thing. We need opposition - if a more intelligent and less cynical opposition than we now confront. And no real change has come to America without slowness and resistance and division - as its constitution requires. The filibuster has become, it seems to me, a promiscuously wielded impediment, but in real context, the huge shift Obama has already achieved is quite remarkable:
I direct your attention to American history, from early 19th-century social reforms to the decades-long battle for emancipation to the century's later political-bureaucratic reforms to TR and Wilson's Progressive Era to FDR's New Dealism and to the Great(er) Society envisioned by LBJ. Each level of sociopolitical progress was grinding and grueling and packed with half-measures -- because remember, the other side gets its say, too; plus the other side, notwithstanding our oft-proper ridicule, is not always without its own version of idealism, possessed just as passionately.
And now, Barack Obama's correction of a dreadful, 30-year pseudoconservative misadventure. Step by step. Piece by piece. Half-measures by half-measures, which in time will become 60-percent measures, then 80-percent measures ...
That, quite simply, is the way it is. Indeed, that's the way it's supposed to be. If genuine conservative genius there ever was, it came in the Founders' Burkean inspiration that true and lasting progress must pass the tests of peaceful struggle and tireless debate. Achieving a national consensus is hard, but it's necessary to progress' durability; vast and overanxious progress in a consensual void only insures its unraveling.
If you backed Obama and want to see real change continue, now is not the time to give up because it's not as easy as you thought it would be. Now is the time to oppose the passionate intensity of his opponents with the reasoned conviction that elected him.
Remember: we are the ones we've been waiting for. Are we really going to substitute pique for purpose and ennui for hope now? By all means criticize when necessary, as I have. But he's the best we've got, and we are lucky to have him.
To paraphrase Mr Krugman this morning,
Mr. Obama may not be the politician of our dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of our nightmares.
This was a fun, rollicking speech. He didn’t bring the house down, but it was clear that the audience and the President were all having a good time.
What amazed me was the aftermath. Marc Ambinder (whom I actually enjoy reading) made it sound like the President threw a rhetorical hand-grenade at the Teacher’s Unions:
Today, President Obama wades in to a controversy that threatens to split one of the Democratic Party's most generous source of donations and activists, the teacher unions, from the whole. The dispute is about teacher performance, narrowly, and about government's distribution of common goods more generally.
Obama wants more accountability for teachers. The teachers unions contend that there is no universal metric that can reliably assess teacher performance, particularly in poor neighborhoods where students experience intense social dislocation. Part of the problem is that nothing seems to work: not charter schools, not tying teachers to student performance, not throwing money at schools, not even curricula reform. There are blips -- a voucher program works here, a charter school works there. Nothing seems to work everywhere. Performance measured in the short term doesn't tell people much about anything, but people grab on to numbers, and the government rewards states who show progress on the numbers, so... states do everything they can to get their numbers up.
Of course, Huffington Post (not a favorite) emblazoned a headline on this story as well.
I listened to the speech. It was a nudge at best.
I also want to directly speak to the issue of teachers. We may have some teachers here in the house. (Applause.) I know Urban League has got some teachers. Nothing is more important than teachers. (Applause.) My sister is a teacher. I’m here because of great teachers. The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s education from the moment they step into the classroom. And I know firsthand that the vast majority of teachers are working tirelessly, are passionate about their students, are often digging into their own pockets for basic supplies, are going above and beyond the call of duty.
So I want teachers to have higher salaries. I want them to have more support. I want them to be trained like the professionals they are –- with rigorous residencies like the ones that doctors go through. (Applause.) I want to give them a career ladder so they’ve opportunities to advance, and earn real financial security. I don't want talented young people to say I’d love to teach but I can’t afford it. (Applause.)
I want them to have a fulfilling and supportive workplace environment. I want them to have the resources -- from basic supplies to reasonable class sizes -- that help them succeed. And instead of a culture where we’re always idolizing sports stars or celebrities, I want us to build a culture where we idolize the people who are shaping our children’s future. (Applause.) I want some teachers on the covers of some of those magazines. (Applause.) Some teachers on MTV, featured. (Applause.)
I was on the “The View” yesterday, and somebody asked me who Snooki was. I said, I don't know who Snooki is. (Laughter.) But I know some really good teachers that you guys should be talking about. (Laughter and applause.) I didn't say the teacher part, but I just -- (laughter.) The question is, who are we lifting up? Who are we promoting? Who are we saying is important?
So I am 110 percent behind our teachers. (Applause.) But all I’m asking in return -- as a President, as a parent, and as a citizen -- is some measure of accountability. (Applause.) So even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we’ve got to make sure we’re seeing results in the classroom. If we’re not seeing results in the classroom, then let’s work with teachers to help them become more effective. If that doesn’t work, let’s find the right teacher for that classroom. (Applause.)
Arne makes the point very simply: Our children get only one chance at an education, so we need to get it right.
I want to commend some of the teachers unions across this country who are working with us to improve teaching -- like the Delaware Education Association, which is working with state leaders as part of their Race to the Top efforts, not only to set aside 90 minutes of collaboration time a week to improve instruction, but to strengthen teacher development and evaluation. That's the right way to go.
So, for anyone who wants to use Race to the Top to blame or punish teachers -- you’re missing the point. Our goal isn’t to fire or admonish teachers; our goal is accountability. It’s to provide teachers with the support they need to be as effective as they can be, and to create a better environment for teachers and students alike.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
It does seem as if measures have been taken by Wikileaks to protect U.S. and allied personnel whose lives might be endangered by the leaks. The same cannot be said for the Afghans. A cursory search of the Wikileaks documents by the consistently excellent Afghanistan-based journalist Tom Coughlan revealed hundreds of Afghan lives to have been put at risk by these leaked documents. The mentions of Afghans -- either because they have confounding, non-Western names or because they simply are not considered of importance -- do not seem to have been considered by Mr. Assange and Wikileaks when they decided to dump these documents into the public sphere. I don't know whether Mr. Assange simply did not understand enough about Afghanistan to realize what he was doing when he leaked these documents or just doesn't care, so myopic is his focus on the governments of the United States and Europe.
So Julian made sure he blacked out the America names, and left the Afghan names alone. Peachy. Is this what Secretary Gates meant by there being blood on Wikileaks hands? (From what I read, partially).
Got this from the Daily Dish, so hat's off to Andrew Sullivan.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Thus, Jonathan Cohn's piece in the New Republic sums up my feelings perfectly (posted here in its entirety):
Activists at last week’s Netroots Nation talked about disappointment and disillusionment. The polls show a slow, steady decline in support for the president among Democrats. Neither sample captures perfectly the state of the liberal mind this summer, but you’d have to be pretty oblivious not to see that President Obama, and the Democrats, are losing the love of their base.
It’s a somewhat predictable decline, given lofty expectations for the Obama presidency and the stubbornly slow recovery. It's also a relatively modest decline: After all, it’s not like anybody is talking about starting a third party. Still, the right is energized, the left is ambivalent, and that means Democrats are in big trouble this November.
If you read this blog, then you know I see things more or less the way my colleague Jonathan Chait and some of our friends in the blogosphere do: This seems totally nuts, purely on the merits. Obama and the Democrats passed a major stimulus that cut taxes for the middle class and invested heavily in public works. They saved the auto industry, created a new regulatory framework for the financial industry, and enacted comprehensive health care reform. Compromises watered down each of these initiatives, to say nothing of the ideas (climate change!) that aren’t going to pass. And still this was the most productive liberal presidency in a generation or maybe two.
But liberal ambivalence isn't just foolish substantively. It's also foolish strategically.
The fact is that voting for these measures, particularly health care and (in the House) climate change, was tough for many members of Congress. Liberals consider the Affordable Care Act a watered-down version of a watered-down of something resembling a true universal coverage system. But in Tennessee, Idaho, and a bunch of places in between, it's a government takeover of health care. Liberals think Waxman-Markey was a conservative half-solution to a planetary crisis. In more conservative districts--and, let's face it, plenty of liberal ones too--it's higher energy bills.
But consider what happened after the climate change vote in the House last year. When Democrats went back to their districts, conservatives pummeled them--in person and on the air--while liberals just shrugged. And consider what happened after the health care bill passed: Conservatives went into overdrive about socialized medicine, while liberals kept talking about what a lousy bill it was.
Not surprisingly, members from more conservative parts of the country are pretty frustrated, particularly when they're getting attacked directly by the left. As one senior Democratic aide told me on Wednesday, expressing a sentiment I've heard many times on Capitol Hill:
Liberals have savaged these members and the lesson many will take is don’t stick your neck out because the left will kick your ass regardless.
To be clear, sometimes ass-kicking is good. Call Kent Conrad a hypocrite on the deficit. Blast Joe Lieberman for carrying water on behalf of the insurance industry. Hold Obama accountable for the bureaucratic neglect that enabled the Gulf disaster. Liberals won't get anywhere by meekly accepting every compromise that comes down the pike or looking the other way when Democrats screw up. Politics goes is a two-way street and liberals need their leaders to lead sometimes.
But if the left is going to demand action, it has to do more than shrug when action--even modest action--actually happens. They have to show some enthusiasm, if not locally then at least nationally. (Truth be told, a member in a Republican plus-three district probably benefits more from higher Obama approval ratings than an ad buy from Moveon.org). Otherwise office-holders, even ones from relatively liberal districts, won't have much incentive to vote liberal next time around. As another congressional aide told me, via email:
I hear this stuff all the time, about climate change, health reform, financial reform--members complaining about having to vote for these things because they were forced to by party leadership with NO upside for them. ... They’re getting hit on all sides. ... these members need more than just the stick, you also have to give them the carrot every once in a while.
It'd be nice if we lived in a world where politicians voted based on the public interest. But we happen to live in a world where, to varying degrees, politicians vote based on their immediate electoral needs. If liberals don't embrace politicians who vote with them today, then liberals can't expect the same politicians, or their replacements, to vote with them tomorrow.
And for the record, yes...that is a 15 Inch unibody MacBook Pro he's sporting (he's clearly upgraded since this picture originally appeared in Rolling Stone in 2008).
Despite the Presidential Seal, I recognize it from its keyboard and CD-slot configuration.
And to quote my Father about this (cough-cough) idea to eliminate the defict in ten years...
If the deficit is $100,000, and you reduce it 10% a year, the first year you reduce it $10,000 to 90,000. The next year you reduce it $9,000 (10% of 90,000) to 81,000, then you reduce it 8,000 to 73,000.
Anyway it takes way more than ten years to reduce it to zero. There are even tables to help you figure out where you will be in n years. Greta Van Susteren and John Thune don't understand math, amongst other things.
Sure, Pop! It's all so easy if you take Middle School Mathematics. How do you know Greta and Senator (Democrats are scurred of me in 2012) Thune even went to Middle School, Dad? That's awfully presumptuous of you, sir!
For the record, my Father is Professor of Mathematics, and former Chairman of his Department. One presumes he took Junior High School Math at some point.
When you talk about how the Senate rules are being misused, the quick rejoinder is often that the problem isn't the rules, but polarization and bad behavior and opportunistic leadership. We don't need to change the rules, some say, we need to change how they're used. Unfortunately, I've not yet heard of a proposal that would do this.
One of the problems that doesn't get addressed nearly enough, is that the American people themselves tend to talk out of both sides of their mouths. "Keep your Government hands off my Medicare!". "Let me go to Town Halls to advocate for the benefit of Health Insurance Companies." "Unemployment Benefits are wasteful spending, but tax cuts for the rich are okay!" "There oughta be a law..."
Honestly, though. Saints, I can buy, given their Offense. But the Jags in the Super Bowl? Please.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The number of independents who said neither administration's policies would help was higher than the overall sample, 27 percent. Forty-three percent of independents favored Obama's policies, while 20 percent favored Bush's.
I have a simple suggestion for Democratic candidates: ask which of Bush's policies does their Republican opponent oppose? Keep asking. If they say sending, ask them what they intend to cut. And keep asking.
I still think he's wrong on Journolist, but at least he dialed that back today.
Oh, and by the way, the USDA-Racism was (again) stripped out of the War Supplemental. Way to go, U.S. Senate!
My side of the aisle isn't innocent either. The AFL-CIO was also against it, and for the first time, I find myself truly pissed at Richard Trumka.
This Thursday, SB-1070, Arizona’s radical new immigration law, will go into effect. Despite an incoming lawsuit from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has maintained that her state “will prevail,” claiming that she is simply defending the border integrity and safety of her state.
Yet a new investigation by local Arizona TV news station CBS 5 finds that the Brewer administration may have ulterior motives for its strong support of the new law. The station has found that “two of Brewer’s top advisers have connections” to private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
Paul Senseman, Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, is a former lobbyist for CCA. His wife continues to lobby for the company. Meanwhile Chuck Coughlin, who leads her re-election campaign, chaired her transition into the governorship, and is one of the governor’s policy advisors, is president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which lobbies for CCA.
This is important because CCA currently “holds the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona.” CBS 5 notes that the company currently bills $11 million a month to the state of Arizona and that, if SB-1070 is successfully implemented, its profits would be significantly padded as it would take responsibility for imprisoning immigrants arrested by Arizona police.
Here's the segment that aired on the local CBS affiliate. Watch Jan run!
Monday, July 26, 2010
Here's a guy, let go by the White House because Glenn Beck came up with some bull@#$ about him, standing up before the cream of the Liberal Blogosphere crop telling them to ease up.
My feelings about Wikileaks is mixed. I sympathize with whistleblowers...always, but leaking National Security Information makes me nervous.
Still, I find it interesting that in light of the Wikileaks 91,000 page Afghanistan thing, the I-hate-the-Afghanistan-War-Crowd (populated by people who somehow listened to President Obama talk about ratcheting up the Afghan War in virtually every Foreign Policy speech, yet still did not hear him) cheered the release. (A cross-board summary can be found here.)
More telling, the professional Military Reporters (at least the ones I read) haven't so much as reacted, as they have...yawned.
Andrew Sullivan, no Afghan War lover, also said that not much was learned, while spending the day trumpeting the Wikileak stuff.
A huge leak of U.S. reports and this is all they get? I know of more stuff leaked at one good dinner on background. I mean, when Mother Jones yawns, that's an indication that you might not have the Pentagon Papers on your hands. If anything, the thousands of documents remind me of what it is like to be a reporter: Lots of different people telling you different things. It takes awhile to learn how to distinguish the junk from the gold.
You know how Robert DeNiro used to shout once in every film, "You got nothin' on me, nothin'"? (I think it was in his contract.) This data dump reminded me of that.
Some of the conclusions to be drawn from these files: Afghan civilians are sometimes killed. Many Afghan officials and police chiefs are corrupt and incompetent. Certain portions of Pakistan's military and intelligence service have nefarious ties to the Taliban.
If any of this startles you, then welcome to the world of reading newspapers. Today's must be the first one you've read.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has likened these documents to the Pentagon Papers, the top-secret history of the Vietnam War that Daniel Ellsberg leaked in 1972. The comparison is preposterous.
Adam Weinstein (Mother Jones):
Here's a cliche for you: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And here's a fact: A little knowledge is precisely what Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks cohorts have given us in the "Afghan War Diary." The intimation by Assange (and the media outlets he cherry-picked to preview the data) is that these are the Pentagon Papers of the Afghan war. Certainly there are a few eyebrow-raising details in the bunch, as Mark Mazzetti, Chris Chivers & Co. at the New York Times point out. But in truth, there's not much there. I know, because I've seen many of these reports before—at least, thousands of similar ones from Iraq, when I was a contractor there last year.
And finally, the whole Abu Muqawama post from the Center for a New American Security:
Here are the things I have learned thus far from the documents released via Wikileaks:
1. Elements within Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) support the Taliban.
2. The United States integrates direct action special operations into its counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, targeting insurgent leaders through capture/kill missions.
3. Civilians have died in Afghanistan, often as the result of coalition combat operations.
I'm going to bed, but if I were to stay up late reading more, here is what I suspect I would discover:
1. "Afghanistan" has four syllables.
2. LeBron is going to the Heat.
3. D'Angelo Barksdale didn't actually commit suicide in prison. Stringer Bell had him killed.
4. Although a document dated 17 October 2004 claims the Red Sox were down 3-0 in a seven-game series with the Yankees, they actually went on to win 4-3.
5. Liberace was gay.
6. The Pathan remains wily.
7. Julian Assange is a clown.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Who was Nancy? I'm betting Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I'll post her speech as soon as I find it.
He even used a cut of Rachel Maddow. Ha! Go figure.
And how much coverage did this get in the Media, even on Keith?
Following the signing of historic Wall Street Reform legislation, the President contrasts his economic plan focused on the middle class and moving America forward with the Republican plan focused on the very wealthiest Americans and moving us backward.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Still, the notion of Rahmbo walking “the Sherrod situation” into the Oval Office, with the President clicking on the T.V., seeing the stories and saying: “My God, this is going to be on Glenn Beck. Get that Sherrod woman on the phone right now, and fire her” is laughable. This was handled by a few Administration Officials who thought they were serving the President well (they actually made things worse) by trying to get the jump on a story before it ballooned into something cancerous. It’s the Obama modus operandi. It’s been that way since the Campaign, and this time they got burned for it.
I watched Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on the affair with a measure of trepidation because he spent a majority of the Comment going after the President for that good ol' Liberal meme of not being tough enough, while conveniently skipping one of the major villains of this affair. (We'll get to that in a minute).
Of course, Andrew Breitbart is a villian. He's a sociopath and a racist, and as I said before maintaining the ethics of a garter snake. This goes without saying.
The same goes for Fox News and the rest of the right wing media bullhorn, Sheppard Smith and apparently Eric Erickson excluded.
The USDA Official who fired Shirley also needs heaps of scorn, particularly in light of the racist history of that organization.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is also on my @#$% list, though he gave as good an apology as you can expect in these matters.
Still, I’m going to be watching Secretary Vilsack from now own (and not with a sympathetic eye), because in the middle of all this he doubled down on the firing.
But one of my big villains (and a villain in the eyes of the Administration, it turns out) is the Mainstream Media.
It's not that you fell for just for this, its that you keep falling for this crap time and time again.
Now, Keith did go after even his own network for propagating this nonsense, but he didn’t exactly linger on the concept. Huffington Post got its knickers in a twist over it, but they’re just as guilty, so I can give a rat’s @#$% what they think (which is the norm)
Meanwhile, a couple of people really nailed it.
Less than two months ago, Andrew Breitbart was seen as such an important media figure that he merited a huge profile in The New Yorker magazine. He has been widely quoted by major news organizations on a whole host of topics and has received a great deal of press attention for his various pet crusades.
So here's my question: Has any news org done a stand-alone story on the damage the Shirley Sherrod mess has done -- or should do -- to his credibility?
Have any high profile traditional media figures come right out and said that Breitbart -- who admitted flat out that he received the Sherrod video unedited and posted it without tracking down the original -- has dealt himself a severe blow here?
These are sincere questions. How much of this have you all seen? Maybe I'm missing something, but I haven't seem much of it at all. Why not? News orgs love "winners and losers" stories. Reporters and editors love to talk about other media figures. It seems like a no-brainer that this would be the next angle on this story.
So why aren't we seeing more along these lines?
We’re not. And Politico just made him one of their stars to watch, this being after the Sherrod case.
Josh Marshall (who like Keith chimed in from vacation):
Still, you just have to back up from that and realize that as disappointing as Tom Vilsack's first crack at this was, the idea that he or Obama is the bad guy in this story is not only preposterous but verging on obscene. It's like the NYPD as the bad guy in the Son of Sam saga because they didn't catch David Berkowitz fast enough. Or perhaps that the real moral of the story is that the woman with the stalker should have been more focused on personal data security. Not for some time has something so captured the essential corruption of a big chunk of what passes as 'right wing media' (not all, by any means, but a sizable chunk along the Breitbart/Fox/Hannity continuum) and the corruption of the mainstream media itself as this episode.
Let's review what happened here. And for the sake of conversation, let's assume that Breitbart and his crew didn't edit this thing and hadn't seen any of the rest of the highly exculpatory video. (I'm willing to assume that for the sake of the conversation. And I think it may even be true as a matter of fact.) That's by far the most innocent explanation. And that means that Breitbart got a piece of video he knew nothing about and published it with a central claim (that it was about Sherrod's tenure at the USDA) that he either made up or made no attempt to verify. No vetting, no calls, no due diligence, not the slightest concern to confirm anything or find out what was true. Even setting aside the fact that, as Josh Green ably notes, most of Breitbart's scoops center on race and/or race-baiting, for anyone else practicing anything even vaguely resembling journalism, demonstrated recklessness and/or dishonesty on that scale would be a shattering if not necessarily fatal blow to reputation and credibility.
Yet most of the coverage has been along the lines of Breitbart sparks debate about racism or White House pratfall on prematurely canning Shirley Sherrod. Indeed, ABC tonight is sending out an exclusive on Breitbart, which is ... a puff piece about how he got his start in new media.
Oh, ABC News did a puff piece also? Thanks for reminding me, Josh.
Andrew Sullivan (I think his Journolist stuff is bull#$%, but still…):
I have not been immune to feeling frustrated and depressed by the sheer power and energy of the Fox News/Drudge/Breitbart media onslaught against anything to do with Obama. As in the campaign, I've longed in my gut for the administration to lash back with as much vehemence as Fox lashes forward. I've also winced when the Obamaites have appeared totally craven in responding to the context-free narrative many on the denialist, angry right have been pushing. (But at least Vilsack apologized which makes him much more of a man than Breitbart.)
But I've learned over time to respect the canniness of this president's restraint. His gift is patience and perseverance and allowing his enemies to destroy themselves. And I suspect this Breitbart racial smear may be a moment when, once again, you see how Obama outsmarts his opponents. I mean: when you examine it, you see that a woman who actually exemplifies honesty about race and overcomes prejudice was cynically and recklessly used to create a false notion that this administration is racist toward whites, an old and disgusting canard devised by the Becks and Hannitys and Limbaughs in the tradition of Wallace and Atwater and McCarthy.
But - and here's the thing - to the credit of many on the right (and, of course, good old Shep Smith of Fox News), this episode has led to the first real rift in the lock-step of the right-wing noise machine. I know this was so egregious a smear it was indefensible. And I know, as David Frum has noted, that many conservatives tried to deflect blame onto Obama, and the media - led by the cynic Lloyd Grove - has joined the pack. But nonetheless, many on the right took Breitbart on, from NRO outward. This great injustice has, to anyone with a fair mind, deeply damaged Fox News, deeply discredited the Breitbart noise machine, and will render every new soundbite and video issued by FNC more suspect.
It was, in other words, an over-reach from hubris. And I suspect that this over-reach is not just in the rightwing media but in what's left of conservative political activism.
Well, falsely vilified Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod has a new job offer. If the Department of Agriculture can just falsely accuse another 15 million Americans and offer them new jobs as compensation, we will have solved the unemployment problem. Of course, we’re going to have a lot of people on the Department of Agriculture payroll. On the upside, we should be doing pretty good in terms of agriculture. Heck, for every struggling family farmer out there, we’ll have a few thousand USDA employees keeping tabs on each of them. All we have to do is get Andrew Breitbart and Fox News to manufacture fake videos to falsely incriminate 15 million Americans. I’m confident they can do it. Hell, do that and then there’s a few hundred thousand jobs for videotape editors too. This just keeps getting better for the economy.
Shirley Sherrod has received apologies from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the NAACP, and President Obama even called her personally today. She’s received apologies from everybody who fell for this scam, and nobody who perpetrated this scam (timeline). Both Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly aggressively pushed this story. Now they’re just as aggressively pushing this story away from themselves. Why hasn’t Fox News issued an apology for pushing the story? Because they’re too busy criticizing the White House for believing the story they were pushing. “How dare you believe what we were saying! Didn’t you stop to consider the source?”
Randi Rhodes said yesterday that she felt the Shirley Sherrod affair is a moment that should change everything for the media. She's right when she later said, she's afraid it's going to change nothing.
The Wisconsin Democrat supported a filibuster, giving more leverage to Scott Brown, who used his position to weaken the bill.
This is where I become incensed at some of my fellow Liberals unflappable, and completely moronic stance of the good being the enemy of the perfect (it's supposed to be the other way around). Knuckleheads like Feingold have to get it through their heads that the opposite of good Legislation isn't perfect Legislation, it's no Legislation. Make all the arguments if you want, but are you really trying to sell the idea that we'd be better off with no Heath Care Reform, Pre-Existing Conditions still in the community lexicon, and 40 Million-plus Americans going without Health Insurance? If so, then you make about as much sense as Russ Feingold.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
—Before becoming governor in 2005, Manchin served in the West Virginia state legislature and senate. He was also secretary of state from 2001-2005. He initially ran for governor in 1996 but lost in the Democratic primary.
—He polls sky-high: Earlier this month, Rasmussen found that Manchin had a 77 percent job approval rating.
—Coal mining has been a dominating issue during Manchin’s tenure as governor. According to The New York Times, more than 75 people have been killed in mining accidents since 2005, including the Upper Big Branch and Sago disasters. Soon after Sago, Manchin temporarily halted all mining so that safety checks could be performed.
—Manchin, a mining union ally, has been at odds with Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, a giant coal producer and the owner of Upper Big Branch. Blankenship sued Manchin in 2005, accusing the governor of violating his First Amendment rights when Manchin said Massey and its CEO should be under stricter government scrutiny. The case was eventually dropped.
—Manchin is conservative on several hot-button issues. He’s pro-life, and, earlier this year, he endorsed a law requiring health care providers to give women the option of seeing an ultrasound before they have abortions. When he was running for governor in 2004, the National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed him—and gave him an “A+” rating. However, this spring, Manchin also vetoed two NRA-backed laws.
—In 2008, Manchin was the one of only four governors—and the only Democrat—to receive an “A” rating from the conservative Cato Institute, which issues a report card for the nation’s state executives. He was praised for cutting business taxes, including the corporate income tax rate, and for recommending cuts to the “overall general fund budget” almost every year. (Now, of course, conservatives are desperate to tie him to liberal policies and the Obama administration. They’ve been harping on a video of him expressing support for health care reform.)
—Earlier this year, Manchin criticized the Obama administration’s environmental policies. He said that “[c]ap and trade will destroy the might of this nation,” and that White House officials “can't just be committed to vilifying the things they don't like”—namely, coal.
—Manchin, who went to West Virginia University on a football scholarship in 1965, bears a striking similarity to football fanatic, car salesman, and slick-talker Buddy Garrity on the (fantastic) NBC show “Friday Night Lights.”
I think he's gonna win, especially since his strongest possible opponent has dropped out of the race. But I'm not fooling myself, while he, like Charlie Crist will caucus with the Democrats, this guy could very well be another Ben Nelson.
But Greg Sargent made a razor sharp analysis this morning:
It isn't enough for Vilsack to reinstate her. People should demand that his review include an explanation for his own decision to fire her. We need to hear his justification for the decision to ax this woman before all the facts were in, on the strength of nothing more than an Andrew Breitbart smear.
Did Vilsack make any effort to learn more about her speech before giving her the push? If not, why not? Sherrod says she told top USDA officials that the full speech would vindicate her. Did anyone at USDA give her protestations even a passing listen? Did anyone try to obtain video of the full speech? If not, why not? Why was Breitbart's word alone allowed to drive such a high-profile decision?
People should also demand that the White House weigh in publicly on what happened here. The White House has only discussed this via anonymous leaks, and this morning, officials are conveniently leaking word that the White House prodded Vilsack to reconsider Sherrod's firing. That's nice, but was the White House told in advance that the firing was about to happen, and if so, why did it allow the firing to proceed?
This effort to "distance" the White House from this mess is unsightly at best. This was a major, high-profile screw-up by a cabinet secretary, and as Ben Smith notes this morning, it highlights this White House's tendency to sidestep racial controversies and cede turf to the right's efforts to stoke racial resentment.
This is an opportunity for the White House to drive home the point that the Breitbart-Fox-Glenn Beck axis -- which is out to destroy this presidency -- should be accorded no credibility whatsoever by news organizations. People should demand that the White House issue clear, unequivocal condemnation of what happened here.
But, when she gets it right, she gets it right.
And she has an interview with Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP:
I don't know it if goes far enough, but its waay better than what we would have had under a Republican Administration. If you want to know what it does for you, here's a handy video:
The video wasn't bad. It's explanation of the history of the Panic of 2008 is pretty on target, though I prefer the salad metaphor instead of the casino metaphor. (Good mortgages were mixed in with bad mortgages. If you chop up 50 good heads of lettuce, and then add in one chopped up head of lettuce with Botulinum Toxin, guess what happens to the 50 good heads of lettuce.)
This after he skipped a Rural Education Summit.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The complete story from the Washington Post is here. The side stuff is where TPM stood out.
In short: USDA Worker, Shirley Sherrod gives speech on March 27 to the Freedom Fund of the NAACP. Speech is said to be racist, why just look at the video that Andrew Breitbart posted on his sucking hole of a website.
And then the problems started to add up.
First problem, the video was heavily edited...presumably by Breitbart, right?
Second problem, the speech...it turns out...wasn't racist at all, in fact, it was the very opposite of racist, in that it told a moving story of a black woman having to fight her own prejudices. It also happened to: A) happen 24 years prior, and B) been a regular story used in other speeches Ms. Sherrod has given.
Third problem, having fallen for Brietbart's bull@#$% video, both Sec. Vlisack and the NAACP call for Ms. Sherrod's resignation...which she unfortunately does.
Fourth problem, in a later interview, Ms. Sherrod is misquoted as saying that the White House forced her to resign. They deny it. It never made sense they'd get involved in such a low-level firing. And it turns out she was misquoted anyway.
Fifth problem, the people whom Ms. Sherrod is accused of being prejudiced against...well, they credit Ms. Sherrod with saving their farm, and they're close friends now.
Sixth problem, racist jackass extraordinaire Andrew Breitbart did not edit the video in question, he did not watch said video, he just posted it without asking any of those nasty questions, the ones actual journalists ask. He says that the thing speaks for itself. Apparently, it doesn't.
Seventh problem, Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP comes out and says that the they were wrong.
Eighth problem, Sec. Vlisack stands by the firing. Leading me to start asking, when is he going to get fired. Because if he's going to stand by this decision, I want his ass gone.
I will go to my grave saying that that Andrew Breitbart (the ACORN bull@#$% -- they've been cleared, you know, the break-in at Sen. Landrieu's office, he's been associated with it all) is a racist of the first order, possessing all the journalistic ethics of your average garter snake, Sec. Tom Vlisack hasn't covered himself in glory either. At least the NAACP had the cajones to admit that they'd been snookered.
All I want to know now is three things:
When is someone going to sue Breitbart? I think this counts as defamation.
When is Ms. Sherrod getting her job back?
When is Sec. Vlisack losing his?
I teach contract law at Harvard Law School, and [also] commercial law and bankruptcy ... but if you put me under oath right now, I tell you, I don't know what the effective interest rate will be on my credit card next month, because I can't read it in my contract.
That told me a lot, and impressed the hell out of me. It laid the problem bare, and in its own small way, led us to where we are today.
Now, I'm glad that the Labor Unions are going to lobby on her behalf. I'm not sure what Geithner's problem is with her, and I don't really care, either. Though I remain a Geithner fan, he's not going to be making this appointment, is he?
Some of the dumber pundits on my side of the (Liberal) Aisle are drawing yet another line in the sand, demanding that she be appointed, whining that a failure to appoint Elizabeth Warren is yet another reason for them to be disappointed with the insufficient Liberalism of the Obama Administration.
Let me maintain the ever-constant position of this blog that Simon Johnson, Robert Kuttner, David Sirota and Amy Siskind can all stick it.
What fascinates me about these douchebag demands, is that I'm 99% certain that none of these guys have actually spoken with Warren. I know I haven't. (Have you?) Thus, none of these guys...let me repeat, none of them...is even sure if she wants the job.
I'm not saying she doesn't. She may be chomping at the bit for the gig, but it'd be nice to hear the words from her lips before these morons start hemming and hawing. If she says she wants it, then at least their plaintive cries stand on firmer ground.
Even so, Erza Klein speculates that while Elizabeth Warren is well qualified, there may be even better (though less-known) people out there who could do the job:
My colleague Neil Irwin has a post this morning throwing some cold water on the heated advocacy for Elizabeth Warren to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I'd group the objections into two buckets -- innovation and administration -- and both are fair.
Irwin's first concern is that an overzealous consumer regulator could, in his or her enthusiasm for ridding the market of trickery, also rid it of products that make credit available to the working class. Does keeping a small number of people from getting into serious debt justify keeping a large number of people from accessing credit instruments they could use effectively?
It's a legitimate concern, and only Warren can answer it. Of course, it's possible she's already explained the test she would apply to decide whether consumer financial instruments were legitimate, and I just haven't seen the speech.
Irwin's second concern actually worries me less. It's hard to predict who will and won't be good at building an agency. It's a task that's not quite like any other, and fairly few people have much of a track record at it. It's also not a task that's solely dependent on the director. Deputy directors and other high-level managers have a lot of influence over hiring and administering and creating a workplace culture. But only the person at the top can set the agency's vision and sensibility and appeal.
The question, to me, is whether Warren is the only person who can do that. I've made the argument that she will have a unique appeal to the sort of talented young lawyers and consumer advocates that we want working in the agency. She's also brilliant at working the media and acting as a public advocate, and she's clearly got an ambitious and restless vision for what this institution can become. But the other finalists aren't slouches.
Michael Barr is a Treasury official who deserves as much credit -- or, depending on your perspective -- bears as much blame -- as anyone in the country for shepherding the financial regulation bill to passage. He's good at working with legislators and the media, has excellent internal relationships that will be important for guaranteeing the agency's autonomy, and has the intellectual heft that his previous life as a law professor at Michigan and a Brookings scholar would suggest.
The third candidate, Gene Kimmelman, is the Justice Department's chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations, and was formerly a vice president at the Consumer's Union. The National Journal called him "one of the best known consumer advocates in Washington." He knows the field well, and probably already knows everyone he'd like to see working at the agency.
Moreover, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a much-hyped agency being built amidst a grim job market. It won't have trouble recruiting, even without Warren's star power at the top.
So in the end analysis, the question is whether you think Warren's unique prominence and pedigree as the person who created the idea for this agency and put the issues beneath it on the map is worth more than the managerial experience and administrative relationships Barr and Kimmelman have. I come down on Warren's side, but her nomination has achieved a level of symbolism on the left that's out of proportion to the merits of the different candidates.
For me, it's Elizabeth Warren's skill at communicating that makes her my favorite. There may be better administrators, but no one is going to be able to explain the myraid bull@#$% of the Banks and Credit Rating Agencies better. So the job should be hers...
...if she wants it.
Monday, July 19, 2010
President Obama: 'Partisan Minority' Must Stop 'Misguided' Blocking Of Unemployment Benefits (VIDEO)
And for a long time, there’s been a tradition –- under both Democratic and Republican Presidents –- to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits. But right now, these benefits –- benefits that are often the person’s sole source of income while they’re looking for work -– are in jeopardy.
And I have to say, after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans like Jim or Leslie or Denise, who really need help.
Over the past few weeks, a majority of senators have tried -– not once, not twice, but three times –- to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis. Each time, a partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks.
That attitude I think reflects a lack of faith in the American people, because the Americans I hear from in letters and meet in town hall meetings –- Americans like Leslie and Jim and Denise -- they’re not looking for a handout. They desperately want to work. Just right now they can’t find a job. These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who’ve fallen on hard times through no fault of their own, and who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits and who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.
Now, tomorrow we will have another chance to offer them that relief, to do right by not just Jim and Leslie and Denise, but all the Americans who need a helping hand right now -- and I hope we seize it. It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right -- not for the next election but for the middle class. We’ve got to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work. We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance. We need to pass those tax cuts for small businesses and the lending for small businesses.
Times are hard right now. We are moving in the right direction. I know it’s getting close to an election, but there are times where you put elections aside. This is one of those times. And that’s what I hope members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will do tomorrow.
Thanks very much.