I’ll Take Richard Rodgers

Richard RodgersOn this day in 1577, the great Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens was born. He was named after Pee-wee Herman. Oh, I kid the great Flemish painters! But I do wonder if the great actor was named after him. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born in 1703. The great philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in 1712. Delta bluesman, David “Honeyboy” Edwards was born in 1915. Pat Morita, Keisuke Miyagi from the original The Karate Kid series, was born in 1932. And comedian Gilda Radner was born in 1946.

Mel Brooks is 87 today. As I’ve noted a number of times, I’m not fond of the man. He has been a part of a few really good movies—mostly where he took undeserved credit. I didn’t know he was so old. The great Kathy Bates is 65, so I’m sure she’ll stop acting. And John Cusack, is 47.

The day, however, belongs to the great musical composer Richard Rodgers. He had two incredibly successful collaborations with lyricists: first Lorenz Hart and second with Oscar Hammerstein. I prefer the Hart era myself but all of the work was great. Here is “Manhattan” from The Garrick Gaieties:

Happy birthday Richard Rodgers!

There Will Be No Discharge Petition

Scared RepublicansHave you noticed the change in coverage today about immigration reform? I sure have: all those people who were so optimistic that somehow the House would take up the “gang of eight” immigration bill are strangely silent. And now a lot of people are coming out and saying what I’ve been saying, “Why would the Republicans pass immigration reform?” What’s more, with the “good news” that Republicans can greatly limit the voting rights of Democratic voters, there is less reason than ever to reach out to all those Obama voters.

Still, there has been one thing that I thought held out some degree of hope: the discharge petition. If the Democrats could get just 17 Republicans to join them, they could force the bill onto the floor for a vote. It is certainly true that there are at least 17 House Republicans who want to see immigration reform pass. But I didn’t think this was likely. As I wrote yesterday, “There would be hell to pay by Republicans who signed it.”

Today, Brian Beutler over at Talking Points Memo laid out the case for why this won’t happen, Discharge The Immigration Bill? Don’t Hold Your Breath. Basically, he made the same argument that I did, but in more detail. For example, he noted that even if the Republican leadership gave the nod to members to signs the discharge petition, they would still face external consequences. I would go further. Boehner clearly cares about keeping his job. If he didn’t punish those disloyal Republicans, that might cause him to lose his speakership.

But the main argument that Beutler made is that allowing immigration reform to pass via a discharge petition would be the worst of all worlds for the Republican Party:

In fact, the worst possible outcome for the GOP would be for the bill to become law over the explicit objections of leadership. It would give Democrats a huge policy victory but leave Republicans without the political dividends they’d pocket by being equal partners in the reform effort. It might even exacerbate their problems with Hispanic voters. And allowing a couple dozen Republicans to sign a discharge petition would accomplish just that.

That is the argument I’ve made all along. Why would the Republicans get any credit for immigration reform when the party was doing it at best grudgingly? Look at yesterday’s vote: the huge bipartisan agreement ended with 70% of Senate Republicans (including all of the leadership) voting against it. That doesn’t say, “We are embracing immigrants!”

More Idiocy from the Deer Lady

Kathleen O'Brien WilhelmI’ve been away visiting family, so it has been hard keeping up with my usual reading. And now I feel really behind. I started to panic, “What am I going to write about?” And then I had a thought, “What about the deer lady?” By that, I mean, Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm, the woman who thought that deer signs were a waste of money for the obvious reasons that (1) deer can’t read and (2) deer have no inclination to follow the law. Now, the tea party idiot has her very own blog over at the Avon-AvonLake Post. And truly: Wilhelm is the gift that keeps on giving.

Her most recent blog post (almost a month old, because gems like “deer can’t read” don’t grow on trees) is about… I don’t know! It has no title. And it really isn’t about anything except her contention that all Democrats are liars. Her ignorance is staggering. It reminds me of when I was a kid. My father would tell me things. I would repeat them to my friends, only to find out that what he told me was either a huge exaggeration or far more complicated than I had been led to believe. Over time, this caused me to be cautious—especially about things that seem outrageous. Wilhelm never learned that lession.

As usual, she starts out with her contention that America has gone crazy:

What’s happening to America? It was bad enough we had a US President Clinton who lied about having sex with an intern, and VP Al Gore who lied about global warming. Gore made billions off of the stupidity of others.

Delicious, right? I’ll grant that Clinton lied about his creepy sex life. I don’t see what this has to do with with America. But okay. Then she says without the slightest of evidence that Gore lied about global warming. And that he made billions?! Al Gore’s net worth is only $300 million. So clearly, he has not made “billions.” This goes right along with an argument I have heard a frustrating number of times from conservatives: Al Gore invented global warming so he could make money. Not only do these people think that this is all about Al Gore, they seem to forget that in 2011 alone, ExxonMobile made a net profit of $41 billion. That’s one company. Yet people like Wilhelm think the oil companies are the honest brokers when it comes to global warming; scientists making $50,000 per year are just doing it for the money.

But she’s just getting started:

Now, we have Obama who continues to lie and work to tear our US Constitution into bits and pieces.

I don’t doubt that Obama lies and craps all over the Constitution as much as any president. But it isn’t clear what she’s talking about. Of course, it never is. Wilhelm basically just structures conservative talking points in paragraph form. But notice the switch: She goes from Clinton to Gore to Obama. What’s missing? Oh! That’s right: that paragon of truthfulness George W. Bush!

It’s amazing how Obama focuses on convenient details, but denies focus on murders and gun running/Fast and Furious, murders in Benghazi, bullying taxpayers by the Internal Revenue Service/IRS and picking on the news media.

Again: I don’t know what details she’s talking about. Clearly, she is referring to the recent scandals. But other than listing them, she adds absolutely nothing. But she does muddy the waters. What “Fast and Furious” murders? No one says Obama was responsible for the murders in Benghazi. The IRS scandal, even in late May was clearly not about Obama. And the NSA scandal is not really about the media, and regardless, she would have been fine with it under Bush. (Just saying.)

Why isn’t America screaming? Isn’t anyone paying attention to the lies, thugs, thieves that is government?

Government is beating America to a bloody pulp and it appears there are only a few fighting

A lot of us are screaming about the NSA scandal. But Wilhelm seems only interested in that scandal in as far as it affects Fox News reporter James Rosen. There is nothing to the other scandals, which she would know if she got her news from anything but the most partisan sources.

Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm is a good example of what is wrong with our political system. Most of those who are interested in politics get their information from the conservative media freak show. At one time, the left had the same thing, but those days are all over. Now, it is pretty much only on the right. And things are so screwed up that people like Wilhelm think that they are safe publicly spouting their shockingly ignorant opinions. And it is done on a very popular website.

The Myth of Objective Journalism

Mainstream MediaThe primary difference between Fox News and MSNBC is not ideology; it is that Fox pretends to be objective. Yes, in general, MSNBC does a better job of reporting actual facts and doesn’t go out of its way to mislead. But they are both advocacy groups: one for the Republican Party and the other for the Democratic Party. But no one ever claims that MSNBC provides the Truth that the other networks don’t want the people to know.

Other than this fact, I have no problem with Fox News. I believe strongly that news organizations should have an explicit political inclination because they all have an implicit inclination. But even worse that Fox who any reasonable person can see is just GOP-TV, I’m concerned about the middle of the road media outlets. I’m visiting my sister and I just overheard some reporting on the TV from a local station, KTVU. They were covering information about the company who did Edward Snowden’s background check. It was anything but objective. The coverage was akin to the coverage of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial.

This has long been a thorn in my side: the idea that centrists are not ideological. They are—every bit as ideological as those of us on the left and the right. It is just that their ideologies are usually incoherent. Let’s think about my favorite centrist example: Nazis. On one side you have the Nazis who want to kill all the Jews, on the other you have people who don’t want to harm any Jews, and in the middle you have those who just want to give all Jews life in prison. It’s clear than the centrist position is ideological.

Similarly with Edward Snowden, the centrist position that he did something dangerous that put us all in danger is just as ideological as my position that he did the American people a great favor that did not put us in any danger. Matt Taibbi wrote an excellent article yesterday about this issue, Hey, MSM: All Journalism is Advocacy Journalism. It is basically a defense of Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald is explicitly an advocate. Andrew Ross Sorkin is not. He’s an advocate, but he isn’t upfront about it. Recently, he got into trouble by saying that he would “almost arrest” (whatever that means) Glenn Greenwald for publishing the Snowden revelations. But Taibbi highlights a more important passage from that same article:

I feel like, A, we’ve screwed this up, even letting him get to Russia. B, clearly the Chinese hate us to even let him out of the country.

Whatever happened to a press that was an adversary of the government’s attempt to hide things? This is right out of Pravda: we’ve screwed up by letting Snowden get to Russia? In that sentence, he indicates not that he’s an American (I do that all the time) but that he is an arm of the government. Clearly, he is advocating—and in a way that is dangerous to democracy because he isn’t explicit about what it is he’s doing. In fact it is worse: he’s claiming to be an objective journalist.

The hidden assumptions are always the ones that harm us. That is why I would rather discuss politics with a right wing extremist than a centrist. Most centrists really have convinced themselves that they aren’t ideological just because most people they know agree with them. But that’s just silly. If everyone you know thinks that Man of Steel is the best movie ever, it doesn’t mean that it is objectively the greatest movie ever; it means that you don’t know a very diverse group of people. With silly superhero movies, it hardly matters. When it comes to US foreign policy, it does.