Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fox News again found by a study to be misinforming its viewers

Thanks to Blake for forwarding an article from Daily Kos that cites a study by the respected Brookings Institute comparing Republicans who watch Fox News with Republicans who don't watch Fox News as to how well informed they are.

As have previous studies of viewer information, this study found that Fox News watchers are the most uninformed of any news consumers.   In fact, one prior study showed the Fox News viewers were less informed than people who don't follow news media at all.

The Brookings study added a new line of data, which show a highly significant difference among Republicans themselves as to whether they watch Fox News.

For example, the Dream Act is supported by 62% of "Foxless" Republicans but only 42% of "Foxies."   Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is supported by 56% of Foxless, but only 33% of Foxies.    On both issues, there is a 20% difference in the two groups.

And, at least on these two issues (and presumable it's a trend), those who don't watch Fox News are more in line with the electorate at large on controversial issues.   As Daily Kos concludes:
What this tells us is that Fox News is polluting the Republicans who tune in to the network with reporting and commentary that is biased, misleading, and downright false. . . .  In both cases the Foxless Republicans are more closely aligned with the electorate at large. It is the Foxies who hold the extremist position on the fringes of the far right.

The study asks the question: Does Fox News cause ignorance, or do ignorant viewers prefer Fox News? The answer is not particularly clear cut and is likely a combination of the two. However, the real problems for the GOP come into the equation when the party tries to evaluate the opinions of their constituents as represented by the folks at Fox News. It's clear that the Fox version of Republican views are far removed from reality.
As the results in some elections have shown, these extreme views may help the far right fringe candidates win primary elections, but they tend to result in loss to the Democrats in general elections.

Then should we just stop protesting Fox News coverage and hope they keep driving the GOP into defeat?


Krugman explains the Cantor defeat

Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times, examined the larger meaning and consequences of the landslide defeat of Eric Cantor in Virginia.   He says that it is really the repudiation of "movement conservatism," a term that refers to the historic conservative movement that "won elections by stoking cultural and racial anxiety but used these victories mainly to push an elitist economic agenda, meanwhile providing a support network for political and ideological loyalists."

Krugman explains that "By rejecting Mr. Cantor, the Republican base showed that it has gotten wise to the electoral bait and switch, and, by his fall, Mr. Cantor showed that the support network can no longer guarantee job security. For around three decades, the conservative fix was in; but no more."

In other words, they won elections "by posing as the defenders of national security and social values;"  but once elected they pivoted to serving the interests of corporations and the 1 percent. . . .  In return for this service, businesses and the wealthy provided both lavish financial support for right-minded (in both senses) politicians and a safety net . . . for loyalists. In particular, there were always comfortable berths waiting for those who left office, voluntarily or otherwise. There were lobbying jobs; there were commentator spots at Fox News . . . ; there were “research” positions [at conservative think tanks].

Eric Cantor had become the epitome of that.   He posed as the Tea Party puppet, but he acted like one of the establishment Washington insiders with higher ambitions.   The base didn't like him and didn't trust him to be for them, as opposed to corporate interests.  And specifically they didn't trust him on immigration.  They thought, perhaps rightly, that he intended to rush through an immigration bill as soon as the election was over -- trying to have it both ways.   The people saw through that -- both the Tea Party stalwarts and others as well.

Krugman concludes:
So whither movement conservatism? Before the Virginia upset, there was a widespread media narrative to the effect that the Republican establishment was regaining control from the Tea Party, which was really a claim that good old-fashioned movement conservatism was on its way back.
In reality, however, establishment figures who won primaries did so only by reinventing themselves as extremists. And Mr. Cantor’s defeat shows that lip service to extremism isn’t enough; the base needs to believe that you really mean it.

In the long run — which probably begins in 2016 — this will be bad news for the G.O.P., because the party is moving right on social issues at a time when the country at large is moving left. (Think about how quickly the ground has shifted on gay marriage.) Meanwhile, however, what we’re looking at is a party that will be even more extreme, even less interested in participating in normal governance, than it has been since 2008. An ugly political scene is about to get even uglier.
This seems right on target, and it does not bode well for the re-emergence of a reasonable opposition party.   Perhaps eventually they will split.   Could we exist and function with a genuine three party system?    Perhaps if the Republican Party is taken over by the radicals and the moderate/rational Republicans join with the Independents to form a real party?


Friday, June 13, 2014

Just say NO to the war hawks who want us to go back into Iraq

Rachel Maddow, in her msnbc commentary last night, addressed the war hawks' saber-rattling over Iraq, most notably John McCain, who seems never to have met a potential war he didn't want us to be in the middle of.

Here's Rachel, as quoted this morning on Huffington Post:  
"On her Thursday show, Rachel Maddow cautioned against any renewed American military action in Iraq, warning that the people who "most aggressively argued that we ought to start the Iraq War in 2003" should not be trusted when calling for intervention now.

"Pressure is building on the Obama administration to back the Iraqi government with airstrikes to fight against militants who are capturing great swaths of the country. 

"Maddow noted that people like John McCain and Kenneth Pollack, the "liberal hawk" who wrote an infamous book backing the 2003 invasion, have popped up again to call for a new military commitment to Iraq. But she pointed to the Vietnam War as proof that such open-ended commitments usually fail.

"'Right now the people who thought it would be easy and a great idea and cheap to invade Iraq under George W. Bush, they want us to restart that war again. Frankly, if you press them, they'll tell you they wish it had never ended in the first place....we have been here before as a country in a big way and we know how this goes.'"
Amen to that.   We now have not only Viet Nam but Iraq itself -- and Afghanistan.   When we go in with our Western values and expect to immediately convert another culture to our way of thinking -- to establish democracy without democratic institutions or traditions -- especially where we have destroyed what institutions they did have -- we should expect the outcomes we have gotten.


1:oo pm addendum:   President Obama has released a statement saying we will not be sending troops back into Iraq.   "Nobody will benefit by chaos in Iraq," he said; and the U. S. will do its part in helping the Iraqi people;  but ultimately it is up to them to solve this problem.

The BushCheney legacy now playing out in Iraq

This is only a small excerpt of an article by Juan Cole.   I quote it because it succinctly summarizes the inevitable position we find ourselves in as the result of having been led to invade Iraq in 2003 by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney under false charges of weapons of mass destruction.

The fact is that we made a mess and we left behind a mess.   Iraq is crumbling, and we contributed to it's coming to this point.   But going back in is not the answer.   Here's Cole:

" . . .  It is an indictment of the George W. Bush administration, which falsely said it was going into Iraq because of a connection between al-Qaeda and Baghdad.  There was none.  Ironically, by invading, occupying, weakening and looting Iraq, Bush and Cheney brought al-Qaeda into the country and so weakened it as to allow it actually to take and hold territory in our own time. They put nothing in place of the system they tore down. They destroyed the socialist economy without succeeding in building private firms or commerce. They put in place an electoral system that emphasizes religious and ethnic divisions. They helped provoke a civil war in 2006-2007, and took credit for its subsiding in 2007-2008, attributing it to a troop escalation of 30,000 men (not very plausible). In fact, the Shiite militias won the civil war on the ground, turning Baghdad into a largely Shiite city and expelling many Sunnis to places like Mosul. There are resentments.

"Those who will say that the US should have left troops in Iraq do not say how that could have happened. The Iraqi parliament voted against it. There was never any prospect in 2011 of the vote going any other way. Because the US occupation of Iraq was horrible for Iraqis and they resented it. Should the Obama administration have reinvaded and treated the Iraqi parliament the way Gen. Bonaparte treated the French one?"
There is much more:   about Saddam's regime, about the Sunni-Shia conflicts, about the Iraqi army, the politics and pricing of oil.   But it is our role in making things worse by meddling so stupidly and irresponsibly that I want to emphasize.

And it is important to do so, because -- predictably -- Lindsey Graham and John McCain lost no time in jumping before the tv cameras to denounce Obama's pulling our troops out and ending the war in Iraq.   The American people know better.   McCain and Graham should be ashamed.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

GHW Bush "sky dives' on his 90th birthday

Happy 90th Birthday to former President George H. W. Bush -- and congratulations on keeping up his tradition of doing a sky dive on his birthday.


Cantor's defeat -- it certainly wasn't the money

Eric Cantor's stunning defeat in the Republican primary in Virginia is full of messages.    The one that strikes me so forcefully is what a minimal effect campaign money played in this election.

Eric Cantor spent more than $5 million on his campaign.    David Brat, who defeat him by 11% points, had only $220,000.   That's a 25:1 ratio.  He didn't even have Tea Party financial backing.  He ran a completely local race.

As the political analysts tease it all apart, the initial belief that it was all about immigration reform doesn't hold up when you look at polls of attitudes about immigration.

The political wisdom I most listen to says it wasn't any one issue as much as the electorate seeing Cantor as out of touch with his constituents, aloof, visiting the district infrequently and as having become a national figure rather than their representativeThey said, when he did visit the district, his entourage would sweep in in black SUVs, and his security guards would elbow people out of the way.

Here's a telling little factoid:    Cantor's campaign expenditures show he paid more to steakhouses -- some $260,000 -- than Brat's entire campaign funds.  

On top of that, Chris Hayes and his guests were quite frank is saying:   Cantor just was not likeable;  nobody liked him, not his colleagues, not his constituents.   He was all about tactics and message, rather than substance.

The bottom line message in all this:   Maybe campaign money is not all that important, after all.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Republicans keep getting surprised by defeat

In 2012 there was Mitt Romney's defeat, which came as such a surprise to big Republican insiders (like the Romney campaign itself, plus Karl Rove) that they were already measuring the drapes for the Oval Office.    Karl Rove very publicly on Fox News would not at first believe it when the election was called for Obama.

Last night's stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was an even bigger surprise to everyone.   So much so that there was no plan for what to do now about his leadership position.   Should he give up the Majority Leader's position now or serve out the remainder of the term?

The Republican party is reeling, and people are grasping for explanations.    The most recent internal polls of the Cantor campaign were said to show him winning by 34%.  Instead he lost by 11% to a political novice who raised about $200,000 to Cantor's $5 million.

It was considered such a forgone win for Cantor that the Democrats didn't even put up a candidate until one week ago, choosing their candidate by a telehpone conference call of the party establishment.     Fortunately they did.

Now we have a race between two professors from the same college.  Quick checks last night by MSNBC of student ratings show that the Democrat has higher student-approval ratings than the Republican.   For what that's worth.

The two big factors seem to be:  (1) The Tea Party really energized it's sympathizers to come out and vote, primarily with an anti-immigration-reform message;   and (2)  Cantor has become so identified as a national Republican and part of the Washington establishment, and he has not maintained contact with people in his district.

It shows that maybe money doesn't make as much difference as we thought.   And we Democrats should not get confident, because the people of this very conservative district went for the more conservative candidate.   And his views may be ultra-conservative, but he is not a crazy person like some of the Tea Party candidates from 2010 that lost the general election. 

But the interesting question:   Why did they not even have an inkling that this was going to happen?    To be off by such a magnitude -- thinking you were 34 points ahead and actually losing by 11 -- that's a 45 point mis-reading of the electorate.

I'm sure the political post-mortems are already underway.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shocking stats -- and still the NRA only doubles down

In the 18 months since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticutt, there have been 74 more incidents of gun violence in schools.   That averages out to 1.37 per week when schools are in session.

Further, it is widespread -- 31 different states have had school shootings.   Georgia has the worst record:   10 school shootings in those 18 months.

The NRA's answer continues to be:   Let's put more guns in schools so they can shoot it out, and let's take all restrictions off ownership and carrying privileges (except possibly felons and mentally ill people.)

I despair.


Maya Angelou #2

This is an addition to what I wrote on May 29, 2014 about that amazing woman, Maya Angelou, who had just died.   The life of the 86 year old poet, novelist, and activist was celebrated at a private ceremony last Saturday by luminaries including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama.   Here is an excerpt from Michelle's tribute to her:

The first time I read "Phenomenal Woman" I was struck by how she celebrated black women's beauty like no one had ever dared to before. Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace. Her words were clever and sassy. They were powerful and sexual and boastful. And in that one singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women, but she also graced us with an anthem for all women, a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty.

And oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie -- that was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head. Her message was very simple.  She told. us that our worth has nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead, she said each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory. She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human race.

Dr. Angelou's words sustained me on every step of my journey. Through lonely moments in ivy-covered classrooms and colorless skyscrapers, through blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls, through long years on the campaign trail where at times my very womanhood was dissected and questioned. For me, that was the power of Maya Angelou's words. Words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House.
Three remarkable women:   Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Caught napping on the job

One of the few topics that ShrinkRap has stayed up-to-the-minute on is changes in gay rights laws.    So I'm a little chagrined to read today that on last Friday, a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin's law forbidding gay marriage is unconstitutional.

I didn't read a newspaper, watch TV news, or have access to the internet.   But, even so, I was in a meeting the next day and had dinner that night with other GLBT analysts.  No one mentioned it.    That's how common-place the domino-falling aspect of anti-gay-marriage laws has become.

What brought it to my attention today was a small article online saying that the judge had declined the request to put a stay on her ruling, thus allowing immediate issuance of marriage licenses. 

Let's see.   I believe we're up to 20 states + D.C. where it is currently legal.  Another four or five have been overturned by judges but are on stay pending appeal.

What a place to come to -- where the news didn't penetrate my inattention for three days, and even now I've lost count.

Twenty years ago, I never thought I would live to see the day where it was legal in any state.

Wow !!


Republican perfidity exploits a legislator's self-interest

He is of course not the first politician in history to sell out to the opposition, but Virginia state senator, Phillip Puckett, right now is the center of a political storm that makes him look like the personification of self-interest and greed.

Ever since Democrat Terry McCauliffe took office as governor in a state with a Republican controlled House and an evenly split Senate, the battle has been on.   McCauliffe has been trying to expand Medicaid, and the Republicans have been fighting it.

Now for the moment, a perfidious act of Republican bribery -- that's not too strong a word -- has persuaded the senator to resign his seat, which then gives the Republicans control of both bodies of the legislature.   What this means is that they can block Gov. McCauliffe's attempt to expand health care coverage to up to 400,000 Virginians.

What was the price that tempted Sen. Puckett to do this?   An appointment as deputy director of the state tobacco commission and a judgeship for his daughter.

Of course this is done in such a way that there is no direct quid pro quo, but nobody is fooled by this.   To be fair, Puckett has not yet responded to the backlash criticism.  It's possible there is more to the story that makes him not look quite so bad.   But he has so far refused comment.

So we're left with seeing him in the worst light.


4:00 pm addendum:   News reports are that Puckett now has withdrawn his name for consideration for the tobacco commission job.  His resignation has already become official and stands.   Apparently this leaves open the possibility of his daughter get the judgeship (I gather that his being a state senator would interfere with her eligibility for that.)

So, as of now, however, it still gives Republicans a 20-19 majority and control of the senate.

Moment of truth . . . maybe . . . in the Christie scandals

In case you thought the Chris Christie multi-pronged scandals had gone away, interest is going to be revived today.    Nothing has gone away;  it's just the progressive, behind-the-scenes investigative work going on.   Both the joint legislative special committee and the federal prosecutor's inquiries have been quietly proceeding without any recent headlines.

But today, Kevin O'Dowd, Christie's chief of staff then and now, will testify under oath for the legislative committee.   Unlike the federal prosecutor's investigation, these hearings will not be secret.

O'Dowd said,  in unsworn interviews with lawyers hired by the Christie administeration to investigate the bridge closing, that he knew nothing of the planning for it and only learned four months later that his assistant Bridget Kelly had set it in motion.   We'll see if he maintains this position under oath and cross-examination.

Another staff member in the same office has already testified that Bridget Kelly was always insecure about what she was doing and was not the type to take things into her own hands without direction from someone else.

It's strains credulity to think that Chris Christie -- known as a micro-manager and tight-ship kind of guy -- would have key people who operated with such power and authority without his knowledge.    The most plausible explanation is that they had an understanding that kept Christie and his chief of staff from "knowing," but the staff knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish.

It's must be the old political tactic of:  "do what you have to do to accomplish this, but don't let me know what you're doing."   It's the way politicians can deny involvement.  It is most likely what happened with Gov. Nathan Deal and the ethics panel in Georgia.

Any other explanation carries too much cognitive dissonance;  it's simply not believable, knowing what we know about Christie's style and his degree of control over events.

Stay tuned.