Reading Comprehension FAIL and Other "Cons Desperate for an Obama Scandal" Stories

The Cons and their slobbering media lapdogs are absolutely, bowel-clenchingly, pants-pissingly terrified of Barack Obama.

A bold claim, you say? Evidence to back it up, you ask? Why, certainly, on both counts.

If they weren’t terrified of the man, they wouldn’t have to work so damned hard to destroy him.

They know he’s a force to be reckoned with. What they need is a good, explosive scandal to knock him down with, but since he’s not giving them one, they’re reduced to whining about his pants:

This is big news, according to Greg Gutfeld and the immaculately bleached and botoxed Laura Ingaham on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor as the first ‘dork’ President of the United States has appeared in public wearing Mom Jeans, bought with a gift certificate, apparently, from the now bankrupted Mervyn’s. Americans should be scared – scared, I tell ya – that the POTUS has lost his cool and dresses like a band teacher. Greg Gutfeld barely cracks a smile as he warns us ‘this isn’t going to intimidate Putin’ and ‘our adversaries in Iran will not take [him] seriously,’ especially since he also throws a baseball ‘like a little girl’… all symbols of something ‘deeper and more sinister’…

I kid you not. I wish I did.

That’s desperation, that is. They couldn’t get him with Arugulagate, Condimentgate, or any of the other gates they’ve been frantically waving around, so now they’re trying out Jeansgate. It’s utterly pathetic.

The Cons in Congress tried out Hamgate today, but unfortunately for them, most of us have the reading comprehension skills of a common chimpanzee and the numeracy skills of your basic beaver, which are all you need to shut this gate:

Far-right blogs and Republican staffers thought they’d found a delicious new anecdote to attack the stimulus package. As is usually the case, they neglected to think it through before making themselves appear silly.

Drudge, running with contracts from the government’s stimulus website, claimed that the Obama administration had spent, among other things, $1.19 million on two pounds of ham. Some conservative bloggers, following Drudge’s lead, ran with the story. House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office complained about the “pork” in the stimulus. Republicans sent “blast e-mails of screenshots from the Drudge Report, highlighting the contracts as wasteful spending.”

By yesterday afternoon, the Department of Agriculture felt compelled to issue a statement, explaining how terribly wrong conservatives are about this.


The references to “2 pound frozen ham sliced” are to the sizes of the packaging. Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy “2 pounds of ham” are wrong. In fact, the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191 million, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound. In terms of the dairy purchase referenced, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) purchased 837,936 pounds of mozzarella cheese and 4,039,200 pounds of processed cheese. The canned pork purchase was 8,424,000 pounds at a cost of $16,784,000, or approximately $1.99 per pound.

While the principal purpose of these expenditures is to provide food to those hardest hit by these tough times, the purchases also provide a modest economic benefit of benefiting Americans working at food retailers, manufacturers and transportation companies as well as the farmers and ranchers who produce our food supply.

In other words, the conservative activists who pounced on this were thoroughly confused about every relevant detail, including the underlying claim.

What happened next really makes me wonder if every Con in Congress is just part of some massive practical joke, because slipping on banana peels (or in this case, sliced ham) and then immediately walking face-first into a door usually don’t happen in real life:

Also yesterday, Drudge said $1.4 million in recovery funds went to “repair a door” at Dyess Air Force Base’s “bldg 5112.” Fox News’ Glenn Beck was outraged, and said this is proof that “they’re just peeing your money away.”

“Wow, what happened to that door?” Beck asked. “That’s a lot of repairing, you know. Can we buy a new one, and cheaper?”

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s completely wrong.

[U]nder the “View all project descriptions” link on the page to which the Drudge Report linked, actually states that the government awarded AFCO Technologies nearly $1.2 million to replace gas mains on the base, and $246,100 to repair doors in Building 5112. A Department of Defense document listing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects in Texas states that the doors that were repaired in Building 5112 are “hangar doors.”

Moreover, a May 5 press release from the Dyess Air Force Base stated that the money awarded for the gas main project “may have saved eight jobs” and that the base could “now possibly hire two more employees.”

So, once again, all of the relevant details of the claim are either demonstrably false or wildly misleading.

Better conservatives, please.

Oh, dear glods, yes, please. At least get us ones that don’t get so insanely terrified at the least little sign of a competent Democrat in office that they panic like this. It’s embarrassing.

Reading Comprehension FAIL and Other "Cons Desperate for an Obama Scandal" Stories

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

We saw through their cunning little schemes long ago, but today, the Cons got busted (h/t & h/t):

A private memo distributed by the Republican National Committee calls for like-minded advocates to help defeat President Barack Obama’s health care proposals by delaying its consideration.

The memo, which was obtained by the Huffington Post from a Democratic source, provides the clearest illustration to date of the political playbook being used to stop Democratic attempts at a health care overhaul. Much of the material mirrors the speeches and presentations made by conservatives both inside and out of elected office to date. Obama’s plan for health care is deemed an “experiment” and a “risk” that could bankrupt the country and dangerously change the doctor-patient relationship.

In particular, the 12-page memo makes the case that it is a Republican priority to slow down the consideration of health care reform before it can become codified.

“The Republican National Committee will engage in every activity we can to slow down this mad rush while promoting sensible alternatives that address health care costs and preserve quality,” the memo affirmatively declares.

What fucking quality?

Digby demolishes this dumbfuckery point by point. Since you know all your Faux News-loving friends will be spouting these talking points like perfect little parrots, it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the antidote.

Oh, and Blue Dogs? When you scream for delay, you do realize you’re playing right into the Cons’ hands, right? This will not go well for you come Election Day:

Now, I have no doubt that certain Blue Dogs and Democratic wingnuts think they can personally benefit by distancing themselves from Democratic initiatives. They are stupid. If Obama goes down in flames, as Brownstien says, those in conservative districts will get creamed by a Republican challenger in 2010, regardless of whether they voted against the health care bill. They are the ones who will pay the price for Obama’s failure, not him and not the liberals who voted for it.

Any Blue Dog from a swing district who is listening to little Republican birdies whispering in his ear telling them that he has to vote against Obama’s agenda or risk losing in 2010 is a useful idiot who is engineering his own defeat.

Hear that, Rep. Dan “I’m Really a Con, but They Were Losing at the Time” Boren?

Oh, and speaking of losers whose last names begin with the letter B, Con Rep. Joe Barton can’t remember how much campain cash he’s taken from the health insurance industry. Let’s give him a little reminder, shall we?

According to OpenSecrets, the health care sector has been Barton’s second largest contributor over the years, donating $2,096,021. In the current election cycle, only the energy and natural resources industries have given him more money.

Could this be one of the reasons why Cons and Blue Dogs are so desperate to maintain the status quo? I do believe it might, I do I do.

Now, we all know what’s going to happen when health care reform passes over the screaming tantrums of the fucktards who’ve been sucking at the insurance industry’s teat. They’ll rail and cry about evil big gubmint and socialism and how very awful it is, all the while taking credit for the benefits flowing from the legislation they so desperately fought. How do we know? It’s because that’s exactly what the fucktards are doing with the stimulus:

Indeed, this happens quite a bit. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) hates the stimulus, except for the transportation money it brought to his district. Other House Republicans have bragged about recovery funds headed for their communities, thanks to a bill they voted in lock-step against.

Bobby Jindal’s not even being subtle about it:

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) reemerged on the national stage yesterday, penning an op-ed in the Politico to slam efforts to reform health care and declaring the Economic Recovery Act a failure. Jindal declared the Recovery Act “a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus that has not stimulated.” However, less than 24 hours before Jindal published his op-ed, Jindal traveled to Anacoco, Louisiana to present a jumbo-sized check to residents of Vernon Parish. The funds included hundreds of thousands of dollars directly from the Recovery Act — at least $157,848 in Community Block Grant money authorized by the Recovery Act and $138,611 for Byrne/JAG job training programs created by the Recovery Act. Rather than credit the federal government or the Recovery Act he opposed, Jindal printed his own name on the corner of the massive check.

And Mark Pence should be joining the hypocritical harmony any moment now:

Pence recently attacked the stimulus in a speech, declaring that “the American people deserve a real plan for a real recovery.” Back in February he called for a Federal spending freeze amid the recession.

So how will Pence react to this big story in one of his state’s major papers?

Stimulus Has Hoosiers Working

INDIANAPOLIS — More than 2,400 people are now at work on federal stimulus-funded roadway projects in Indiana, according to a state report being released today.

Covering 83 projects and listing a total payroll of $2.8 million, the Indiana Department of Transportation report details only a small fraction of the hundreds of projects so far selected for funding using the $440 million the agency received under the American Relief and Recovery Act.

Economists say it’s too early to tell whether the long-term value of President Barack Obama’s economy-boosting effort will justify its $787 billion cost. But construction executives say stimulus-funded projects certainly have created jobs and spared layoffs within the industry.

Since Indiana’s only seen the benefits of a drop of that stimulus cash, Pence feels comfortable singing the tax cut song. But you can bet he’ll be singing a different song to his constituents.

I can hardly wait till these fuckers come up for reelection. All those ads using their own non-cherrypicked words to show them up for two-faced fucktards should be a lot of fun.

We talked a bit recently about the GOP’s propensity for extortion. Sen. DeMint’s decided to try his own hand at the racket:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-N.C.) delayed committee votes on two State Department posts today over objections to the administration’s policy towards Honduras, Reuters reports.

DeMint, who believes the recent coup in Honduras was legal, asked to delay votes on the nominations of (1) Arturo Valenzuela to be Assistant Secretary of State for western hemisphere affairs and (2) Thomas Shannon to be Ambassador to Brazil.


The Senate Foreign Relations committee will likely vote on the nominations next week, by which time DeMint hopes the administration will reconsider its support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

I wonder if RICO covers rackets like this?

We’ll close Happy Hour with a rare bit of Con sanity that has neocons shitting their pants:

Given Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) work on eliminating unnecessary F-22 funding, I sort of expected the Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb, a former McCain aide, to support the majority today.

No such luck.

If there is any consolation to be had here it comes from the fact that there will be a time when this administration’s weakness on defense, and the subservience of their enablers in Congress, will reemerge as a national political issue. And at that time, some Republican will run an add [sic] that shows the trillions this government has wasted on pet projects and social experiments and contrast that with the determination that same government showed in killing a crucial weapons system — because they decided there isn’t enough money left for our military to have the very best equipment money can buy.

America is less safe now than it was an hour ago.

OK, let’s get into this a bit. On the latter point, it’s worth remembering that the F-22 is a bit of a mess. For every hour it spends in the air, it requires more than 30 hours of maintenance. One of its key problems is — I’m not kidding — “vulnerability to rain.” After years of effort, the plane, in operational flight tests, has met only seven of its 22 “key requirements.” It features a radar-absorbing canopy that tends to imprison pilots for hours. It was designed to address Cold War-era national security needs, and has flown a grand total of zero missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even if we exclude President Obama from the equation, the excess F-22 spending was opposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates (a Bush/Cheney appointee), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (a Bush/Cheney appointee), the current Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff, and the leading Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Senate vote today had 15 GOP members, including some very conservative lawmakers, joining with the majority.

Goldfarb’s having a heart attack from delusions that the fatally-fucked up F-22 was keeping America safe, and now the evil Senators have made us less safe. I’m having a heart attack because 15 GOP members displayed some actual sense.

If only it wasn’t for the relentless parade of dumbfuckery we saw today, I’d think it’s a sign of hope. Alas, it appears a mere abberation. But perhaps the exotic tang of rationality shall linger on their tongues. Perhaps they’ll even like it, and want to try a little bit more.

We can but dream.

Happy Hour Discurso

"God, Guns, Guts, and American Pick-Up Trucks"

Interesting marketing ploy:

Mark Muller, the president of Max Motors in Missouri, is offering a gift certificate for a Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle to anyone who purchases a pick-up truck.

A Ford and the weapon-of-choice of the mujahedeen. Fascinating one-stop shop options, there.

However, the gun rack is going to cost you extra:

Mark Muller, whose business slogan is “God, Guns, Guts, and American Pick-Up Trucks”, said he had been overwhelmed by the response.


“It’s extremely successful. There is a lot of worry about crime, we have a methamphetamine problem around here and people just want to protect themselves,” said the boss of Max Motors near Kansas City. “And what could be better than supporting American products in these troubled times?


Izhevsk Mechanical Works (RTS:IGMA) (Russian: Ижевский Mашзавод) or IZHMASH (ИЖМАШ) is a weapons manufacturer based in Izhevsk, founded in 1807 at the decree of Tsar Alexander I, and is now one of the largest corporations in its field. It makes the famous Kalashnikov series of assault rifle, along with a host of other Russian arms, including medium cannons, missiles, and guided shells. Izhmash also produces other goods, such as motorcycles and cars.

That doesn’t sound American

The AK-47 is a selective fire, gas operated 7.62mm assault rifle developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Nope. Nope, definitely not American. I mean, if he’s going to use the “well, some of them are manufactured in Amurka” excuse, he’s kinda shooting his “I only sell Amurkan trucks!” purity in the foot – after all, Toyota and Nissan also have plants in the U.S.A.

Then again, logical consistency is never a strong feature with right-wing hysterics, is it?

"God, Guns, Guts, and American Pick-Up Trucks"

Way to Support the Troops

Faux News favorite Ralph Peters, showing just how much the right loves the troops:

Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who has been captured by the Taliban and appears in a video released this weekend by his captors, “went missing from his base in eastern Afghanistan on June 30.” The circumstances of his capture are still unknown. ABC News reports, “Defense officials said it appeared he somehow left his base in Paktika Province at night, likely accompanied by several Afghan soldiers.” On July 6, the Taliban claimed that “a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison” and was captured by them.

On Fox News yesterday, guest Ralph Peters, a retired Army Lt. Col., urged against leaping to conclusions. “I was to stress first of all that we must wait until all of the facts are in until we make a final judgment,” Peters said, but quickly added, “He is an apparent deserter,” “he is collaborating with the enemy,” and “we know that this private is a liar.” Peters then suggested that if Bergdahl is a deserter, the Taliban should kill him:

I want to be clear. If, when the facts are in, we find out that through some convoluted chain of events, he really was captured by the Taliban, I’m with him. But, if he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime, I don’t care how hard it sounds, as far as I’m concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.


Michelle Malkin applauds Peters’ “tough words.”

I know these fucktards had lost all sense of decency a long time ago, but this is obscene even for them.

Way to Support the Troops

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Here it is, the Con strategy on health care reform, all nice and out in the open:

Indeed, the conservative effort to “kill” reform was clarified today by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, an architect of obstructing reform in the ’90s, who wrote that Republicans should “go for the kill”:

With Obamacare on the ropes, there will be a temptation for opponents to let up on their criticism, and to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible. There will be a tendency to want to let the Democrats’ plans sink of their own weight, to emphasize that the critics have been pushing sound reform ideas all along and suggest it’s not too late for a bipartisan compromise over the next couple of weeks or months.

My advice, for what it’s worth: Resist the temptation. This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill.

Kristol asserts that “we have plenty of time to work next year on sensible and targeted health reform in a bipartisan way,” but Dave Weigel notes the disingenuousness of the claim, since “Republicans had, of course, plenty of time for bipartisan health reform from 2001 to 2009, but they punted, because they don’t believe that the country needs fundamental reform that covers everyone.”

Why don’t they believe we need fundamental reform? Why, because the system already provides health care for everyone:

Mitch McConnell came on Meet the Press to spew some more Frank Luntz talking points on health care reform, but when asked whether the United States actually has the “best health care in the world”, McConnell punts and retreats to the Republican mantra of more tax cuts and then adds this little gem when asked if it’s a moral issue that 47 million Americans go without health insurance:

McCONNELL: Well, they don’t go without health care. It’s not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance. So it is important, I think, to reduce the number of uninsured. The question is, what is the best way to do that?

So in other words, Americans have access to health care because they can go get in line at the emergency room, and the hospital cannot turn them away. I’m curious if Sen. McConnell would care to opt out of his government run health care plan and take a vow only to use the emergency room when he needs to see a doctor from now on since he believes it would mean he has access to health care?

Here’s what I think: dumbfuck Senators who make dumbfuck remarks like this should have their health benefits canceled. They obviously don’t want any of that icky gubmint-run socialist health care stuff. And if they’re so positive America has the most wonderfullest health care system in the whole wide world, they can go take their chances in the private market – after having their income reduced to the median income. What could be more awesome?

You can bet McConnell and the rest of the “Waterloo” crowd will hold on to their government-run health care with both fists while trying to defeat Obama’s reform efforts, claiming all the while Americans are doing just fine. Let’s check in with their constituents and see how the status quo’s working out for them:

Meanwhile, as Jim DeMint puts party before country, the people he’s supposed to be representing are suffering.

After 25 years with the same company, Andy Stark lost his job and his health insurance.

While he found other work, it paid 30 percent less and had no benefits.

Then his wife got cancer.

Now the Simpsonville couple is struggling to pay medical bills they expect will total about $140,000.

“This is not the way things should be in America,” Andy Stark said.

The Starks lost their insurance after Andy was laid off, and they couldn’t afford COBRA premiums. That was before the cancer diagnosis. And they’re hardly alone.

In South Carolina, 670 people a week lose their health coverage, according to data from Families USA. In the decade ending in 2008, premiums soared 119 percent, increasing costs to employers and workers and adding to the spiraling cost of health care, according to the nonprofit group.

Jim DeMint’s and the GOP’s answer? Screw them. It’s all about defeating Obama.

Two can play at Waterloo. And this isn’t 1994, my friends. I do believe we can make health care reform the issue that breaks the Cons’ backs. If they want to defeat it for political purposes, well, there’s millions of people who are sick, uninsured, and bankrupted by medical bills. The Cons will own all that suffering.

So will the Blue Dogs:

Look at this man, Rep. Mike Ross, who’s proud of himself for defying President Obama and working to kill health care reform in the Energy and Commerce Committee mark-up today.


Rep. Mike Ross sounds just like Senator DeMint when he says stuff like these below and wants to delay the passage of health care reform:

“I think they underestimated the Blue Dogs on this. They are dug in. They’re ‘bowed up.’ They’ve all gotten an earful back home.


“When I’m invited in to meet with the Speaker or the president,” he said, “I go into those meetings thinking that I don’t need to come around to their opinion — they need to come around.”

What about the people in Rep. Mike Ross’s district? Doesn’t he need to come around for the 21.8% of people in his district that are uninsured? That’s 500,000 constituents that he doesn’t care about when he works to weaken the House Tri-Committee bill, and doesn’t accept President Obama’s suggestion to create a MedPac panel to oversee Medicare reimbursement rates.

Blue Cross Blue Shield in Rep. Mike Ross’s district has a 75% market share–that means it has a near monopoly, and people can’t get insurance anywhere else in his district. It’s why they need the choice of a public option to help lower the costs of private insurers and helps keep them honest in that district.

Blue Dogs, mind you, who are standing athwart health care reform because they’re oh-so concerned about its cost. Blue Dogs who didn’t give two shits about costs just a short while ago:

While Cohn is clearly right about the selective concerns from McConnell and congressional Republicans, let’s also not forget that there are a handful of Democrats who have the same problem. Ben Nelson and Max Baucus, for example, both voted for Bush’s tax cuts, funding for both of the Bush-launched wars, and spending on Bush’s Medicare Part D, without so much as a hint about how to pay for them.

Now, Nelson and Baucus are suddenly deeply concerned about whether the country can really afford health care reform, and in Nelson’s case, whether Democrats should even be allowed to vote on their own reform plan in the Senate.

It’s maddening.

Yes, it is. Getting the “fiscal responsibility” lecture from Cons and Blue Dogs who spent like frat boys with their daddy’s credit card so Bush could play warrior chief is infuriating. And this is something else that should hang around their necks until it breaks their backs.

So should Bill Moyers’ lecture. He contrasted Dr. Regina Benjamin, Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, with the fat cats in the insurance industry, and it’s a devastating comparison:

Here’s the difference. To Dr. Regina Benjamin, health care is a service, helping people in need with grace and compassion. To Ed Hanway and his highly paid friends, it’s big business, a commodity to be sold to those who can afford it. And woe to anyone who gets between them and the profits they reap from sick people.

That behavior includes spending nearly a million and a half a day–a day!–to make sure health care reform comes out their way. Over the years they’ve lavished millions on the politicians who are writing and voting on the bills coming out of committee. Now it’s payback time. See for yourself here on our website, where you’ll find a link to campaign contributions and the politicians who right now are deciding who wins and who loses the heath care debate.

The pols who are working for the insurance industry rather than patients and doctors need to have their jobs voted right from under them. Remember them, when Election Day rolls around.

And now, on a lighter note, assclowns.

Michael Steele at the National Press Club:

When stumped with numerous health care policy questions, Steele said, “I don’t do policy,” acknowledging that he’s paying attention to his internal RNC polling to craft his political message. Moments later, Steele said he’s “not concerned” about the politics of health care.

Jonah Goldberg living in the past:

Over at “The Corner,” Jonah Goldberg highlights this 1961 clip from Ronald Reagan, criticizing Medicare. Goldberg said Reagan’s criticism of the landmark health care program is, nearly a half-century later, “still fresh today.”


According to Reagan, Medicare would lead federal officials to dictate where physicians could practice medicine, and open the door to government control over where Americans were allowed to live. In fact, Reagan warned that if Medicare became law, there was a real possibility that the federal government would control where Americans go and what they do for a living.

In a line that may sound familiar to Sarah Palin fans, Reagan added, “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”


Reagan’s misguided diatribe from 48 years ago also serves as a reminder that we hear the same arguments from conservatives, over and over again, every time real reform is on the table. Republicans, Fox News, and Limbaugh, for example, reflexively shout “socialized medicine” whenever the issue comes up — just as the right has done for 75 years.

Time to tune them out and get the job done.

Happy Hour Discurso

Does This Mean the Book Burning's Been Cancelled?

Gee, it seems like only last year that fundies everywhere were putting Harry Potter on the pyre. Maybe they ran out of lighter fluid:

But it looks like now that the book series is complete and the whole story is known, the evangelical community is having a change of heart:

Conservative Christian reviews of the new Harry Potter movie are surprisingly positive.

“As ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ opens, we are once again reminded of the characteristics that make him something of a Christ figure,” Connie Neal writes for the evangelical Christianity Today.

“It is more likely that at the end of the viewing or reading, rather than the allure of magic … what remains are the scenes that evoke values such as friendship, altruism, loyalty, and the gift of self,” wrote L’Osservatore, the Vatican‘s semi-official newspaper.

Even Focus on the Family‘s pluggedin finds something redeeming: “Harry, whatever his faults, embraces such unglamorous words as ‘duty,’ ‘responsibility’ and ‘sacrifice.'”


Um, it’s still fiction, guys. But I do find it so ironic that once again, the evangelical community went off in ignorance over something that once their initial fear and fearmongering was over, they found commonality in.

That’s what we in the reality-based community like to call “not judging a book by its cover.” You should try it more often.

I don’t think this flirtation will last. After all, when the last movie comes out, they’ll have to face the fact that Dumbledore’s still gay.

But at least they’ve backed away from the bonfire for now.

Does This Mean the Book Burning's Been Cancelled?

Walter Cronkite was So Right

Walter Cronkite was one of the last of a dying breed – a teevee journalist who was a journalist in truth rather than just name:

Americans of all ages and the journalist community are remembering the life and career of Walter Cronkite, famously revered as “the most trusted man in America.”

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes that the media is largely glossing over Cronkite’s “most celebrated and significant moment” — “when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.”

Of course they’re glossing it over. They hate admitting their abject failings. And you probably won’t see too many of them highlighting his all-too-true assessment of their pathetic state:

The Nation’s John Nichols reports that as the war in Iraq went horribly awry, he asked Cronkite whether a network anchorman would speak out in the same way that he had. “I think it could happen, yes. I don’t think it’s likely to happen,” he said with an audible sigh. “I think the three networks are still hewing pretty much to that theory. They don’t even do analysis anymore, which I think is a shame. They don’t even do background. They just seem to do headlines, and the less important it seems the more likely they are to get on the air.”

David Gregory, he could’ve been looking at you:

I can only echo what Vernie Gay said about the new Meet The Press:

But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points. Recent interviews with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) felt like a waterfront that went on for miles – an endless vista of chatter and spin.

BOTTOM LINE “Meet the Press” is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning – “safe,” that is, for those being interviewed.

And here we have good ol’ David assuring Mark Sanford that MTP would be very safe indeed:

When the stories about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s love of hiking and the ensuing revelations about line crossing and soul mates were first revealed, I think it’s safe to say that most people never saw it coming. But what hasn’t been a surprise is the resulting confirmation of how many in the media are willing to sell their journalistic souls for political access.

And leading that list has to be David Gregory, who went out of his way to continue the proud tradition of Meet the Press kissing the ass of shamed elected officials.

From his emails to Sanford’s office, where he begs for an interview:

Left you a message. Wanted you to hear directly from me that I want to have the Gov on Sunday on Meet The Press. I think it’s exactly the right forum to answer the questions about his trip as well as giving him a platform to discuss the economy/stimulus and the future of the party. You know he will get a fair shake from me and coming on MTP puts all of this to rest.

… So coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on. You can see (sic) you have done your interview and then move on. Consider it.

In the middle of the breaking scandal, Gregory not only offered to let Sanford guide the story, he was willing to give him a platform to change the subject. And then Gregory would “move on.”

Just like everybody else. David Gregory had plenty of company in his Buy My Show Bazaar:

CNN’s John King told Sawyer he had always appreciated Sanford’s “kindness, candor, and hospitality,” and added, in a transparent attempt to bond, “I’m all for anonymous escapes myself.” George Stephanopoulos offered his show, ABC’s This Week, as a “civil forum to address this week’s events.” And producers for CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s Good Morning America, several Fox shows, and many others gave Sanford’s office the hard sell too.

And that’s not all!

• Ann Edelberg, a producer at MSNBC, wrote to Sanford press secretary Joel Sawyer to say: “Of course the Gov has an open invite to a friendly place here at MJ, if he would like to speak out.” MJ refers to Morning Joe, the MSNBC show hosted by former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough, and also frequently featuring hardcore right-winger Pat Buchanan.

Politico‘s Jonathan Martin, after making a few inquiries to Sawyer, wrote sycophantically: “Jakie causing you guys problem?” That’s a reference to state Sen. Jake Knotts, who had first raised questions about the governor’s whereabouts.

• A woman named Jessica Gibadlo — this seems like her — wrote in an email to Sawyer that MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer was suggesting Sanford could come on her network to spin the story favorably. Wrote Gibadlo:

As you know I’m close to Contessa who has been in my ear on this. She said that the tone in the news room is that Mark could spin this fav
orably if he talks it up as the outdoors man in the woods etc. For all we know he’s contemplating the last year of his term and thinking through his priorities before he goes on his family vacation.

As you know, she’s close to Contessa.

• A barely literate Fox News producer and Sanford fan wrote: “Where is he…we LOVE to governor he is okay right?” Hey, who doesn’t love to governor?

• The Wall Street Journal‘s Brendan Miniter — who we already told you had dissed his own paper’s reporting on the saga in an effort to suck up to the governor’s office — doubled down on that effort, writing to Sawyer that that he “wanted verification that the WSJ story was BS.” Now there’s some team spirit!

• Stewart Moore, the anchor for local South Carolina news station WIS-TV, showed great news judgment, writing:

Off the record, I think this whole thing is ridiculous. Sounds like slow news day stuff.

On the record; for the sake of good journalism, is there any way we can get the governor on for a phoner @ 6:30am? I think that will end the crazy situation we both find ourselves, more so you, in.

Thanks dude.

But wait! There’s more!

The State has written up a few more of the emails, and look what they found:

ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.

With a subject line of “NBC spot was slimy,” Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a “Today” show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it “insulting.” Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post [this one — TPMmuckraker] by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory.

Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was “carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor’s office.”

Oh, just carrying some water for producers, you say? Well, never mind then.


One prominent conservative blogger also offered his help. Erick Erickson of Red State emailed to say:

If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help.

That turned out well, of course.

And all of that’s disgusting enough, but rather pales in comparison to Chuck Todd’s little Q & A with Glenn Greenwald:

Audio from Salon Radio, where the full transcript is also available.

Glenn Greenwald: So what do you think happens – I think what has destroyed our reputation is announcing to the world that we tolerate torture, and telling the world we don’t —

Chuck Todd: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we’re not going to torture, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do this–

GG: What do you think should happen when presidents–

CT: Is that not enough? Isn’t that enough?

GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?

CT: You see, this is where, this is not – you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal —

GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.

Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that’s what you’re endorsing. As long the president can do that, he’s above the law. And I don’t see how you can say that you’re doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?

CT: Well, look, I don’t believe I’m endorsing a system of lawlessness; I’m trying to put in the reality that as much that there is a legal black and white here, there is a political reality that clouds this, and you know it does too.

Hilzoy, in one of her last posts, absolutely destroyed him (well, the bits Glenn left intact, anyway), and then pointed out something absolutely terrifying:

We should expect more of our journalists. They need to get the facts right. They need to figure out the legal issues at stake in a case like this, not just listen to flacks from both sides, throw up their hands, and say “it’s not black and white!” If he did a better job, he wouldn’t have to worry so much about politicizing the justice system, and he might take pride in the fact that he helped shed light on complicated issues, when he might have just gotten lazy.

Of course, it’s not just Chuck Todd, who is, alas, one of the better TV journalists out there. He’s just the one who cited the incompetence of his profession as a reason to abandon the rule of law.

That’s absolutely fucking appalling.

I could go on – after all, we have teevee “journalists” fucking up the facts on health care reform, and the supposedly “liberal” MSNBC giving a platform to a lying white supremacist fucktard like Pat Buchanan, among a thousand other examples of their endless idiocy – but we’d be here for the next century. I just want to close this Smack-o-Matic marathon with what BarbinMD said:

In the hours following the death of Walter Cronkite, the accolades began pouring in; “legendary,” “iconic,” “set the standard,” a “voice of certainty in an uncertain world,” reminders that he was once known as “the most trusted man in America,” and perhaps the most telling, a lament that “we’ll never see his like again.”

And with that in mind, perhaps members of the media could pause and consider why a journalist who instilled trust in his viewers by simply reporting the news is “someone whose like we will never see again.” And maybe they’ll even take a moment to think about what it says about them.

If they were worth anything, they would. But we all know they’re too shallow for such deep thoughts.

I just hope they go to bed tonight knowing that Walter Cronkite was ashamed of them.

Walter Cronkite was So Right

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Scene: health care reform lying on city street, bleeding profusely from deep stab wounds, staring up at the mob of Cons and Blue Dogs surrounding it with knives still drawn.

HEATH CARE REFORM [to Blue Dogs]: Et tu, Brute?

The demands of conservative Blue Dog Democrats in health care reform have been odd and contradictory. But their capacity to kill this rare opportunity remains great, and they can still make matters even worse.

Some centrist House Democrats have reached out to Republicans to explore breaking with their party leadership on healthcare and crafting a reform bill with the rival GOP, one congressman claimed Saturday.

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) asserted that an “interesting development” is taking place underway that, if true, could effectively remove Democratic leadership from the driver’s seat on healthcare reform legislation in the House.

“There’s an interesting development occurring behind the scenes, wherein moderate Democrats — so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats — and business-friendly new Democrats are actually starting to have conversations with us to build a coalition from the center outward, to actually really come up with substantive and well-founded healthcare reform,” Boustany said during an appearance on Fox News. “And that’s the only way to do this.”

Really? That’s the “only” way to reform the system? For conservatives in one party to join up with conservatives in the other party, in order to undermine months of progress? Funny, I can think of other ways to reform the broken system.

So can we all. In fact, most of us understand that joining up with the Cons is the best way to not reform the system. It’s probably because we don’t have the siren song of insurance industry money driving us to distraction.

Maybe the Blue Dogs just didn’t get the memo:

A strategy memo authored by GOP consultant Alex Castellanos suggests that “it is crucial for Republicans to slow down what it calls ‘the Obama experiment with our health.’” The memo concludes, “If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it, and advance real reform that will actually help.”

Alex, of course, forgot the crucial last phrase of his memo: “no one except the insurance companies and the Cons.”

Let’s not forget that the Cons have absolutely no reason to see health care reform succeed and every reason to root for failure:

In 1993, Bill Kristol privately advised congressional Republicans to do whatever it took to “kill” the Clinton health care reform initiative. It wasn’t that the policy proposal was a bad idea; it was that passage would help the Democratic Party for years to come. The GOP, he said, for the sake of its own future, couldn’t compromise or negotiate with the majority.

Sixteen years later, a wide variety of Democrats are working hard to convince Republicans to support reform, despite the built-in incentive for seeing reform fail.


It occurs to me, then, that there’s at least a possibility that “centrist” Democrats — Blue Dogs, New Democrats, Lieberman, et al — might not see failure as such a horrible option here. In other words, they may realize that coming up short on health care, letting this opportunity slip away, and hurting millions of Americans in the process may be devastating for the Democratic majority, but these same “centrist” Democrats may prefer a smaller majority, or perhaps even a GOP majority to “balance” the Democratic president. They may very well disagree with the party’s leadership on most issues, and think the best course of action is taking away their power by undermining the party’s agenda.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which turns out to be true. Blue Dogs and New Democrats [sic] just need their asses primaried. Playing nice with the frothing insane minority is fine on some shit, but not on the shit that matters.

And health care reform matters:

The larger points made in [Obama’s] speech are really good and it’s too bad that only about 12 people will hear it.

You’d think this wouldn’t have to be said, but it’s actually an argument that can’t be made often enough:

This is an issue that affects the health and financial well-being of every single American and the stability of our entire economy.

It’s about every family unable to keep up with soaring out of pocket costs and premiums rising three times faster than wages. Every worker afraid of losing health insurance if they lose their job, or change jobs. Everyone who’s worried that they may not be able to get insurance or change insurance if someone in their family has a pre-existing condition.

It’s about a woman in Colorado who told us that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her insurance company – the one she’d paid over $700 a month to – refused to pay for her treatment. She had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life.

It’s about a man from Maryland who sent us his story – a middle class college graduate whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs. During that time, he needed emergency surgery, and woke up $10,000 in debt – debt that has left him unable to save, buy a home, or make a career change.

It’s about every business forced to shut their doors, or shed jobs, or ship them overseas. It’s about state governments overwhelmed by Medicaid, federal budgets consumed by Medicare, and deficits piling higher year after year.

This is the status quo. This is the system we have today. This is what the debate in Congress is all about:
Whether we’ll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under, and more Americans lose their coverage. Or whether we’ll seize this opportunity – one we might not have again for generations – and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009.

The insurance companies, the politicians who serve them and the wealthy ideologues who want to ensure that the rubes never realize that they have the power to challenge the ruling class, are working overtime to redirect the free floating anxiety people feel over jobs and health care and a whole host of very real problems to a fear of abstractions like future deficits. I think people have to be reminded that the status quo equals the very real and immediate threat of losing everything they have if they get sick.

This is the status quo the Blue Dogs and New Democrats [sic] are dragging their heels on fixing, the status quo the Cons see absolutely nothing wrong with (except that it doesn’t include insurance insurance yet). We need to spend a lot of time patiently explaning to people who’ve fallen for insurance company lies, slick Con talking points, and Blue Dog bullshit exactly why it’s in their best interest to see those fuckers fail, not health care reform. We need them to understand exactly what’s at stake and who’s trying to shaft them, because they’ll need long memories come Election Day and it’s time to run the bastards out of town.

I’ll bring the pitchforks if you bring the torches.

Let’s finish up Happy Hour with two fine examples of Con “reasoning,” shall we? Just make sure you’ve swallowed all drinks first:

One of the most amusing genres of wingnut writing is the “it was cool somewhere on the planet today which proves Al Gore is lying” post. Nate Silver had a funny take on this yesterday (also noted by Thers), in response to this Assrocket post.

Silver, unlike Assrocket, actually bothered to look up the temperatures and it turns out that, surprise!, Assrocket was completely wrong about the weather in his own city. Oh well.

Undeterred by that rather embarrassing exchange, the non-partisan liberatarian Putz jumped to Assrocket’s defense.

OKAY, I STEPPED OUTSIDE A LITTLE WHILE AGO, and it was actually a bit chilly. In Knoxville, in mid-July. My dad says it hasn’t broken 90 all summer, which may be right. I’m saving real money on A/C bills this year. Could be worse — could be Michigan.

Meanwhile, Nate Silver says it’s all in your mind. Two thoughts: (1) I hope so — better that than living in a John Ringo novel. (2) Just remember Nate’s stuff when the press is yammering on about a hot day, or a hurricane, being “caused by global warming.”

So Nate mocks wingnuts for ignoring hard data in favor of rather shallow, subjective observations, and Putz responds with “Nate Silver is clearly wrong about the weather in Minneapolis because it’s chilly in Knoxville today and additionally, my dad said something that I haven’t bothered to verify–Heh.” Priceless.

And naturally, Father of Putz was wrong — the temperature in Knoxville exceeded 90 four times last month.

You’re welcome.

Now, if you’ve got a Blue Dog in your district, go make his or her life a living hell.

Happy Hour Discurso

Sunday Sensational Science

Science Books in Bed

Alas, I’ve fallen behind in my research work for the next in my Arizona Sensational Science series. Also, I decided I desperately needed to read a few more books on Arizona geology that I’d never heard of but now cannot write another post without. Such is the life of a bibliophile.

We’ll spend this Sunday perusing some sensational science books together. If you’re looking for a good read, I’ve got suggestions. Oh, my, do I ever.

If you’re an Oliver Sacks fan, or if you’re just fascinated by brains, you really must pick up Phantoms in the Brain. Dr. Ramachandran doesn’t just tell interesting neurological stories, he takes you on a journey of discovery through your brain. And he’ll make you think of consciousness in ways you never considered before. The whole thing’s an adventure on the order of the Odyssey.

No one describes the spirit of this book as well as Dr. Ramachandran himself:

I believe that being a medical scientist is not all that different from being a sleuth. In this book, I’ve attempted to share the sense of mystery that lies at the heart of all scientific pursuits and is especially characteristic of the forays we make in trying to understand our own minds. Each story begins with either an account of a patient displaying seemingly inexplicable symptoms or a broad question about human nature, such as why we laugh or why we are so prone to self-deception. We then go step by step through the same sequence of ideas that I followed in my own mind as I tried to tackle these cases. In some instances, as with phantom limbs, I can claim to have genuinely solved the mystery. In others – as in the chapter on God – the final answer remains elusive, even though we come tantalizingly close. But whether the case is solved or not, I hope to convey the spirit of intellectual adventure that accompanies this pursuit and makes neurology the most fascinating of all disciplines.

He does indeed.


As someone who would like to see Americans get a lot more science in their diets, I adored Consilience. Edward O. Wilson does not believe there is anywhere science can’t go:

The productions of science, other than medical breakthroughs and the sporadic thrills of space exploration, are thought marginal. What really matters to humanity, a primate species well adapted to Darwinian fundamentals in body and soul, are sex, family, work, security, personal expression, entertainment, and spiritual fulfillment – in no particular order. Most people believe, I am sure erroneously, that science has little to do with any of these preoccupations. They assume that the social sciences and humanities are independent of the natural sciences and more relevant endeavors. Who outside the technically possessed really needs to define a chromosome? Or understand chaos theory? Science, however, is not marginal. Like art, it is a universal possession of humanity, and scientific knowledge has become a vital part of our species’ repertory. It comprises what we know of the material world with reasonable certainty. If the natural sciences can be successfully united with the social sciences and humanities, the liberal arts in higher education will be revitalized. Even the attempt to accomplish that much is a worthwhile goal.

It surely is.

As for those who believe science is a cold, hard thing, well, they should be reading what Richard Dawkins has to say about it:


The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living it is finite. My title is from Keats, who believed that Newton had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to the prismatic colours. Keats could hardly have been more wrong, and my aim is to guide all who are tempted by a similar view towards the opposite conclusion. Science is, or ought to be, the inspiration for great poetry….

I think we should start handing this one out in creative writing classes. Actually, if there were two books I could give to every single person on earth, they would be Unweaving the Rainbow and Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. I think we’d see a lot more people fall in love with science.

If I could add a third, it would probably be Carl Zimmer’s wonderful book on macroevolution, At the Water’s Edge. He’s a superb writer, and believe me when I say that macroevolution has never been so beautifully described. This whole book is a journey, there and back again:

We three animals [yellowtail snapper, dolphin and human] live in separate countries divided by a fatal boundary. Yet a dissection would show that we are not complete strangers. I volunteer as the human specimen: crack my ribs open an
d a pair of lungs hangs alongside my esophagus, and they match the pair inside the dolphin. The dolphin and I have giant brains wrinkled with neocortex. We keep the cores of our bodies around ninety-nine degrees. We both fed on mother’s milk. And while the dolphin maneuvers with what are called fins, they are actually not like those of the yellowtail. They are in fact camouflaged hands: take away the blubber and gristle and you find five fingers, wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
The similarities between humans and yellowtails are of a more basic sort – we both have skulls and spines, muscles and eyes; we burn oxygen and build our tissue with the hydrocarbons we eat. And some subtler clues reveal that we humans are not the perfect land creatures we might imagine ourselves to be. Look again inside my opened ribs: nestled between my lungs is my heart, and sprouting from it is an aorta that rises upward, sending smaller arteries off toward my head before hooking around and down toward my legs. An engineer presented with a beating heart might have come up with a more rational solution: build two arteries, one to supply blood above the heart, one below.

You’ll learn the reason why we’re so poorly laid out as Carl takes you on our evolutionary journey from sea to land and back again. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot more about evolution than you thought possible from such a slim volume dedicated mostly to whales. And if, like me, you despised Moby Dick, you might discover a reason to at least read the chapters on cetaceans…

We began with neuroscience, and with neuroscience we shall end. Carl Zimmer wrote the most informative, delightful, and just plain enthralling book on how neuroscience came to be that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading: Soul Made Flesh. Imagine, if you will, the smells of Age of Enlightenment Oxford:

Every building in Oxford has an internal signature of smells: the incense burning in the churches once again, now that the Puritans have been routed and the monarchy restored; the roasted beans in the new coffeehouse on High Street; the foul reek of the prisons, where thieves, Quakers, and the various enemies of King Charles II languish together. But the strangest smells in all of Oxford can be found off the main thoroughfares, on Merton Street. Across the street from the gates of Merton College is a medieval two-story house known as Beam Hall. Its odors are almost unbearable: a reeking blend of turpentine and the warm, decaying flesh of dissected dogs and sheep, along with an aroma that none but a handful of people in Oxford – in the world, even – would recognize as that of a nobleman’s decapitated and freshly cracked open head. [snip] These men of Oxford ushered in a new age, one in which we still live – call it the Neurocentric Age – in which the brain is central not only to the body but to our conception of ourselves. The seventeenth century saw many scientific revolutions, but in some ways the revolution of the brain is its most shattering triumpth – and its most intimate. It created a new way of thinking about thinking and a new way of conceiving the soul.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come since Thomas Willis and the other members of the Oxford Circle pried open a nobleman’s head and began looking at the brain as more than just several pounds of ugly fat. This book takes you on a journey that lasted thousands of years. If you like traveling the history of science, it’s definitely a trip you’ve got to take.

So there you have it, a small selection of the science books that have shared my bed recently. I’d stay and chat some more, but I just got a shipment from Amazon. Gots to go read now.

Sunday Sensational Science Takes Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer Out to the Woodshed

The editorial board’s arms must be tired after this epic paddling, but it’s a good kind of tired:

Last year’s global average temperature was the 10th warmest since 1850. In fact, eight of the past 10 years, and 13 of the last 14, are among the warmest on record.

So naturally, Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican member of Congress from Missouri’s 9th district, has concluded: “We are undergoing a period of worldwide cooling.”


Global average temperature.

Global Average Temperature Record.

The graph above charts global average temperatures over time. It’s true that average temperature during each of the past three years was slightly lower than in 2005. That’s what scientists call annual temperature fluctuation.

But to anyone who can actually read a graph — a group that apparently doesn’t include Mr. Luetkemeyer — the larger trend is unmistakable.

The 1990s were the warmest decade since at least 1850. Yet 2008 — the year Mr. Luetkemeyer says proves “we are undergoing a period of worldwide cooling” — was warmer than all but two years of the 1990s.

The Arctic ice pack is shrinking by about 12 percent per decade. Greenland is losing at least 36 cubic miles of ice cover each year. Sea levels are rising. The reason: Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are at their highest levels in at least 650,000 years.

Just since 1950, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 35 percent.

This was but a snippet of the demolition. The whole is a thing of beauty and should be enjoyed in its entirety.’s Editorial Board: the Smack-o-Matic and I salute you.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Darksyde at Daily Kos) Takes Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer Out to the Woodshed