Holy Crap

Mar. 13th, 2009 09:04 am
Dude. Jon Stewart is seriously the best anchorman ever. Why does a comedy show have to do these kinds of interviews. Shouldn't this kind of thing be exactly what journalists are supposed to be doing? Here's the links to where he took CNBC's Jim Cramer completely apart. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

O RLY

Oct. 28th, 2008 12:15 pm
Apparently the latest gambit, a week before the election, is for John McCain and Sarah Palin to call Barak Obama a communist or socialist because he supports the progressive income tax.

I have known socialists, and Barak Obama is no socialist, for better and for worse.

(Progressive taxation I'm sure I explained before, but I'm not gonna dig up the link right now. Plus Obama's tax increase is all of three percent on the marginal income above $250K. Which means only your taxable income above $250K will be taxed at 39.something percent, rather than 36%ish it's at now.)

(And calling somebody a commie? Seriously, the hell? What is this, the 1950s?)
Seriously, he's not even bothering to pretend he wasn't lying any more. Here, about how he kept insisting that everything was fine in Iraq while violence spiraled out of control:
"BUSH: Well, yes. I think we — and I wanted — that's as much trying to bolster the spirits of the people in the field as well as — look, you can't have the commander in chief say to a bunch of kids who are sacrificing either, "It's not worth it," or, "You're losing." I mean, what does that do for morale?"

via Kevin Drum.

Man, darn that liberal media, constantly attacking George W. Bush, Our Heroic Leader!

Oh, wait, what's that? Nobody mentioned the fact that the President was bullshitting us all along? Nevermind.
I'm so proud of our President, in no more than five minutes, he gave me the need to find the proper word.

Actually, there were two things President Bush said that struck me. The first I know the words for, it was outright lies and bullshit. NPR had a soundbite of him trying to calm Russia's fears about the push for "missile defense" by saying it was aimed at "rogue regimes" in "areas such as the Middle East" who could "hold us all hostage".

In other words, we need missile defense to protect us from Iranian nuclear missiles (not North Korean ones any more, even though North Korea actually HAS nukes, and was what we were supposed to be making missile defense for before). Except of course Iran doesn't have nukes, nor do they have missiles that could reach the US, he's just bullshitting and lying and waving around the "IRAN SCARY NUKES NUKES SCARY!" flag. The reason he's pushing "missile defense" doesn't have anything to do with Iran, or North Korea, or even Russia, really, it's just one of those absurd things that the Republicans have been in love with since forever, even though it's not really likely to work like at all.

But back to the original thing. What do you call it when somebody says something that's true, but their actions show they obviously don't believe it or just don't give a damn if it's true or not? I suppose that could fall under the realm of bullshit as well, because that's when somebody says something without caring about its truth.

Maybe I should give the example. But, I can't find the quote online. So, from memory and notes, "I we let up the pressure, terrorists will establish camps across the country (Afghanistan) and threaten us all." There is some truth to this, though like every single thing George W. Bush says about terrorism, it's exaggerated and presented as if terrorists in caves are more of a threat than the Soviet Union with nukes was. The bit of truth is that if we do cut down on troops in Afghanistan, and divert our resources and attention, there's a good chance the Taliban will come back, or at worst, it'll turn to a completely chaotic state.

How do I know that's true? Because that's exactly what HAS happened since we diverted our resources and attention from Afghanistan to the fiasco in Iraq, years ago. Which we did at the bidding of the exact same man who was just now saying how important Afghanistan is.

So, what do you call it when somebody says something that's technically true, but show they don't actually care about it, and it's actually largely their fault, too? Is that just bullshit, or is there a better word?
The CIA Destroyed Tapes of Interrogations

"The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said."

So the tapes were destroyed in 2005. Before they were destroyed, tapes of interrogations were requested by the 9/11 commission, a Congressional investigatory panel, and at least one judge. They weren't turned over to any of them. What's the CIA's excuse?

"General Hayden’s statement said that the tapes posed a “serious security risk,” and that if they were to become public they would have exposed C.I.A. officials “and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.”

“What matters here is that it was done in line with the law,” he said. He said in his statement that he was informing agency employees because “the press has learned” about the destruction of the tapes."

This deserves only one word of response. BULLSHIT.

The CIA can easily reassign agents, so said agents would be nowhere near any "Al Queda" assassins. But even if they were such a security risk, and "no longer had intelligence value", why did they wait until the press found out about them?

"A former intelligence official who was briefed on the issue said the videotaping was ordered as a way of assuring “quality control” at remote sites following reports of unauthorized interrogation techniques. He said the tapes, along with still photographs of interrogations, were destroyed after photographs of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib became public in May 2004 and C.I.A. officers became concerned about a possible leak of the videos and photos.

He said the worries about the impact a leak of the tapes might have in the Muslim world were real.

It has been widely reported that Mr. Zubaydah was subjected to several tough physical tactics, including waterboarding, which involves near-suffocation. But C.I.A. officers judged that the release of photos or videos would nonetheless provoke a strong reaction."

In other words, it'd be a lot harder to keep up the pretense that waterboarding isn't torture, and we haven't been torturing people, if people actually got to see it as it was done.

This is what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their gang have brought our country to. Impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, impeach them now. And throw them in jail, along with the rest of their corrupt administration.

Spenser Ackerman has more.
"Well hey, if they're dumb enough to fall for it, that's hardly my fault, is it?"

Con men are fun and glamorous in stories. Because in the story, we're in on the con. We get to feel smarter than the victims, because we know everything that's going on. We get the same high the con men do. And we got to feel superior, because we're too smart to fall for that kind of setup.http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=18&issue=10
http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=18&issue=10

Except, con men have a saying. The easiest people to con are smart people, because they think they can't be conned. For starters, nobody has time to be smart about everything. That's why we have specialization and experts. And we pay somebody else to be smart on our behalf about stuff we don't know. Especially technobabble, that sounds important and meaningful, but is actually gibberish. Nobody wants to be the one who's not good and smart enough to see the emperor's new clothes.

And then of course the con man can salve his conscience with his ill-gotten gains and the fact we gave them to him of :our own free will" 'cause we should have known better. It's all the victim's fault, for not being smart enough, or not paying enough attention, nevermind the fact the conmen were deliberately trying to keep you from paying enough attention, or bringing your intelligence to bear.

Just look at the subprime mortgage mess. Many of the people who should have known better, even Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, got behind these. The banks got behind them because they made more profit than a regular mortgage. And the banks, the investment companies, and the independent loan people all pushed them on all of us, even people who could have qualified for regular loans. Nobody listened to the naysayers, because for years, housing prices kept going up, and going up, and every year they did, it "proved" people were wrong when they said this couldn't last forever. And now here we are, and the stock market is shocked, SHOCKED that loans made to people who couldn't afford more than the interest aren't being repaid.

When the experts, who are hired to be smart and supposed to know these things are either conned, or in cahoots with the con men, or just pushing things because it makes them more money, what are regular people supposed to do?

Which is why I'm not convinced by conservatives' refrains of "Personal responsibility". Yes, we really do need to provide people with better financial education. But saying that's all we need, and people should know better and read the contracts and so on only goes so far. It ignores the willful deception on the part of the lenders, who pushed these kinds of things as far as they could, and got rich off it. And now they've left a lot of other people holding the bag. Trying to make it into a matter of "personal responsibility" becomes blaming the victim.

Anybody can get taken by a con man. It doesn't do any good to blame the victim, the fault lies with the con man, who ran the actual con.
So, Rudy Giuliani has a new radio ad out, talking about how he had prostate cancer, and how much better Americian care and insurance is as opposed to Europe, in this case "England". Presumably to attack any kind of government involvement in health care. Except his numbers are completely wrong, and survival rates are nearly identical in the US and UK. And this was while he was mayor of New York, with government provided insurance. And for bonus points, the surgery was invented in Denmark.

To quote Ezra Klein: "So Giuliani's case for the superiority of our "free market" health care system goes something like this: While on health insurance provided by New York state, he was treated, using a surgery developed by Europeans, for prostate cancer, a disease that most commonly afflicts those covered by the federal government's single-payer health care system. Take that, Europe/national health insurance."

Kevin Drum has some pretty graphs.

Of course, this lie is a lot less scary than the fact Giuliani's main foreign affairs advisors are drawn from the ranks of the people who pushed the hardest for the invasion of Iraq. We really really don't need any more wars. Besides the fact that you'd think the outcome of Iraq would have proved that all of the people who pushed for it are completely wrong, or liars, or both. Neither of which are great recommendations for advisors.

And in other news, Fred Thompson is playing up to the paranoia of the NRA by claiming the UN plans to take away people's guns. This isn't true. Shocking, I know.

You'd think that'd be the kind of thing reporters who like playing "gotcha" would be all over. Funny how they're not.
The media the past couple days was filled with headlines touting President Bush's proclaimed "drawdown" in Iraq.

The troops he's declared he's bringing home? They're the "surge", which were planned to come home in Spring of 2008 ANYWAY.

Nothing has changed. The troops are being withdrawn because a) that was the plan all along, and b) To keep them there much longer would mean the army would break. 15 month tours of duty, multiple times, with "stop-loss" keeping people from quitting the army, all of that has gone into keeping troops in Iraq. Some time in 2009 (safely after Bush is out of office, of course) we'll HAVE to start bringing soldiers home.

This whole thing has been an elaborate kabuki theater, designed to stall for time and pretend our troops are doing any good over there. All so we wouldn't leave on Bush's watch, and so that way the withdrawal and any results of it can be blamed on the next president (almost certain to be a Democrat, considering the Republican field is batshit insane). Except for any good results, or even neutral results, which will be credited to our far-sighted decider for invading Iraq in the first place.

It's all smoke and mirrors.  And our lazy corporate media keeps falling for it. Bush isn't changing anything based on success, the troops are staying until next year, because that's how long the generals said they could keep it without totally shattering the army. And so that's how it was planned.  Nothing has changed.

hilzoy, of course, says it better.
The following is the text of an email I sent to NPR's Marketplace show today, after they had a hack from the WSJ editorial page spouting nonsense straight out of the "Fairtax" book. Here's the article in question.

And my letter:
This morning, on the Marketplace Morning Report, you had Stephen Moore on, praising the benefits of a national sales tax.  His ideas and numbers come entirely from the book "FairTax" by Neal Boortz and John Linder.  And unfortunately, most of what he quoted is inaccurate or false.  A 23% sales tax would not replace all of the government income, the percentage was picked as near the maximum amount people would tolerate as a sales tax.  A national sales tax, despite his claim, would be extremely regressive and complex.  Most families who are out of the top 1% spend most of their income each year, which would make their net tax rate at LEAST 23%, plus the increases in cost that would come from this kind of tax.  Whereas the richest few don't spend all their money, which would make their net tax rate far below the 23% the rest of us would pay.  That hardly qualifies as "fair" by any stretch of the imagination.  And his idea of a $20,000 rebate for the sales tax spent?  That would be at least as complicated as the current income tax.  The rest of the work of tax collection would then be pushed on to the companies who sell products.  It would require just as much work, and we would still require the IRS to investigate cheats and other things.

His entire presentation was misleading at best, and outright false at worst.  The entire idea of a "fair" national sales tax is snake oil, designed to cover up for a gigantic tax cut for the rich and a tax hike for the rest of us, not any kind of serious policy suggestion.
Wow. Watching Bill O'Reilly acting self-righteous about "haters" and websites and TV shows that "smear" people almost made my head explode. He attacked dailykos, a giant many-many user site of blogs and diaries and things related to politics as a "hate site" based on a few trolling comments and one comment that somebody called the Pope a primate. Um, Bill? The Pope is a primate. He's the Primate of Rome, and he's also a human being, part of the family of primates.

And then he went and harassed the president of JetBlue, because JetBlue was providing some transport and stuff to the YearlyKos convention. And JetBlue wussed out. This link is to an open letter to the president of JetBlue, and contains the first Bill O'Reilly clip. Wherein he compares DailyKos to the KKK and Nazis. And JetBlue wussed out.

Bill O'Reilly, who has been on TV spreading hate and smearing people for years and year, getting up on his high horse and lying about other people as "haters" and then lecturing about how it's the duty of all people to ignore haters? Yeah, my head almost exploded. Irony is indeed dead.
Remember how the impeachment farce for Bill Clinton was "not about the sex, it was about the lies" according to Serious Media People and the Republicans?

Okay, let's pretend for a moment that Serious Media People and Republicans have any kind of intellectual integrity.

By that logic, the first half of this video should be enough to get pretty much the entire Bush administration impeached. I'll wait over here while they start the proceedings.

*crickets chirp*

(Not that anything in that video wasn't public knowledge to begin with years ago, hell, the fact there weren't WMD in Iraq was proved before the war. But y'know, who cares about little things like Truth, terrorists might blow up your airplane with soda! My country is completely fucking crazy.)
So the Republican presidential candidates had another debate that featured plenty of posturing and attempts to out-tough guy each other.

And included plenty of flat-out lies, like this bit where Rudy Giuliani sure looks like he's claiming Iran already has nuclear weapons.

"GIULIANI: Part of the premise of talking to Iran has to be that they have to know very clearly that it is unacceptable to the United States that they have nuclear power. I think it could be done with conventional weapons, but you can't rule out anything and you shouldn't take any option off the table.

And during the debate the other night, the Democrats seemed to be back in the 1990s. They don't seem to have gotten beyond the Cold War. Iran is a threat, a nuclear threat, not just because they can deliver a nuclear warhead with missiles. They're a nuclear threat because they are the biggest state sponsor of terrorism and they can hand nuclear materials to terrorists.

And we just saw it just last week in New York, an attempt by Islamist terrorists to attack JFK airport; three weeks ago, an attempt to attack Fort Dix."

Via Obsidian Wings and the redoubtable hilzoy.

That man? Has no business being President. He's either completely ignorant, or a liar, or probably both. Which makes him a perfect successor for George W. Bush.

But seriously, the entire Republican leadership is completely disconnected from reality and so busy trying to prove who's "tougher" they don't know or care if what they say or do actually makes anyone safer. It's all about fearmongering and lies and ohnoes teh gay! Is that really what US politics has descended to? And the Democrats in Congress are so scared of Bush calling them mean to the troops they won't even stand up at all to try and end the pointless and counterproductive occupation of Iraq. A position, I might add, that a majority of the country supports, and was what helped drive them into the positions of power they have now.
Okay, so ABC has this "docudrama" called "The Path to 9/11" that they're planning on airing tonight and tomorrow. Fairly unsurprising timing and stuff, right?

Now, the problem comes in that the film is full of scenes that didn't happen and pretty much a right-wing propaganda piece trying to lay all the blame on Clinton.

Scholastic has dropped it from an educational segment they were working on.
Several top historians are against it.
The director is an conservative evangelical from an institute dedicated to "transforming Hollywood from within."
Clinton Administration officials(.pdf) who were involved in what actually happened have called them on it.
A bunch of conservatives have called Disney on it, too.

Here's a blog with much of everything compiled, and here's another.

Gosh darn that liberal media!
This is a term I first saw back in the election, on Matt Yglesias's blog. (here, here, and here.)

Basically, how it goes is the Republicans have more partisan hacks who are willing to get up and quote the party line, defend their guys, and attack the other side, regardless of the actual events. And because of this, the Republicans act more unified, more aggressive, and the Democratic defenders look weaker and/or incompetent, because they will go "yes, you're sort of right, except for all the things you got wrong" which takes too long and gets sound-bited to "SPOKESPERSON ADMITS DEMOCRATS ARE PANSIES!"

Noted Republican hack, Andrew Sullivan gives a sterling example today. You can argue his hacktactisty, since he endorsed Kerry and attacks Bush, but those were triggered by a) The Republicans using gays as a scapegoat for, well, everything and b) the fact the Bush Administration has been allowing and condoning torture. One of those is an attack on him, and the other proves he has at least SOME level of basic human dignity. But he also says things like this:

The civil rights movement was indeed a fundamentally religious phenomenon, and you cannot understand it without understanding that. It was also multi-denominational and included Democrats and Republicans. Its core religious principle was non-violence, and it drew enormous inspiration from Gandhi. It included Jews and Muslims, Catholics and Protestants, atheists and agnostics. And it never, in King's time, became a vehicle for one political party to win elections. Never. And in so far as it subsequently did, in so far as people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton used religion to buttress a partisan machine, what was left of the civil rights movement lost moral authority. And deserved to.

See what he does there? He attacks the civil rights movement for "deserving" to lose moral authority, because it was used "to buttress a partisan machine." "But," I hear somebody complaining, "All the civil rights leaders are Democrats!" Yes, they are. And you know why? It wasn't some conspiratorial decision to lead blacks into being a "buttress" for a "partisan machine". You know why blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic? It's not just because lots of them live in big cities. Back in 1968, Richard Nixon decided on a Southern Strategy, using "states rights" to play up to the southern white racists who had before been "Dixiecrats". Civil Rights leaders being Democrats is an effect of the Republicans pandering to racists, rather than a cause of "losing moral authority."

And that, my friends, is how you be a good hack, you leave out the inconvenient parts of the truth, confuse causes and effects, and insinuate things to make the other guy seem to be worse than he is. Even after seeing what monsters the modern leadership of the Republican Party are, .Andrew Sullivan's hack instincts are still too strong. Though this is a lot less than his infamous "The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts...may well mount...a fifth column." blogging after 9/11 and rabid support of the war. Why does Time feature this hack?
Okay, so President Bush authorized spying on American citizens without warrants or any oversight. The program expanded to include domestic political opponents, peace groups, the ACLU, etc. When this was finally exposed, the President gets up and gives a press conference that can be paraphrased basically as "Iraq, Iraq, Terror, 9/11, Al Queda, Terrorists, 9/11, fuck you all, I do what I want, terror, 9/11, al queda, 9/11. Thank you and good night."

(And the New York Times knew about this over a year ago, back before the election, and didn't report it. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, New York Times?)

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