Last night, Obama was speaking to a group of wealthy donors. Unlike Republican politicians, Obama did not tell them what they wanted to hear. Instead, he told them, “Occasionally I may make some of you angry because I’m going to reach out to Republicans, and I’m going to keep on doing it. Even if some of you think I’m a sap, I’m going to keep on doing it because that’s what I think the country needs.” He also said, “Whatever our political differences, President Bush loves this country and loves its people and shares that same concern.” Let me put this into perspective.
When Romney was talking to his donors, he told them they were everything that is good about America and that people vote for Obama because they’re welfare scum who are just looking for a handout. In other words: pander to your base and attack the other side.
Obama’s strategy is different: tell your base you don’t care what they think and compliment the other side. This is, of course, nothing new. My favorite political slogan (which I think is quite true) is, “Republicans fear their base and Democrats hate their base.”
Obama doesn’t call us “fucking retarded” but he clearly does hate us and all our demands for liberal policy.
The Sidney Hillman Foundation is a liberal organization that gives out prizes that honor “journalists who pursue investigative reporting and deep storytelling in service of the common good.” So what did they do? They gave a prize to Andrew Sullivan who is (1) a conservative, (2) not a journalist, and (3) does no reporting or deep storytelling. It is a scandal.
Back in January, Eric Alterman provided an excellent rundown of his career, The ‘Sully’-ing of American Journalism. He points out some of the people Sullivan has championed. First, there are the plagiarizers Stephen Glass and Ruth Shalit. Then there is the totally dishonest creator of the “death panel” myth, Elizabeth McCaughey. But best (worst) of all, there is racist and eugenicist Charles Murray.
More than this though, Sullivan was a neocon when it mattered and was considered “cool.” He was not only a big proponent for our unfortunate wars, he was very big on calling anyone who disagreed a traitor. He suggested that “the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts” would constitute a fifth column in our noble fight against the vaguely defined bad guys of the world.
So why would Hillman give him an award? They claim it is for this tireless work promoting gay rights but they note that he’s been a strong supporter of President Obama. Obviously, support of the president isn’t necessarily liberal; it’s just not crazy. I will yield the point: Andrew Sullivan is not crazy. As for this work to promote gay rights, so what? This is just the Rob Portman effect. Sullivan is gay. He thus supports gay rights. Does this justify looking past everything he has stood for his entire career? Hillman thinks so:
For courage and constancy in the struggle for marriage equality, for the defense and advocacy of humane values, and for imagination and creativity at the digital cutting edge, we honor Andrew Sullivan and The Dish with the Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism.
This is so sad. If there is one political issue I care most about it is this: liberals are bought cheap. We think getting a middle of the road president is a victory. Sullivan is indeed what we often accept as a liberal: someone who has socially liberal beliefs. But as I noted yesterday regarding healthcare, Sullivan is and remains a conservative. He says so himself. The Hillman Foundation clearly suffers from the liberal disease of low expectations.
King Edward II was born on this day in 1284. It is not known if he was really gay, but Christopher Marlowe certainly thought he was. His play is excellent, and the only reason I’ve even included the king today. Villain or hero Oliver Cromwell (I lean more toward hero) was born in 1599. The great physicist Wolfgang Pauli was born in 1900. I would have featured him today but I did Max Planck just the other day. Too many AustrioGerman theoretical physicists! Ella Fitzgerald was born in 1917. Blues guitarist Albert King was born in 1923. And songwriter Jerry Leiber was born in 1933.
The day belongs to Edward R. Murrow who was born in 1908. I don’t know much about him. All I know about him is from watching Good Night, and Good Luck. Well, I know a bit more. He was a great man. Too bad about the smoking, which took his life at 57.
Here’s one of Leiber’s songs (co-written as always):
Tonight, Rachel Maddow had a great opening sequence on conspiracy theorists and the thought that they are becoming more mainstream. I don’t know about that. But I have known a lot of conspiracy theorists and I think I know how they think. One thing you have to remember about these people is that they are generally pretty smart. Truly dull people would not be able to follow all of the clever thinking that most conspiracy theories are based on. They are also people with an admirable ability to question authority. Unfortunately, they don’t take it far enough.
I’m very open to conspiracy theories. There are actually a lot of conspiracies. But they don’t often have to do with the government. Well, perhaps it is better to say that the government conspiracies are out in the open. Insider trading for congressional staff? Check! Legal bribery? Check! You get the idea. But faking the moon landing? Well…
You know, during the moon landing, a physicist who watching TV at home, timed how long an astronaut’s belt took to swing back and forth. Based upon that, he calculated the force of gravity on the surface of the moon. That is, to say the least, one of the coolest things ever. But more to the point, I don’t think conspiracists are that good. They would have to have created a special device that looked like a belt swinging. And then they would have had to predict that some nerdy physicist (Redundant, right?) would do the calculation. Or the physicist would have to be part of the conspiracy. And every person you add to a conspiracy adds to the likelihood that someone is going to publish a tell-all book.
When I look into conspiracies, I always find that I’m buried in data that goes against them. The problem, I think, with people who accept conspiracy theories is that they latch on to small inconsistencies. But that’s entropy. If you collect enough data, some of it will be contradictory. And the more you collect, the more contradictory information you will find. And if you are digging for data thinking you’ll find things that go against the official narrative, you will find them. But science (and investigation in general) is about the preponderance of information, not every detail fitting. But it isn’t hard to understand how people become true believers when there are in fact pieces of the puzzle that don’t fit.
There’s a problem with that, of course. It’s like a tinder box. You know how to build a pipe bomb, right? You put a bunch of explosive material in a pipe—match heads will do. Then you close it off with the exception of one small hole. Put a fuse in the hole and there you go. But as long as you don’t light the fuse (and use match heads that are pretty stable), the bomb isn’t likely to explode unless you light the fuse. And that’s kind of what the conspiracy theory community is like: an unlit pipe bomb.
Timothy McVeigh didn’t blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in a vacuum. He was part of a larger community that was obsessed with the supposed tyrannical government that murdered poor Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge. That’s how extremist bombs go off. It is not an overstatement to say that loose talk ends in carnage. There very much is a continuum between Rush Limbaugh and the Oklahoma City bombing. That isn’t to blame Limbaugh, but he is part of the environment. And if the conspiracy theorists are being brought into the mainstream by Republican celebrities, it is a very bad (and dangerous) thing.
Andrea sent me the image above. I’ve been chasing around the original source. She got it off sodahead.com but it is actually stolen bandwidth off Demotivational Posters but is tagged as motifake.com. Unfortunately, I have no idea who created the image in the first place. I’ve been in fights with people on these boards who steal my images (which is fine) and my bandwidth (which is not). Anyway, there you have it.
What I find interesting is that I don’t find the poster at all blue. But I also don’t find it funny. It is just a good example of the madness of US foreign policy over the last decade. But I’m kind of past focusing on the evils of the Bush Administration when there are so many of the Obama administration. In particular, how is our drone program still a response to 9/11? I really don’t know. There are those who claim we must remember the Alamo, I mean 9/11, and that it gives us the right to kill any brown-skinned person anywhere in Europe, Asia, and Africa. But I figure these people already think we have the right to kill anyone they don’t like and are just using 9/11 as an excuse.
But tell me again, why are liberals dropping bombs on these kids?
Last night, Politico reported, Sources: Obama Plans W.H.-GOP Budget Group. In other words, it is Grand Bargain time! Don’t worry, that feeling in the pit of your stomach is a normal reaction to the loss of all hope. But maybe it isn’t as bad as all that. Regardless, it is an opportunity for me to discuss some new thinking I’ve been having about Obama’s obsession with making a deal. The news is good! And bad! It depends upon how you want to look at it.
Why does Obama want a deal that will cut Social Security and Medicare in the long term? Because he doesn’t care about the long term. Does that sound harsh? I don’t mean it that way. The truth is that the economy is really bad right now. The stimulus is making it worse. Obama hopes to get a deal that will get the economy back on track now. And if that requires screwing seniors over the next couple of decades, so be it.
There are two ways to look at this. Imagine if Obama could get the economy growing again and create The Wrath of the Conquest of the Planet of the Bride of the Son of the Return of Morning in America. Then in a few years, the Democrats would likely have greater control of the government and would be in a position to fix the harm done by Chained-CPI. They could say (and this is true), “This cost of living adjustment is incorrect for seniors; we shouldn’t have lowered it; we should have raised it!”
Of course, there are other ways that Chained-CPI hurts the Democratic base. In particular, it is a way to raise taxes (slowly, but surely) on the middle class. This is, as they say, something that Obama said very clearly that he would not do. So there’s that. And that brings us to the second way of looking at Obama’s pursuit of a Grand Bargain.
Maybe he just wants things to be good now, since he’s in office. If it all goes to hell afterwards, who cares? In fact, that might be good. Nothing made people appreciate Clinton like George W. Bush. So if seniors in 2018 are eating cat food and the economy is struggling because of lack of demand, people will look back (Republicans especially!) and say, “That Obama was one bad mother f…” (Shut your mouth!) But I’m talking about Obama. (Then we can dig it!)
It may surprise you all, but I actually think it is the first way. Obama thinks that we need to fix the economy now. And he’s right. If we are to have any hope in the future, we need to deal with our problems today.
So take a moment to appreciate these nice things I’m saying about Obama. I assure you, I will be back to complaining very soon!
I’m sure you remember the “What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us” scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. But if not, here is the best part:
All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
This comes to mind a lot these days. You may remember back to last week when Patrick Dollard tweeted, “George Bush kept us safe for 8 years and once again Barack Obama fails as terrorists bomb Boston Marathon.” (Of course, Dollard tweeted IN ALL CAPS.) As I noted at the time, Dollard seemed to be forgetting a little thing called 9/11 when almost 3000 people were murdered.
Now conservatives are getting a little more specific in their complaints. Jennifer Rubin wrote, “Unlike Obama’s tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11.” And Eric Bolling said more or less the same thing. In the tradition of Monty Python, Steve Benen at Maddow Blog provided a great response:
Indeed, it’s a little tiresome to hear Republicans argue in effect, “Other than the deadly anthrax attacks, the attack against El Al ticket counter at LAX, the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the former president’s record on counter-terrorism was awesome.”
And then he goes on to explain just how ridiculous this business of the “9/11 exception” is:
For Rubin and Bolling, the response is, in effect, “Yeah, but other than that, he kept us safe.” The problem, of course, is that’s roughly the equivalent of saying other than that iceberg, the Titanic had a pleasant voyage. Other than that one time, Pompeii didn’t have to worry about the nearby volcano. Other than Booth, Lincoln enjoyed his evening at Ford’s Theater.
The argument that Republicans will make tries to skirt this issue, of course. They say, “Sure, but after he understood the threat, he kept us safe!” This often goes along with the contention that “no one could have known” that a terror attack was on the way. But even if everything is granted, the fact remains that terror attacks did happen. It was mostly just dumb luck (and dumb terrorists) who kept us save. Is that Bush’s legacy? I was lucky?
But the day belongs to the great filmmaker William Castle who was born in 1914. He was an amazing guy who pretty much invented the gimmick film. But regardless of that, he made good films. My favorite is House on Haunted Hill, which I never tire of watching. The character Lawrence Woolsey (played by John Goodman) in the film Matinee is supposed to be based on Castle, and I suspect he really was that colorful.
Jonathan Bernstein noted something really interesting at Salon yesterday, GOP Quits Public Policy. In it, he explains that in the House of Representatives, they number bill sequentially. So HR 101 comes after HR 100. But for some time, they’ve reserved the first ten number HR 1 to HR 10 for party priorities. For example, in the 2008, the Democrats used the first two for the stimulus bill and the expansion of S-CHIP. In general, the trend has been to not use all ten numbers, but the process is still used to signify what policies the party thinks are important.
Until now, apparently.
The House majority is currently only using one of the ten slots. And it is for a fairly pathetic initiative: “a bill to force the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.” And even that slot was only filled after a month and a half into this legislative session. So what’s going on?
Bernstein is quick to note that it is a liberal canard that conservatives have no ideas. Let me just say that I mightily agree with him. In fact historically, conservatives have had many clever ideas. Look at the individual mandate that they came up with even as they now say it is socialism. Since conservatives are not willing to support straightforward policies, they have to come up with clever ways of accomplishing things. Needless to say, I prefer the direct approach: if our employment-base insurance-crippled healthcare system is broken, it is best to change it. But I would never say that the clever schemes of conservatives to patch it up with duct tape and bubble gum are not real policy ideas that are even sometimes good.
So if the problem isn’t that conservatives have no ideas, what is it? Bernstein thinks it’s laziness:
My guess is that the Republican-aligned partisan press is just so easy for Republican politicians that they’ve all become lazy. If all you have to do to be a favorite guest on Fox News or on syndicated conservative talk radio is to mutter something vague about Benghazi and make a teleprompter joke, what’s the incentive of doing the hard work of actually writing a bill?
At any rate, this sort of thing just isn’t normal. It’s another good indicator of a broken party, and good evidence that they really just don’t care about public policy very much.
My take, I’m afraid is a bit more partisan. I think that by and large conservatives are almost by definition not interested in improving society. The end of history and all that. So even when conservatives are being very clever with policy, it is all in an effort to do nothing, or barring that, as little as possible. That is after all what the individual mandate was all about: defending against single payer healthcare reform. When that was taken off the table as a threat, the conservatives turned against the individual mandate. At first they couldn’t do nothing, but things changed to the point where they could. Well, not nothing. Now they are down to the brilliant idea of allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. (This wouldn’t really help insurance customers, but it would help the big insurance companies.)
I’m sure that Boehner & Co see their jobs as preventing anything from happening and policies are not necessary to do that right now.