Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, September 5, 2010 11:29 pm

Matt Yglesias is a very smart guy …

… but he can be remarkably naive and/or oblivious sometimes:

I don’t see any evidence that the particular apocalyptic “my enemies are totalitarian madmen” strain of Birch/Beck/Goldberg conservatism has helped anyone win any elections.

To which Tristero responds, in effect, Yo, dude, do the names Bachmann and Coburn and Tancredo and DeLay ring a bell?

Let’s ignore all the obvious contradictory examples … and  — solely for the sake of argument — go so far as to entirely concede Matt’s point: no one gets elected by being a rightwing loon. That doesn’t mean that lunacy has no palpable effect on the public discourse, or on policies that national-level politicians deem to be politically acceptable. In fact, the effect of extremist rhetoric within mainstream discourse is very well known and lunatic ideas are clearly being employed by the right in precisely this fashion: To shift the palette of acceptable ideas further and further to the right.

Yup. In 1988, everyone thought it was insane that Newt Gingrich was arguing for privatizing Social Security. But by 2005, that was the primary plank in the GOP’s domestic agenda. Only an inspired effort by the liberal blogosphere, led by Josh Marshall and Talking Points Memo, prevented that disaster from being foisted on the country — and just imagine how much worse we’d be screwed today if more of people’s retirements had been in private investments, as Gingrich and his ilk wanted.

Yglesias goes on:

But there’s no real upside in lying to the choir. Political movements need to adapt to the actual situation, and that means having an accurate understanding of your foes. You need to see them as they actually are so that you know the right way to respond.

And there he goes again, being all liberal and rational. Unlike, that is to say, the people he’s writing about, who, it is obvious to pretty much everyone but Washington media, are neither.

No real upside? Horseshit. Lying to the choir has an enormous upside. It’s worth tens of millions a year to Beck alone. You play to people’s fears and resentments, you tell ’em somebody else — ideally, someone not like them, someone brown and/or foreign and/or of a different religion and/or someone who is better educated than they — is to blame for their troubles. And then you ride those folks’ votes into office, turn right around and screw ’em out of every last dime they have, and then lie some more when/if you get caught.

Because for the last 40-plus years, that is exactly how it has worked.

Tristero takes it home:

Matt makes some seriously faulty assumptions here. The most egregious is that he mistakes playing a lunatic in public with actually being a lunatic. He assumes that [Glenn] Beck really believes what he says, the way a good liberal might, rather than accept the far more likely possibility that Beck simply doesn’t care what he says, as long as it helps his career. No doubt, Beck is a deeply disturbed man, but the fact that he said Obama is a racist doesn’t necessarily mean he’s crazy enough actually to believe it to be true.

What Beck does understand, and understands with complete accuracy, is that calling Obama a racist will infuriate liberals and help sow doubt about Obama among his listeners. That is precisely what a sane opportunist in Beck’s position would want to do. (FWIW, it’s just the same trick all over again now that Beck has decided that Obama is “practicing” liberation theology: whether it’s true or not isn’t the point. It makes us angry, it feeds his flock and it sets up a dichotomy that establishes fundamentalism as the norm and any other religious interpretation a perversion.)

Matt here also lumps people like [Jonah] Goldberg in with Republicans who don’t act as crazy (usually) and yet benefit enormously because they come off as “men of reason, Republicans you can talk to” — e.g., [Sen. Roger] Grassley — in comparison. Rest assured that people like Grassley have a deeply accurate picture of who their Democratic opponents are. And Grassley well understands the usefulness of portraying them, as Grassley did during health care, in a manner as reality-challenged as Goldberg did to liberals.

Despite what Matt says, the right wing has quite an accurate picture of what liberals and Democrats are likely to believe, and how they are likely to behave. They have played us like a virtuosic, if thoroughly demented, violinist. One of the most useful techniques in the right wing repertoire is The Crazy Lie. And we still haven’t found any effective riposte to it — or at least, any effective rhetorical counter-strategy that mainstream politicians would be willing to use. Matt’s failure to understand how incredibly effective this tactic has been for illiberals, and how debilitating it has been for liberals, is simply astonishing. …

This ain’t no serious effort to persuade based on the truth. This is, as far as the right is concerned, about getting power, holding on to power, and extending power.

It is more than a little surreal to see that Yglesias, who gets so much right on health care and other issues, so completely misses this when it’s all going on right in front of his face.

Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:29 am

Odds and ends for 1/29

I’ve already called for impeaching Obama. Looks like we can now add Holder to the mix: A draft report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that originally found that Bush officials Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now a “law” “professor” at Berkeley) committed professional misconduct (which would constitute grounds for impeaching Bybee), the final version was cleaned up to say they showed “poor judgment” only. Granted, fabricating a legal justification for torture out of whole cloth does show “poor judgment,” but it shows criminal intent as well.

Well, OK, it’s a first step: Pravda, of all places, reports that Francis A. Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champlain, Ill., has requested arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the arrests of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and Gonzalez for “crimes against humanity” under the Rome Statute, which established the court. For all I know this is an Eastern Hemisphere version of an Onion article, but, hey, a citizen can dream.

Well, this bites: More than 30% of Triad mortgages will be under water by 1Q2011, Deutsche Bank estimates.

Historians finally weigh in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.” Only two years after the fat, lying putz laughed his way to the bank. Thanks a ton, guys.

Banksters organize protest of their treatment … indoors, because it was too cold to go outside. Power to the people!

Bloomberg’s David Reilly asks a good question about this week’s bankster-related developments: Where’s the anger? (Besides Chez Blog on the Run, of course.)

Major-league media?: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm keeps using the phrase “discretionary spending.” I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

Every little bit helps: Somali “pirates” pledge aid to Haiti. (Somali pirates’ est. 2008 income: $150MM+).

Possibly the most entertaining appeals court ruling of the year, and it’s still only January: Gender discrimination in the workplace as manifested by rude language (Oh, so NSFW, by the ruling’s own standards).

What’s stopping the Senate from ramming through a public option in reconciliation? I’m just askin’, on account of 51 breathing senators are on records as supporting one. Seriously, Joe Lieberman can go to hell.

Party of fiscal responsibility, my butt: Every single Republican senator voted Thursday against a new pay-as-you-go rule. Every single Democratic senator voted for it. Remind me again, please, who the grownups are. Quoth commenter Chad N. Freude at Balloon Juice: “They are opposed to pay-as-you-go because they are opposed to go.”

Whoux Dat?; or, There’s a reason they call it the No Fun League: Because you can’t abbreviate No Brains League as NFL. No Frontal Lobe, maybe. (h/t: DivaGeek)

The U.S. economy shrank 2.4% in 2009, the worst calendar-year performance since 1946.

California Senate approves single-payer health-care system; the Governator vetoes it on the laughable grounds that the state “can’t afford it.” Dude, you pay either way, and with single payer, there’s an excellent chance you’d pay less.

Terrorist convicted: The jury deliberated only 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the head at point-blank range. Roeder admitted the shooting and also testified that he considered only chopping off Tiller’s hands instead of killing him. What a great humanitarian. Memo to New York: If Wichita can try a terrorist, so can you. Memo to the Republicans: Americans are beyond tired of government by incontinence.

I’m probably the last person to find this out, but the free audio-editing program Audacity can record streaming audio from, apparently, any Web site. This makes me insanely happy.

So Obama got together with some Congressional Republicans today. And it’s John Cole of Balloon Juice, who, despite humerus- and-clavicle- and scapula-scraping surgery a couple of days ago, is flying without painkillers, For The Win: “If Mike Pence really is regarded as one of the deep thinkers for the GOP, I’m beginning to understand why they refused to admit Terri Schiavo was brain-dead.” Although the prez himself does nicely with the runner-up: “I would have implemented those ideas had I found a credible economist who agreed with them …”

Monday, December 28, 2009 9:09 pm

Odds and ends for 12/27

Hmm, what else can we screw up in a way that screws poor people worst? Hey, I know! The estate tax!

John Fox can have another year if he wants: So say the Panthers, although they’re not talking any kind of contract extension with him now (he has a year left). I have mixed feelings about this, upon which I’ll elaborate in a separate post.

Utterly un-self-aware: Jonah Goldberg presumes to pass judgment on someone else’s competence.

Utterly un-self-aware, cont.: Before Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, they need to take a few history lessons, starting with the 9/11 commission report.

Related memo to Joe Lieberman, on the off-chance that he can read: How ’bout before we start a third war, let’s take a minute and figure out how this would-be airplane bomber got a visa? (Newsweek offers the strong beginning of an explanation.) Because the purview of the Senate Homeland Security Committee you chair does not extend to foreign policy or strategic (let alone tactical) military planning. You ass.

At least one legitimate criticism can be leveled at the Department of Homeland Security, and John Cole levels it.

One thing liberals applaud Obama on: Tightening restrictions not only on lobbying, but also on when and how ex-industry officials can go to work for the government, so that agencies aren’t “captured” by the companies they’re supposed to regulate. Watch that change get undone the second a Republican retakes the White House.

Which is fine, except that I haven’t heard them come up with an alternative solution to the problem: Blue Dogs Bayh, Landrieu and Conrad say cap ‘n’ trade is DOA. Relatedly, chemicals from power plants in their states are killing trees in the mountains of mine.

Your tax dollars at work: Despite the recent removal of caps on taxpayer assistance to Fannie and Freddie, which already totals $111 billion, they’re resuming foreclosures next week. You’re welcome, guys.

Not just no, but, hell, no: Not content to throw women’s rights under the health-care bus, the evangelistas are now trying to get the failed policy of abstinence-only sex education incorporated into health-care reform. Guys, we tried your flavor of Teh Stoopid once already and got a big jump in unwed pregnancy to show for it. Go. Away.

Tremors: The last time Iran got this shaky, the Shah was ousted. That may or may not mean the current regime will fall. But it almost certainly means blood in the streets, much of it likely innocent. Great.

Antiterrorism 101, which means most current and former government officials probably haven’t read it: Spencer Ackerman: “It’s never sufficient just to observe that a terrorist group has a presence in Country X. We have to ask ourselves: what are the conditions that allowed for said terrorist group to take root? If we don’t, we simply can’t devise an effective strategy against the terrorist group; and we come close to guaranteeing that we’ll flail and make the situation worse.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 9:19 pm

Odds and ends for 12/8

No place like home: The military had hoped to increase “dwell time” — time service members spend stateside between overseas deployments — from the current one year for every year overseas to two years. But with the surge in Afghanistan, that probably ain’t gonna happen, and the media, with the exception of the noted military-hater Rachel Maddow, hasn’t said much about it.

Waste of electrons: There’s a thread over at about whether the relationship in the “Twilight” series between Edward and Bella is abusive. It has stretched to something like 900 comments. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the whole notion of “abusive relationships” in the context of fictional vampires a joke? In fact, doesn’t it trivialize a decidedly nontrivial subject? Oh, hell, is there any chance I’ll get those brain cells back?

Throwing tomatoes at Sarah Palin is wrong. One should throw substantive questions at her instead. They’d hurt more.

At least they hired an expert: Jonah Goldberg has gotten a million-dollar advance to write a book, The Tyranny of Cliches.

“I had … an unequaled tolerance for squalor”: A first-person account of living in a van while a grad student at Duke, to avoid student-loan debt.

Excellent idea, way overdue: N.C. Medical Board posts expanded information on 35,000 physicians and PAs, including disciplinary actions and other embarrassing info the public needs.

This isn’t an Internet meme, but it should be: “My God, what a stupid premise.”

But climate science is a fraud!: Andrew Malcolm compares polls that actually ask two different questions.

But they’re “community organizers,” so let’s take their money away: An investigator finds that “in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers” and that videotapes of ACORN employees “appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms. Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding.” Color me shocked.

The real ACORN takeaway: In light of Jon Stewart’s earlier takedown of ACORN, commenter Waynski at Balloon Juice observes: “It’s a sad comment on the state of our media that we’re now looking for journalistic standards in the fake news guy, because he’s the only one who comes close to having any in the first place.”

Meet the new boss: The flawed, conflict-riddled system of rating securities, which contributed so much to our current economic unpleasantness, isn’t going to be changed much. Goody. I’m gonna invest in a mattress in which to put what little remains of my retirement savings.

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