Sunday, August 9, 2009

WaPo Equivalence: Wingnut 'Deathers', Dems who criticize insurance industry

And guess which side they come down harder on?

Yep - the Dems. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

After the pox-on-both-houses setup ("If this moment is squandered, it will be a sad indictment of the political system -- and there will be plenty of blame to go around"), the WaPo's lead editorial today summarizes the piles of craziness we've heard from the wingnuts about healthcare - euthanasia! government-run hospitals! compiling enemies' lists! - in a mere eight lines.

Then it spends the rest of the editorial - 43 lines, over five times as much ink - in dumping on Nancy Pelosi for criticizing insurance company practices, and - get this! - on Obama for not doing enough to prepare "some patients who have become accustomed to getting every test or procedure they want" that they may have to settle for the most effective procedure, rather than the one they want.

One, two, three: awwwwww.

And of course, regardless of the insurance companies' willingness to acquiesce to a bill where they "accept all applicants and generally charge the same amount, in exchange for a requirement that all individuals obtain insurance," the fact is that now, in the absence of a bill, they're still practicing insurance as they always have: by not insuring people that need it, by dropping people from their rolls the minute they need to be insured, and by refusing to pay claims that their policy covers.

Why the Dems shouldn't run against what the vile practices the insurance companies are doing now, and will continue to do way into the future if this bill doesn't pass, in order to drum up support for the bill, is certainly lost on me. But even yielding that point to the WaPo, for sake of argument, it's crazy that they find this five times as worthy of criticism as the wingnuts' outright insanity.

It's as if the WaPo has decided: it's okay for conservatives to be batshit crazy - we expect it of them, and it's not worthy of much comment. But if the Dems commit much more mundane political offenses, we'll jump on them with both feet.

The WaPo Keeps Giving Op-Ed Space to Amity Shlaes

Today's paper. No, I'm not gonna link. Just felt the need to point out that the WaPo continues to give op-ed space to this fraud. It's already hard to take the WaPo seriously, but such things make it even harder.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Broder: Bush's Worst Moral Failing Was...

No, you're not going to believe this.
In [Bush's] valedictory interview...I listened in vain for any admission of what I and others consider the greatest moral failing of the Bush presidency -- his refusal to ask any sacrifice from most of the American people when he put the nation on a wartime footing after the Sept. 11 attacks.
To Broder, that was a bigger moral failing than "Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo [and his response to] Hurricane Katrina and the neglect of the environment and the working class." And he doesn't even mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in the past six years.

Who are these people - these "I and others" that Broder knows? What sort of Body Snatchers pods did they emerge from?

Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head at the idea that someone like this has such a prominent role in our national discussion. The day when "Dean" Broder's too senile to string sentences together into the semblance of an op-ed column can't come too soon.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

L'il Debbie's Prescription Overlooks the Obvious...

...which, of course, would be a rejuvenation of the WaPo's sorry-ass op-ed page.

Howell, as she edges towards the door (thank Og), has ten suggestions for improving the paper, or at least ensuring that future waves of cutbacks don't cut quality. None of them mention the op-ed page - and surely each of the op-ed regulars must be drawing a comfortable salary.

We've been over this ground before, of course. Broder and Will are 100% reputation, 0% quality; somebody should've pointed out 15 years ago that these Op-Ed Emperors have no clothes. Robert J. Samuelson's beat is economics, but he doesn't actually know anything about economics. Richard Cohen is not only totally muddleheaded, but takes up a 'liberal' spot on the op-ed page without actually being one. Michael Gerson is a partisan hack who writes about The Decency of George W. Bush. Anne Applebaum seemed clueless that she was having a hard time deciding, this year, between two vastly different and irreconcilable worldviews. And so forth.

But the big thing is, quality opinion writing on national and international affairs isn't a scarce resource. Lots of people are doing quality punditry for free, out in the blogosphere. And even the well-known bloggers that are getting paid (I'm thinking of people like Kevin Drum, Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Steve Benen, and others who are being paid strictly to blog for magazines like the Atlantic, the American Prospect, the Washington Monthly, Mother Jones, and so forth) are almost certainly getting paid way less than the op-ed regulars at the Washington Post.

And people like Matt and Ezra and Steve and Kevin and Hilzoy produce far better analytical writing each week than the WaPo op-ed regs, and actually add to your knowledge to boot. How often do you learn something new in a WaPo op-ed?

So here you have one truly terrible - and presumably pretty expensive - section of the newspaper, that could be greatly improved quite easily, and save lots of money at the same time. If you're thinking of ways to maintain the WaPo's quality and readership in an era of newspaper budget and staff cuts, how could you possibly miss this?

Bye-Bye, Deborah Howell!

Don't let the door hit your sorry ass on the way out. Buried deep in today's Apologist column:
Now that I've listened to readers for more than three years (my term is over at year's end)
Isn't that great news? The WaPo can only be improved by her departure.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Special Thanksgiving Sex Change Post

Genderanalyzer says:
We guess is written by a woman (52%), however it's quite gender neutral.
:Looks in pants:

Yep, still got male bits down there.

Reminds me of this, from Doon:
The boy grew silent. Something was troubling his mother - something she chose to deny rather than explain. And he knew she knew he could perceive them - had she not been his teacher? Had she not made it her own goal, to educate her son in the Boni Maroni Ways and Means?

True, such training was unusual for a boy; the Boni Maroni order was, after all, principally composed of women.

Perhaps I am a woman, Pall thought.

But his heightened powers of observation were able to discern, between his legs and hidden from the casual observer by the clothing of his race, those telltale organs that confirmed his intuition that he was indeed a male-man.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 14, 2008

George Will as Epicenter of Fairness Doctrine Paranoia

People (Steve Benen, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias) keep wondering where the recent wingnut fixation with the Fairness Doctrine comes from. The answer is, it seems to come from George Will, with an assist from Charles Krauthammer.

George Will, August 17:
Two Democratic priorities in the next Congress would placate two factions that hold the party's leash -- organized labor and the far left. One is abolition of workers' right to secret ballots in unionization elections. The other is restoration of the "fairness doctrine" in order to kill talk radio, on which liberals cannot compete. The doctrine would expose broadcasters to endless threats of litigation over government rules about how many views must be presented, on which issues, by whom, for how long and in what manner.

George Will, September 18:
Unless McCain is president, the government will reinstate the equally misnamed "fairness doctrine." Until Ronald Reagan eliminated it in 1987, that regulation discouraged freewheeling political programming by the threat of litigation over inherently vague standards of "fairness" in presenting "balanced" political views. In 1980 there were fewer than 100 radio talk shows nationwide. Today there are more than 1,400 stations entirely devoted to talk formats. Liberals, not satisfied with their domination of academia, Hollywood and most of the mainstream media, want to kill talk radio, where liberals have been unable to dent conservatives' dominance.

Charles Krauthammer, October 31:
What will you get [if Obama wins]?
(2) The so-called Fairness Doctrine -- a project of Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic senators -- a Hugo Chávez-style travesty designed to abolish conservative talk radio.

It's hardly a surprise that Michael "The Decency of George W. Bush" Gerson would pick up on a theme already pushed by Will and Krauthammer.

Friday, November 7, 2008

WaPo Likes Gerson Column So Much, It Runs It Twice

The Gerson column, "The Decency of George W. Bush," ran on the op-ed page on Wednesday, and again today.

Guess the WaPo really wanted to drive home the point that our Torturer-In-Chief, a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the exile of millions more, a President who used his office to gut both the Fourth Amendment and the age-old protections of habeas corpus, who turned the prosecutorial arm of the Federal government into the sort of partisan operation more typically associated with banana republics, is really a decent man.

That's quite an interesting definition of 'decency' they have.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hiatus, Redux

I feel like the Blogger Who Cried Wolf here, having twice before had short hiatuses as we planned for adoption travel that, for one reason or another, didn't work out.

This one appears to be the real thing, as in, we've been told to make travel reservations to Moscow. (The adoption agency gets us from Moscow to the city where the orphanage is, and back again.)

This may be a near-permanent hiatus for this blog - even aside from this belated entry into parenthood, there's a limited number of times one can say the same things about how awful Broder is. Ditto the rest of that crew.

I feel like I've done it, and it's hard to bring myself to skewer Broder once more when, twice in one week, he blames McCain's bad behavior on Obama's decision not to do weekly town-hall debates. It's hard to ridicule Gerson's hackery one more time when he writes about "the decency of George W. Bush" (I'm not making this up - that's an actual quote!) as he did yesterday; it's tiresome to tell Robert J. Samuelson to fuck off yet one more time because, yet one more time, he's proposed raising the Social Security eligibility age; and the avalanche of "the Dems had better guard against overreaching" columns, such as Ruth Marcus', yesterday, is already boring beyond words.

But I'll be around. I'll pop up in comments at all the usual places - CogBlog and Matt's and Ezra's and Brad DeLong's and Ryan Avent's blogs and places like that. I'm a political junkie, and I doubt that parenthood will change that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hey, We Won!!!

Well, whaddaya know.

Great shout-out to Nate Silver in this morning's xkcd. In the mouse-over text, natch.

Friday, October 31, 2008

WaPo; McCain Is An "Idiot Wind"

Looks like McCain's pressing of the Obama-Khalidi connection has even made Fred Hiatt say he's had enough. The header of today's lead editorial:
An 'Idiot Wind'
John McCain's latest attempt to link Barack Obama to extremism
That pretty much sums up the editorial.

But I think we need Bob Dylan to sum up McCain:
Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ruth Marcus: Forget Substance - Tone Is Everything


Barack Obama this week unveiled the closing argument of his presidential campaign. It seemed more like a reminder of his unfinished business.

I'm not referring to Obama's specific plans. Policy goodies such as health care and renewable energy, billions for this and credits for that, are inherently future "deliverables," contingent on election.

Well, of course not. You're a pseudo-centrist WaPo pundit. You'll take advantage of any excuse to discuss intangibles rather than issues, and where the opposing candidates or parties stand on them. Substance isn't your forte. To steal from Edie Brickell, "shove me into shallow waters" should be your motto.

I'm talking, rather, about Obama's entrancing promise of ushering in a new politics, one that rises above entrenched partisan rifts to unite a divided country.
But this is not -- although it could have been -- the way that candidate Obama has run his campaign or the message he has run it on. I believe he sincerely would have preferred that it be different: more elevated and more honest, less beholden to party orthodoxy and less slashing toward opponents.

Yet Obama has run a rather standard Democratic campaign, largely obeisant to party constituencies and allergic to difficult choices. Run it brilliantly, yes, but not with much more than a passing hint of the new politics he envisions. Better angels, it seems, do not make the best campaign strategists.

Accepting his party's nomination in Denver, Obama decried the use of "stale tactics to scare voters." A few weeks later, he was airing ads warning that John McCain wanted to privatize Social Security and would slash seniors' benefits almost in half. You can't get much staler than that.

Stale, perhaps. But was it true?

I know, Ruth, that's substance. Sorry. But McCain has, in fact, been on record for quite some time as favoring Social Security privatization. And that would involve benefit cuts now, or in the near future.

Certainly, McCain did not shy away from the cheap shot or the divisive argument; the palling-around-with-terrorists, Obama-as-socialist themes were not the elevated campaign that he, too, pledged to run.

I don't blame Obama for responding in kind as much as I bristle at his simultaneous posture that he is above that sort of gutter politics.
What gutter politics? What Obama has consistently demonstrated is that he's a counterpuncher. He doesn't pick any fights, but if he's attacked, he uses the attack itself as the basis of his counterattack. It's hardly going into the gutter to use an opponent's own attack, his own words, against him.
Even more, I question his assumption that the pressures that led him to such campaign tactics will somehow melt away after the election. What evidence is there that a President Obama would govern differently than candidate Obama campaigned?
Does he have some magical, Republican-whisperer ability to quell a political opposition that will be determined from Day One to frustrate his program and regain power?
This is where Obama's counterpunching will stand him in good stead. If he makes a good-faith effort to reach across to Republicans, and pass the programs we need to fix America's problems in a bipartisan manner, and the GOP filibusters his every move, then you can bet he'll figure out how to use that fact against them - and have the support of the American people as he does so.

Would a President Obama press policies -- on teacher accountability, on climate change, on trade -- that discomfit Democratic Party interest groups? Does he have the spine to stand up to the inevitably overreaching demands of congressional Democrats?

1) He has in the past.

2) Even more important, I bet he's got the spine to stand up to - or simply ignore - the ridiculous demands of the Beltway pundit class. They always want Dems to demonstrate their fortitude by standing up to someone else - usually working Americans - but never to them.

I suspect Marcus, Broder, Samuelson, Cohen, Applebaum, and all the rest of that crowd, are in for a surprise in January.

Anne Applebaum, WaPo's Stupidest Pundit?

Since I've written this critique of Anne Applebaum in comments at Brad DeLong's blog, I should publish it in my own, too.

Anne Applebaum, yesterday:
I am one of these elusive independent female voters, and I have the credentials to prove it. For the past couple of decades, I've sometimes voted Democratic, sometimes Republican. I'm even a registered independent, though I did think of switching to vote for John McCain in 2000. But because the last political party I truly felt comfortable with was Thatcher's Conservative Party (I lived in England in the 1980s and 1990s), I didn't actually do it.
Since 1994 at the very latest, the enormous philosophical gulf between the two parties has been self-evident. To be an independent, undecided voter over that much time is to be torn, for all those years, between two fundamentally incompatible worldviews, both in terms of policy and their respective approaches to politics.

One expects that sort of cluelessness from a low-information undecided voter, but the only reason to put Applebaum on an op-ed page is if she happens to be one of the sharper tools in the shed. And boy howdy, does she ever fail that test.

I go back to the morning after the 2004 election for the moment I became totally convinced of her cluelessness:
The worst possible outcome would be, and will always be, a repeat of Florida 2000: lawyers, spin doctors, courts and protests that would drag out the result past this evening. That is because a disputed outcome, whoever is doing the disputing, would do far more damage to the country in the long term than anyone's worst Bush nightmare or anyone's worst-case Kerry scenario, whether a declaration of war against Syria or the nationalization of private medicine.
Let's face it: If it's really that close, as it was in 2000, either candidate could plausibly be declared the victor. And the best outcome for the country will always be for the apparent loser to concede and for the nation to hand victory, quickly, to whoever the apparent winner might be.
It's hard to see how a smart person could look back at Florida 2000, look again at the total mess we'd made of Iraq in 2003-4, and somehow be convinced that the former was worse than the latter.

Getting back to Applebaum today:
The larger point, though, is that if I'm not voting for McCain -- and, after a long struggle, I've realized that I can't -- maybe it's worth explaining why, for I suspect there are other independent voters who feel the same. Particularly because it's not his campaign, disjointed though that has been, that finally repulses me: It's his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party. His problems are not technical; they do not have to do with ads, fundraising or tactics, as some have suggested. They are institutional; they have to do with his colleagues, advisers and supporters.
If the qualities of the GOP are the deal-breaker for Applebaum, then once again, this GOP has pretty much been the same party for quite a few years now. Even the pseudo-intellectual overlay that Gingrich provided has been absent for some time. This isn't a party with any new ideas, just more tax cuts for the rich in a time of mounting deficits, fewer regulations in an era where the lack of oversight of everything from baby food to our financial markets has been our undoing, and of course more saber-rattling when our troops are still tied down in two interminable wars, with no way out.

This is only a surprise to Anne Applebaum.
Another thing I liked about McCain was the deliberate distance he always kept from the nuttier wing of his party and, simultaneously, the loyalty he's shown to a recognizably conservative budgetary philosophy. Fiscal conservatism, balanced budgets, sober spending -- all of these principles have been brushed away as so much nonsense for the past eight years by Republicans more interested in grandstanding about how much they hate Washington. McCain was one of the few who kept talking about them. He was also one of a shockingly few to understand that there is nothing American, let alone conservative, about torture, and that a battle for civilized values could not be won by uncivilized means.
McCain may talk about balanced budgets, but the rest of us noticed that McCain switched from a critic to an endorser of the Bush tax cuts a few years back. That completely undermines the sincerity of his talk about balanced budgets. Applebaum apparently didn't notice. Nor did she notice when McCain cozied up to the nuttiest of the widely-known right-wing preachers, the late Jerry Falwell, a few years ago, nor did she notice when he followed that act by befriending the equally nutty Rod Parsley and John Hagee. So much for keeping distance from the wingnuts. And while he was willing to speak against torture, it seems his vote was MIA in that battle.

One can only conclude that Applebaum let herself be completely taken in by posturing. Again, one expects that of low-information voters. Applebaum has failed to distinguish herself from that class.