Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms ‘illegal alien,’ ‘an illegal,’ ‘illegals’ or ‘undocumented.’
Bachmann so full of crap she exceeded the AP’s fact-checking capacity.
You just can’t make this up, folks.
Michele Bachmann is so divorced from Aristotelian logic that the Associated Press imposed a “self-imposed Michele Bachmann quota” when fact-checking her during the Republican presidential primary season. No, really!
From the Washington Post:In a panel of fact-checking all-stars this morning at the National Press Club, a predictable question arose: What about the studies that have shown that fact-checking operations are tougher on Republican than Democratic politicians?
Among the points raised by the panel was that the balance over the past year has been skewed by the barroom brawl also known as the Republican primary season. A lot of nodding ensued.
Jim Drinkard, an Associated Press (AP) editor who oversees the wire service’s fact-checking work, said, “We had to have a self-imposed Michele Bachmann quota in some of those debates.”
After the session, Drinkard said that there wasn’t an actual numerical quota on Bachmann at the AP. It’s just that if the AP had gone back and vetted all her claims that looked dicey, the result would “overload” the debate story. “Often she was just more prone to statements that just didn’t add up,” said Drinkard.
I’m not even sure her name is really “Michele Bachmann.” I mean, it’s spelled weird. Come on…
Obama Jobs Plan Modest, Already Compromised
If early reports of President Obama’s job speech are accurate and the choice for reinvigorating the economy is “go big or go home,” it’s looking like the President has opted to go home. As Paul Krugman pointed out a few days ago, the problem with the initial stimulus package wasn’t that it was ineffective, but that it was too small to repair all of the damage caused by the Bush crash. In short, it may have saved us from a depression, but that’s about all it was capable of doing.
So never let it be said that this administration is capable of ignoring past mistakes. If at first you don’t succeed, try again — fail better. When you need a hoist to lift the economy, get a stepladder and hope for the best. Still, it’s not all bad.
According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president’s proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could still be subject to change.
The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.
Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment. The president and Congress negotiated that provision into law for 2011 last December.
OK, the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits aren’t going to improve employment. These are already in place, so these are status quo measures. Both are necessary to keep the numbers from worsening, but they aren’t going to improve anything. Think of them as the cast on the broken leg; you need it to protect the healing bone, but by itself it doesn’t fix anything.
More interesting is the tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed workers. Normally, I’d argue that tax cuts don’t create jobs and I’d be right. No one is going to create a position just to get a one-time tax break. But a big problem in this job market is that some companies are actually refusing to hire unemployed people. Hiring people who are already employed results in zero job growth. The “jobs creation” that Republicans like to talk about happens when unemployed people get jobs, not when just anyone gets a job. It’s simple math; poaching workers from other employers is simply shuffling people from one place to another. Hiring unemployed jobseekers increases the number of employed people total. That’s what you want to do. Giving tax cuts to anyone who hires anyone — or worse, giving them to everyone and hoping they’ll hire someone, as Republicans suggest — won’t solve the problem. Targeted tax cuts benefiting employers who are solving the actual problem may.
Schools construction is a no-brainer. Which means the no-brain Republicans will be against it. Like the transportation bill, this would be guaranteed to increase employment in the short-to-medium term and boost consumer spending. And the “one year tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment?” Pointless unless you jam the word “American” in that sentence before “equipment.” We want to stimulate the American economy, not China’s. Unless this tax cut is likewise targeted to a problem, the only people who will really benefit from it will be a handful of importer middlemen who get their beaks wet.
Yet what we need — big public works projects, massive restructuring of the tax code to give the advantage to the poor and middle class again, protectionist trade policies — are all missing. You can argue that these are likely impossible given the political environment in Washington, but that’s just accepting Homer Simpson’s dictum that trying is the first step in failing. It also pretends that the only fights worth having aren’t fights at all, but guaranteed wins and gimmes. Politically speaking, if not economically, it may be better to lose good fights than to win easy ones. Or, in the case of this presidency, to fight at all. Two years of compromise and middle-of-the-road politics has gotten this president rock bottom approval ratings. Liberals don’t like him because he constantly refuses to fight for better solutions, instead weakening good ideas with compromise after compromise until they’ve been transformed into ineffective half-meansures. And conservatives don’t like him because… Well, because they’re Republicans; if he cured cancer, they’d hate him. Wouldn’t the wise thing to do be to abandon this approach altogether?
If the president were to roll out an ambitious economic plan and fight for it, then who would be to blame if the economy didn’t improve? Certainly not the president. He had an idea and Republicans refused to let him implement it, favoring instead a status quo of a weak economy and low employment.
And next time around it’d be that much more politically feasible to do something that would actually work. We need something that would actually work.
Republican Austerity is Already Failing
It’s contrary to every Republican economic talking point, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I found it on page eleven of my local paper and why no television talking heads have brought it up. An Associated Press piece explains that austerity measures are holding economic recovery back and that Republican governors share a large part of the blame. May “was the seventh consecutive month of public-sector job losses,” the piece tells us. “Rather than add to U.S. economic growth, states and cities are subtracting from it.”
The Great Recession officially ended two years ago this month. During previous recoveries, state and local governments were engines of growth by this point: In the two years after the 1990-91 recession ended, for example, they had added 430,000 jobs. They had added 249,000 two years after the 2001 recession ended.
This time is different. More than 467,000 state and local government jobs, including 188,000 in schools, have vanished since the recession officially ended in June 2009.
Weird. And here I thought government spending “crowds out” private sector spending. If government — including state and city governments — starts making big, draconian cuts, then in pours all that sweet, sweet private sector cash. Right?
“There’s a whole slew of private companies that have to cut back when they don’t get the [government] contracts they had been getting,” Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors told AP. “You can’t balance a budget and say everything’s going to be beautiful.” And you can’t lay off state workers in droves and then wonder why unemployment is so high.
Here in Wisconsin, there’s a great example of Republican economic flateartherism. Republicans in the legislature are forcing the University of Wisconsin to return $37 million to the federal government. That money would’ve paid for broadband internet to tie campuses, schools, and libraries together and to help with distance learning.
“The legislation would also prohibit UW System campuses from supporting WiscNet, a cooperative that brings high-speed Internet to most schools and libraries across the state,” the Wisconsin State Journal reports. “Campus leaders say they fear the change could cripple the network.”
What’s the problem here for Republicans? “Republican lawmakers say the university should not be in the business of providing telecommunications services. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he was concerned the new broadband networks would compete with an already existing network called BadgerNet.”
Is private industry breaking down the door to do this? Well, no. But that’s not the point. Government shouldn’t do what businesses can do, say Republicans. Even, apparently, when those businesses have no interest in doing it. By GOP logic, we should all sit around waiting for construction companies to build bridges on their own initiative — even though there’s no reason for them to do so and it’s never going to happen. This is what the founders intended, because the founders were morons, I guess.
So $37 million-worth of jobs goes out the window, never to return. Schools and the university suffers. Private industry — which would’ve built the damned thing — now doesn’t get the business. Finally, tax money that Wisconsinites paid to the federal government doesn’t return to Wisconsin — so it’ll go subsidize a project in some other, saner state. This is beyond idiocy and they call it “fiscal sanity.”
But what about the media? As I said, the AP piece was buried on page eleven. We have real world proof that austerity measures don’t help the economy, that they in fact do the opposite, and we’ve got Republicans and conservatives on teevee saying, “You know what we need? More austerity!” Meanwhile, talking heads and pundits nod like idiots and tell us — oh so seriously — that this is the wisest thing they’ve ever heard. The economic plane is crashing again, so the smartest move is to point that nose straight at the ground and gun it.
Austerity isn’t headed for failure, it’s failing now and that’s barely being reported.
Paul Ryan Cooks Up Electoral Disaster
Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system is bold. It’s courageous. It’s serious. At least, if you ask various talking heads and pundits — something you should probably avoid doing. It’s one of the great failings of the media that they avoid calling a spade a spade at every opportunity. If some pundit were to tell the truth about the Ryan budget — what it really does, what it really costs, how necessary it actually is — this would be “bias.” And it would be bias because it would suddenly look very, very bad. TV journalism has now reached a low formerly occupied only by “entertainment news” shows, where they report movies’ press packets nearly verbatim and pretend the movie studios aren’t writing their “news” for them. Journalists report what people say about a policy proposal and somehow manage to avoid telling you what’s in the proposal. Dems hate it, Republicans love it. Let’s watch the fight! What’s the fight actually about— who cares?
In these cases, the only people you’re going to get the skinny from are those who are paid to be biased — or, at least, paid to be unafraid to appear biased. In this case, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman fits the bill.
What I hope regular readers of this blog understand by now is that the Ryan plan is, in fact, a self-serving piece of junk. It doesn’t add up — in fact, it would probably make the deficit bigger not smaller. And far from representing some kind of sacrifice of political interests in the service of the greater good, it’s a right-wing wish-list on steroids: sharp tax cuts for corporations and the rich, savage cuts in aid to the poor, and a gratuitous privatization of Medicare. And again, it’s technically incompetent along the way.
So nobility and seriousness had nothing to do with it.
And there ya go then. Ryan pulled out a piece of paper the GOP has had laying around for a while now, scratched out the words “Christmas wishlist” at the top, and replaced that title with the words “TOUGH CHOICES!”
Et voila, a “serious” policy proposal. It’s serious because you say it’s serious and the news media will report that you think this is tremendously serious. You can barely blame the GOP for doing this, since our media have made it so easy to get away with. Never report facts unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. Report only people’s opinions about those facts. This is why, when some talking head is introduced as an “analyst” — or worse, a “strategist” — you should change the channel. What they have to say is all but worthless.
Luckily, this doesn’t always pan out the way that Republicans would hope. Yes, they can get journalists to avoid reporting that a turd sandwich is, in fact, a turd sandwich. But they can’t seem to convince anyone to actually take a bite. Sometimes, an idea is so bad, so obviously awful that it’s immediately clear that this isn’t something you want to have for lunch. For the record, it probably does take a lot of courage to drop a turd sandwich on a table and say, “Bon appetit!” But it’s not the sort of courage anyone should be congratulated for.
And when that sandwich is so obviously inedible, no amount of media cowardice will hide that fact. There it is, out in the open, in plain view. And, my God, does it ever look awful.
Talking Points Memo:
Republicans are going to have plenty of questions about their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program tomorrow morning after Democrats romped to an improbable victory in a special election focused almost entirely on the issue.
Democrat Kathy Hochul lead 48-43 with over 83% of the votes counted and her victory looks to be a strong one — the Associated Press called the race within an hour of the polls closing. Corwin underperformed in key GOP counties while Hochul’s margins in Democratic areas were in line with the party’s high water mark in the district from 2006, a wave year that swept the Republicans out of the majority in the House and Senate. The district is normally a safe seat for Republicans and few considered it vulnerable when Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) resigned over topless photos he posted in a Craigslist personal.
By making Medicare the issue in this election, the Democrat snatched the seat away from the Republican. While there’s no shortage of people telling us we shouldn’t read too much into this, I’m willing to bet that few Republicans are going to be eager to stand by the Ryan plan. And that means that an awful lot of candidates are going to be spending an awful lot of time avoiding talking about their voting record. And there are going to be a lot of Democrats putting a lot of effort into making sure that discussion in unavoidable.
Republicans served up the turd sandwich. Now they’ll have to eat it.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Recount Update
From the Associated Press:
Justice David Prosser held a 7,316-vote lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg before a statewide recount began April 27. The state Government Accountability Board is providing daily updates on the recount’s progress by precinct. Here’s a look at where the recount stood as of Friday afternoon:
_Precincts recounted and given a preliminary review by board staff: 3,455 of 3,602
_Prosser’s current total: 689,642
_Kloppenburg’s current total: 721,391
The good news: that represents 94% of the total vote.
The bad news: Waukesha County — home of the magically appearing Prosser lead — is still counting. Apparently, the gross incompetence of County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus left the county system in shambles and a judge extended their recount deadline by nearly three weeks.
Still, you do the math. Prosser was originally up by 7,316 and now he’s down by 31,749. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Bin Laden Photos Probably Less Consequential Than Most Believe
If the White House decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s body splits pundits, talking heads, and other media types, there isn’t a lot of controversy among the general public. An NBC poll finds a solid majority — 64% — agreeing with the decision. Of that percentage, 52% reportedly “strongly” agree. And with even al Qaeda admitting that bin Laden is dead, it’s difficult to see what purpose the photos would serve.
Still, the Associated Press is on the case:
President Obama’s decision to withhold the visual evidence of Osama bin Laden’s death has created a fundamental disagreement between the White House and one of the largest journalism organizations in the world. “This information is important for the historical record,” said Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at The Associated Press. “That’s our view.”
Last Monday, the AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photographic and video evidence taken during the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The organization’s FOIA request included a reminder of the president’s campaign pledge and a plea to be more transparent than his predecessor. “The Obama White House ‘pledged to be the most transparent government in U.S. history,” wrote the AP, “and to comply much more closely with the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did.’”
“It’s our job as journalists to seek this material… We’re not deciding in advance to publish this material,” said Oreskes. “We would like our journalists, who are working very hard, to see this material and then we’ll decide what’s publishable and what’s not publishable based on the possibly that it’s inflammatory.”
While some believe that the keeping the photos under wraps is a matter of national security — denying bin Laden followers and sympathizers a “martyr photo” to wave around like a bloody shirt — the president himself put the argument in terms of decency and security.
“It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” the president told 60 Minutes’ Steve Croft. “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.”
For the record, I’m with the NBC poll’s majority here. I am persuadable — I wouldn’t put myself among the “strongly” agreeing — but the arguments against release seem more compelling. I’m not going to begrudge the AP’s pursuit of their perceived legal rights (especially since I believe the dangers of their release are most likely overstated) but there’s also a more common sense argument to the contrary; if something’s working, don’t pick at it.
While Usamah Bin Laden’s passing will not destroy al-Qaeda altogether, it is a horrible blow to their morale, despite the bravado in al-Qaeda’s message acknowledging Bin Laden’s death at American hands.
(By the way, for those who insisted that President Obama had to release the photos of Bin Laden’s corpse for the reality of his death to be accepted: well, not so much.)
Some have suggested that the Taliban may sever their ties with al-Qaeda in the wake of the latter’s clear vulnerability and leadership vacuum.
If the Taliban swears off al Qaeda, then withdrawing from Afghanistan becomes much, much more likely and much, much easier to defend to the “war forever!” crowd. After all, it was the Taliban’s ties to the terrorist organization that got this whole thing started in the first place. If this is a serious possibility, then maybe we shouldn’t change the game board too much.
On the other hand, there is the question of rights. The security argument seems to be a weak one in this case, with the term “national security” being nothing more than a synonym for “good foreign policy.” We’ve given up way too many rights since 9/11 to let that go lightly. If AP wants to fight a First Amendment press freedom fight, then more power to them.
I guess in the end I’m still going with the administration on this one, but wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep if they lost their case in court. If Cole is right and al Qaeda is demoralized by bin Laden’s death, then release of the photos wouldn’t do much to change that. In fact, it may just serve as a reminder of the blow.
Is Prosser’s Magic Lead the Result of Fraud or Just Incompetence?
Let’s just say that there’s cause for some skepticism here. On Tuesday, an extremely close state Supreme Court race between JoAnne Kloppenburg and incumbent David Prosser stretched into the night — and then into the next day. By Wednesday, it was reported that JoAnne Kloppenburg had — unofficially — scored the slimmest of victories. With 100% of precincts reporting, 204 votes separated the two candidates, according to the count by the Associated Press. A narrow win, to be sure, but more votes are more votes — the lead you officially need is one. Kloppenburg declared victory and the canvass of the votes began.
Then a funny thing happened. A whole bunch of Prosser votes suddenly appeared…
Wisconsin State Journal:
Incumbent Justice David Prosser gained a 7,500-vote lead in the hotly contested state Supreme Court race Thursday after the clerk in conservative-leaning Waukesha County announced she undercounted the votes because of an inputting error.
If the new results stand, they would swing the election to Prosser after unofficial results Wednesday showed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg was the winner with a 204-vote lead out of nearly 1.5 million votes cast.
But this story wasn’t broken by local news media. The first major publications reporting it were the National Review and the Weekly Standard — both journals of opinion and not known for investigative journalism. In other words, the story had been leaked to the conservative press, where the news would be greeted with a lot less skepticism than the story would call for. For their part, the AP still hasn’t changed their count. As far as they’re concerned, it seems, Kloppenburg’s win still — albeit unofficially — stands. And local press remain unconvinced of the new numbers.
The Capital Times editorial board:
Wisconsinites should respond with… skepticism to the news that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former Republican legislative staffer who worked for Prosser when he served as Assembly speaker and with Gov. Scott Walker when he was a GOP rising star, has found all the votes that justice needs to secure his re-election and that the governor needs to claim a “win” for his agenda.
There is no need for a conspiracy theory. The facts raise the questions that election observers are now asking.
“Nickolaus claims that it was ‘human error’ that caused her to ‘lose’ the Brookfield results on her personal computer where she had secreted away the data,” CapTimes reports. “Yet, she apparently knew of the ‘mistake’ for 29 hours before reporting it and then handed the information off to conservative bloggers and talk-radio personalities.”
Nickolaus has a bad history when it comes to running elections. In 2006, she was involved in a minor scandal in which the winner of a Republican primary was reported incorrectly [pdf]. In the end, the real numbers showed a different candidate had won by a “significant margin.”
Nickolaus was also under scrutiny last year from county officials for her handling of voting data, because “she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network — and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office — for security reasons.” Nickolaus’ “security” was later found to be poor, since several staffers shared a password because “it would take too much time for one employee to log off before another one logged on with a different user ID.”
Further, in 2002, Nickolaus worked for the state Assembly Republican Caucus, which “has since been eliminated by the state Legislature for alleged violations of several state election rules.” Prosser, as Assembly Speaker at the time, would’ve been her boss. According to WSJ, Nickolaus”worked for seven years as a data analyst and computer specialist for the Assembly Republican caucus” and “headed up an effort to develop a computer program that averaged the performance of Republicans in statewide races by ward.” In other words, she was electioneering on the state’s dime. Nickolaus was given immunity to testify in the case. The good people of Waukesha County, being forgiving sorts, put a woman involved with illegal electioneering in charge of the county’s elections.
Finally, 7,500 votes is an awfully convenient number. In Wisconsin, the state pays for a recount if the difference in the totals is less than 0.5% — Prosser is just outside that now, making a challenge by Kloppenburg expensive (you can help out on that front here).
In Nickolaus’s defense, a Democrat on the county board vouched for her story, saying, “Everything that we went over yesterday afternoon and today, it jived up, and we’re satisfied that it’s correct. And I’m with the Democratic Party, vice-chair of Waukesha County, so I’m not gonna stand here and tell you something that’s incorrect.” However, Nickolaus is a computer expert — albeit an incompetent one, if her story is to be believed — and the dem, Ramona Kitzinger, is not. At least, not as far as I can tell.
I have no problem believing that Kathy Nickolaus is simply as incompetent as she claims. Republicans believe that government can’t do anything right for a reason; that reason being the evidence they find in their own careers. If it weren’t for her involvement in the caucus scandal, I’d be a lot more inclined to believe she simply screwed everything up. After all, she has a history of it.
But there are enough questions here to justify calling any suspicions of wrongdoing healthy. Citizen Action of Wisconsin is calling for a federal investigation into these magically appearing votes. It should happen. With the state fully red at the moment, an investigation into Nickolaus’s office would simply be the Republican Party investigating claims that the Republican Party cheated.
We’ll be needing a little more assurance of our elections than that. And the people of Waukesha County need to know whether their Clerk is a crook — or just hopelessly incompetent.