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Monthly Archives: September 2010
Mazher Mahmood and Amanda Evans at News Of The World:
In the most sensational sporting scandal ever, bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivered THREE blatant no-balls to order.
Their London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed, who let us in on the betting scam for £150,000, crowed “this is no coincidence” before the bent duo made duff deliveries at PRECISELY the moments promised to our reporter.
Armed with our damning dossier of video evidence, Scotland Yard launched their own probe into the scandal.
Last night three players – captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Amir and Asif hade their mobile phones seized by officers.
Trevor Chesterfield at Island Cricket:
From the time they were exposed as cheats four years ago over the ball tampering issue at The Oval, there has been a growing stench about modern Pakistan cricket -which has developed the habit of eschewing openness and with it, integrity.
That was a moment when Darrell Hair, and the strict and fair umpiring levels employed, were questioned by those who knew they had been fiddling with the ball; then they lied about it to escape being shown up as villains in a dishonest caper, all against the tenets of fair play.
With such a background, it should surprise no one that such Luddites as these have again openly displayed how their management is as dysfunctional, maladjusted and incompetent as it has been since the early 1990s. Ijaz Butt, the current president of the Pakistan Cricket Board is as fundamentally flawed in his administration as he was over the disastrous terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team’s bus in Lahore in March 2009. In the latest series of events in England, bowlers are said to have been involved in a no-ball betting scam. It is the tip of an unsavoury pile of garbage that has been collecting on its doorstep unmonitored for years -that has only become worse post Ijaz Butt, a pretentious Test player whose one moment of fame on the field was as a substitute.
In Pakistan’s first tour of the West Indies in 1957-58, during the third Test in Kingston, Jamaica, Butt managed to run out Conrad Hunte for 260 in his partnership of 446 with Sir Garfield Sobers for the second wicket. Sobers went in to score the then world record of 365 not out in a West Indies total of 790 for three, declared. Recalling the incident, the warm-hearted Hunte said how he and Sobers had forgotten Butt had been brought on for Saeed Ahmed, who had temporarily gone off for minor finger injury repairs.
Butt, in his new avatar, says that without “proof”, there will be no suspension of players. Such an interesting premise he has adopted here, as Pakistan try to cover with bluff and jingoism their already tarnished image.
Geoff Lemon at The Roar:
Like ‘hero’, the word ‘tragedy’ is thrown around all too easily in modern sportswriting. But if, as seems likely, the damning allegations against several Pakistan cricketers prove to be true, it will be a genuine tragedy for their nation and the sport as a whole.
Pakistan’s most common tag in the media is ‘troubled’. Its decade of instability due to religious extremism, including the exile of international cricket, has been capped off by the massive floods of recent weeks. The millions left homeless would have been looking to their team’s performance in England for some kind of solace or escape.
Captain Salman Butt delivered a win in the third Test against England, and dedicated it to his people.
But a few days later that intent had been cast aside, as the fourth and final Test was subsumed by the latest and most wide-ranging match-fixing scandal in Pakistan’s history.
The News of the World may not be the last word in top-quality journalism (with other headlines on its homepage including “Peggy Mitchell’s best bits” and “Elephant plays harmonica”), but the photos and recordings its undercover reporters made while posing as representatives for a gambling cartel make compelling evidence.
Mazhar Majeed, the UK agent for a number of Pakistani players, promised the reporters three no-balls in a day’s Test play, two from Mohammad Amir and one from Mohammad Asif, as proof the players had been bought and would follow directions.
The reporters would then be invited to pay for advance notice of rigged results in future matches. Aside from the bowlers, Majeed claimed to have seven players in his pocket, naming skipper Salman Butt and keeper Kamran Akmal.
A specific over and delivery was nominated for each no-ball. The next day, each was duly delivered right on time. “[He] will bowl according to any situation, or in such a way that the team requires him to bowl,” said Amir of his strike partner Asif in a recent interview.
Unfortunately this looked true in exactly the wrong kind of way.
There are different kinds of cheating and some offend us more than others. Cheating to win, while regrettable and reprehensible, is one thing, cheating to lose quite another. Few sports are entirely free of the former but the latter form of cheating is vastly more insidious since it undermines the whole point of the competition in the first-place.
That is, cheating to gain an advantage doesn’t guarantee victory but conspiring to throw a game is both easier (in some sports anyway) and makes a mockery of everything. That’s one reason why match-fixing in cricket is more offensive than, say, drug-taking in cycling. The same is true in horse-racing: doping to win is reprehensible but it doesn’t rob the public as surely as a non-trier does. It’s easier, perhaps, to prevent people from cheating to win than to stop cheating by losing deliberately.
There’s a policy aspect to this latest crisis too: prohibition does not work. At least some of the problems associated with spot-fixing are intimately connected to the fact that gambling on sports is an underground industry in India and Pakistan. A legal gambling industry – that is, one less in hock to and controlled by gangsters – would surely be better placed to combat this kind of corruption. Prohibition is far from the only villain but it certainly exacerbates the problem.
Primary responsibility lies with the players, of course, but the problems associated with cricket and gambling cannot be divorced from the nature of the betting industry on the sub-continent. Fixing that won’t solve everything but it would be a good place to start.
Mark Austin at The Mirror:
The simple fact is the players come from a culture where corruption is ingrained.
I say all this to explain the alleged behaviour of the players NOT to excuse it. And I say it too because it highlights the scale of the challenge facing the international cricket authorities.
If the allegations are proven, of course the players should be dealt with harshly.
If they are found guilty there should be a life ban for the captain Salman Butt.
The younger bowlers, who will have been leaned on and manipulated by unscrupulous scumbag middlemen, should, I think, get shorter sentences.
But this is the point. Life bans and heavy fines won’t solve anything.
The match fixers operating in the shadows will merely find other vulnerable, relatively poorly paid young stars to exploit.
What should happen is that the Pakistan Cricket Board must be made aware that if they don’t clean up their act the entire national team will be banned from international cricket altogether. Full stop.
Osman Samiuddin at The Guardian:
They are not as educated as the players who went before and, even if they were, consider that the public education system ceased producing quality long ago. Asif and Amir, like many others before them, landed up in the big time without connections, without any push and no money, nothing but their skill. That talent was spotted in a system, no matter how decrepit, but a system nonetheless. Both have since made a life for themselves in the big city; if that is not one by-product of democracy, the spotting and rewarding of merit, then what is? This is cricket as the one equaliser in a land of vast disparity.
The standard tale is that they come into more money than their families have seen in a lifetime – and quickly, too. They have more power than players of the past ever did; the modern board administrator is a clown, the modern player a public hero. They have more people watching them. They now need to bling it up. A fancy car, or three, is bought, a big house, maybe one for the family as well, who are also brought to the city. Other celebrities multiply around them. A girl, or three, appears on the scene. Suits are at them, wanting to put their faces up in brighter lights. Entire entourages grow around them, of extended families and drop-out friends, who have to be fed, clothed, kept and entertained. Muhammad Ali knew about them a long time ago.
These are not unique stories. They are everywhere; ghetto basketballers, working-class footballers, slum-town cricketers. Maybe cricket, currently trying to work out how much money it can make for itself, brings its own context. Money-making has become too serious a business in this business for it to be steered by transparency and accountability.
Perhaps Pakistan brings its own context, too. The impermanency of life here breeds a peculiar hoard mentality: get in quick, get rich quicker because you never know when you will be out forever, from a job, from politics, from a team. Over the past 10 years particularly, rampant consumerism has eaten away at urban Pakistan, which has long been sweet on ostentation in any case. Just having wealth is not enough. Showing people you have it is more important.
Moreover, gambling, even though illegal, is fine by most people. It is, some will argue, ingrained to an extent. A friend conducted a focus group of boys and young men recently on cricket and was shocked to learn that they were happily taking and placing bets on street matches.
And the Pakistan Cricket Board cannot be relied upon to handle an email, so handling the life and career of a boy is out of the question. They will not protect them from anyone; if fans, journalists, politicians and bookies want a piece of a player, the PCB do not get in the way. Neither have players here ever helped themselves; thrice efforts have been made to form a players’ association and thrice they have failed. It is the strongest indictment of a culture where every one is out for himself.
Nobody is there to warn young players of the ways of this new world they inhabit, because stardom in Pakistan really is the loneliest pursuit. And maybe it is not even as much about the rural-urban shift as much as it is a class shift, from making money to live to making money for money’s sake. Their place in life, in the grand unwieldy scheme of society, shifts visibly and firmly.
Yet too much can be made of their condition and too little of individual greed. Cricketers have come from places much smaller than Asif and Amir, from poorer backgrounds, and gone through entire lives – let alone a career – without a scandal to stain them.
Pakistan’s players do not get paid as much as counterparts around the world, it is being said. This is true. They have also missed out on the life-changing riches of the Indian Premier League. But at 250,000 rupees (£1,900), 175,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees per month in the three grades of the PCB’s central contracts, they are not paid peanuts. They live in Pakistan, not India, Australia or England, and in this country that kind of salary is seen by very, very few.
Add on match fees – roughly the same again as the monthly retainer – and on‑tour fees, board and personal endorsements, salaries from their first-class sides (which are run by organisations such as banks, airlines and power companies, offering the option of a stable, secure job after retirement), deals with counties and league clubs and now Twenty20 domestic sides, and most elite players really are kings of this land.
This is why the alleged leadership of Salman Butt is the most difficult aspect to grasp. Amir’s errors can too easily be explained by his youth and his background, and Asif has previous, having failed a drug test. But Butt? Whenever there is talk of him it is inevitably of his English-speaking and educated ways. He is a truly urban product, to a degree polished. “He’s been brought up well,” Bob Woolmer once said of him. Had he not been a cricketer, he could have been nine-to-fiving somewhere and who knows, his floppy locks might have got him into the music gig.
David Murphy at PC World:
Craigslist was expected to have earned an estimated $36 million from advertising associated with its Adult Services section in 2010—at least, that was the case when we first reported the projections from Advanced Interactive Media in late April of this year.
You can now expect that number to drop significantly, as Craigslist has removed its Adult Services section for U.S. visitors. The move surely comes as a relief to the various entities that have been petitioning for Craigslist to shut down the section—including human rights groups and more than 17 attorneys general from states across the nation.
There’s no indication that Craigslist has removed its Adult Services section for good, however. Although links to the site are now eliminated when accessing the main Craigslist page from an IP addressed based in the United States, one can still pull up the page from other countries. There’s been no comment from any Craigslist spokespeople whatsoever—officially or otherwise—related to the matter.
Chris Matyszczyk at Cnet:
The section was originally entitled Erotic Services. Its name was changed to reflect a new discipline, as, under pressure from attorneys general, Craigslist declared it would manually screen every ad in its newly named Adult Services section.
It is arguable whether the content of this new section truly changed. Some would say it was adult business as usual.(Credit: Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)
Recently, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark gave a troubling if spontaneous interview to CNN, in which he seemed unable to answer questions about whether the site was facilitating child prostitution. Then, instead of answering the specific charges, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster took to the company’s blog to assail the CNN reporter’s methods.
Evan Hansen at Wired:
Craigslist has made numerous changes to its sex listings over the years to accommodate critics, changing its sex listings label from “erotic services” to “adult services,” imposing rules about the types of ads that can appear, and manually filtering ads using attorneys. But it has also fiercely defended its overall practices as ethical, and criticized censorship as a useless and hypocritical dodge.
When Craigslist was hit with a lawsuit by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in 2009, it struck back with a preemptive lawsuit of its own and won. In a blog post last month, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster explained the company’s filtering policies in detail, pointing out its lawyers had rejected some 700,000 inappropriate ads to date, and suggested its methods could offer a model for the entire industry. He has also used the company’s blog to blast critics, most recently an “ambush” CNN video interview of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.
Craiglist has a point: Given other sites on the web (and in print) serve the same types of ads without the same level of scrutiny, it seems politicians are making the pioneering, 15-year-old service an opportunistic scapegoat. Internet services may accelerate and exacerbate some social problems like prostitution, but they rarely cause them. The root of these issues — and their solutions — lie in the realm of public policy, not web sites and ham-handed web site filtering.
Frances Martel at Mediaite
Michael Arrington at TechCrunch:
Craigslist has fought back using little more than their blog and logic. And they’re right. Having prostitution up front and regulated, as Craigslist does, means less crime is associated with it. It’s not like prostitution, sometimes called the world’s oldest profession, was invented on the site.
The fact that eBay and others do exactly the same thing, but without human review and moderation, doesn’t seem to matter. Craigslist Sex is what scares the general population, and it’s what the press and the politicians will continue to use to get their hits and votes.
So the Craigslist Adult Section was removed. Is the world now a safer place?
Update: This only appears to affect U.S. sites, so if you’re looking for a happy ending in Saskatoon or the West Bank, have at it.
After a few months of getting shit from AGs looking to make a name for themselves, Craigslist has replaced its adult services ads with a “Censored” bar.
Until they gave up, Craigslist was the only big site hosting adult ads that made a good-faith effort to keep exploitation out of their site. eBay owned a site that also posted erotic ads, made no effort to police it, and they simply blocked access from the US when the site was criticized.
Perhaps we’ll have an honest conversation about ending the prohibition of prostitution in a few more years, but this episode shows that we’re nowhere near ready to have it now.
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
In the wake of Joe Miller’s upset over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s GOP Senate primary, there’s been a lot of buzz for Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who is challenging moderate GOP congressman Mike Castle in the September 14 primary. This week, the Tea Party Express endorsed O’Donnell, a former conservative activist who has worked at the Republican National Committee, Concerned Women for America, and the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth. The Tea Party Express says it’s going to spend $250,000 on the race, and its new radio ad touts conservative radio host Mark Levin’s endorsement of O’Donnell. Some other conservatives, like RedState.com’s Erick Erickson, have endorsed O’Donnell as well.
In an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD late this morning, O’Donnell said there’s no difference between Mike Castle and the Democrat in the race, New Castle County executive Chris Coons. Asked if there are any issues on which Castle is better than the Democrat, O’Donnell said: “I don’t think so.”
Castle has plenty of moderate and liberal positions, but his supporters point out that Delaware is one of the most Democratic states in the country, and Castle could be Delaware’s Scott Brown.
Ideological differences aside, questions have been raised about O’Donnell’s financial history. According to a March 21 Delaware News Journal article posted on knowchristineodonnell.com, O’Donnell is using campaign funds to pay for half of the rent at her residence:
Greenville Place lists the prices of a town house rental between $1,645 and $2,020 a month, depending on the number of bedrooms and square feet.
O’Donnell said she pays half of her rent with campaign donations because she also uses the town home as her Senate campaign headquarters.
“I’m splitting it, legally splitting it and paying part of it,” she said. “This is our technical headquarters.”
O’Donnell said she has separate, private quarters and that staffers, like Hust, live in the other portion of the home.
O’Donnell tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that while she does pay rent on what is technically her legal residence with campaign funds, she also has a separate permanent residence, the location of which she won’t disclose “for security reasons.” O’Donnell said that her campaign office and home were vandalized in 2008, and she’s fearful that her opponents will do the same this year. Says O’Donnell:
They’re following me. They follow me home at night. I make sure that I come back to the townhouse and then we have our team come out and check all the bushes and check all the cars to make sure that—they follow me.
That’s what’s disgusting, as you can see from the YouTube videos. They knock on the door at all hours of the night. They’re hiding in the bushes when I’m at candidate forums. In 2008 they broke into my home. They vandalized my home. They wrote nasty notes on my front door, on my front porch. They jeopardized my safety. They did the same thing to our campaign office. They broke into our campaign office. They vandalized our campaign office. They stole files. My campaign signs that had my picture—they put a spear in my mouth poked out my eyes, and cut out the part of my heart, and wrote nasty names all over those campaign signs.
I would be a fool to be pressured into disclosing where I live, when I know that the stakes are even higher this time. What makes me think they wont do the same distasteful things they did in 2008 when the stakes are even higher, when we’re even more viable. I mean come on, John, you’re a class act. You don’t want to—you know that this is a security issue. You know what they’re capable of.
Is O’Donnell suggesting that Castle supporters vandalized her office in 2008, when she was running for Senate against Joe Biden? “I’m not sure who did it, but I know for a fact that Mike Castle and [Delaware GOP chairman] Tom Ross were campaigning against me,” O’Donnell says. “They’ve been sabotaging my candidacy since 2008. So who knows who did it back then.” O’Donnell says there are no police reports of the 2008 break-in because she didn’t want to make an issue of it at the time. She claims to have pictures of vandalized signs.
Jim Geraghty at NRO:
This local radio interview did not go well for Christine O’Donnell, who is challenging Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination in Delaware.
The host plays audio of O’Donnell bragging that she won two of Delaware’s three counties in her 2008 Senate bid against Joe Biden.
In Sussex County, she came quite close, 43,123 votes to Joe Biden’s 43,395 votes.
She admits that she considers that a tie, 49 percent to 49 percent. While losing by 272 votes isn’t technically a tie, it is a small margin of defeat, so fine. Let’s say she covered the point spread.
But her other “win” is Kent County, where she lost, 27,981 to 37,074. That amounts to 43 percent to 56.9 percent. It’s really hard to argue that that even meets the broadest definition of “a tie.”
Of course, she lost the largest county, New Castle, 69,491 votes to 177,070 votes, roughly 28.1 percent to 71.8 percent.
In other words, if she had carried every vote cast in the Senate race in Sussex County in 2008, she still would have lost by more than 18,000 votes.
Then she chooses to repeat to the host that many people charge he’s on the take by Mike Castle. It goes downhill from there.
More Geraghty at NRO:
A couple of Christine O’Donnell fans didn’t like yesterday’s post on the radio interview.
My mistake, fellas. You’re right. It was a terrific interview. A candidate who doesn’t like the questions she’s being asked should always tell the host that there are rumors he’s taking bribes from the other campaign. When she says she won two out of three counties, no one should acknowledge that she lost both, one by 14 percentage points. Conservatism is best served when we all close our eyes and pretend we don’t see a false statement by a candidate we prefer!
Now, I’m not going to tout Mike Castle as anything other than what he is. He has a lifetime ACU rating of 52.49. That’s pretty darn “meh” for conservatives. But the moderation of the other guy isn’t sufficient reason to give a thumbs up to a candidate who makes blatantly, easily-to-verify false statements on the trail, nor to countenance her attacks on those who have the audacity to bring her the bad news.
Erick Erickson at Redstate:
I would rather die a thousand times over via crushing by an anaconda while being torn limb from limb by a jaguar than see Mike Castle in the Senate.
I would rather be slowly run over by a road roller while listening to Janeane Garofalo dialogue from The Truth About Cats and Dogs than see Mike Castle in the Senate.
I’d rather see the Democrat get elected than see Mike Castle get elected. Seriously, I know many of you disagree with me, but if the majority depends on Mike Castle, to hell with the majority.
But I’m moving on from Delaware. The Tea Party Express has a poll coming out showing the race within 5 points. I wish Christine O’Donnell the best. I’d rather her than Castle.
But I’m moving on.
If Christine O’Donnell wins it’ll be inspite of the help she has gotten. What has ultimately set me off is the “Mike Castle is gay” stuff, which is nothing more than the Will Folks hour come to Delaware. The failure of the O’Donnell campaign to deal swiftly with this tells me all I need to know.
Subsequently, a number of the affiliated individuals went and worked directly for Christine O’Donnell’s campaign. A few weeks ago they left. Around that time I began hearing rumors the O’Donnell campaign was imploding.
When it was pointed out that all the people behind the accusation were O’Donnell campaign staffers, the response was “not any more.”
Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator:
Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, already under fire for a sketchy history with personal finances and a number of other odd actions (including suing the stalwart conservative publishing house, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute), now is really turning into an embarrassment. Her unnamed opponents are hiding in her bushes! And her close associates are making absolutely slanderous claims about her GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, while O’Donnell herself can barely raise herself to denounce the slander — only while repeating it numerous times.
Yet TEA Partiers, with whose causes I almost always gladly associate, are working hard to make O’Donnell the next Joe Miller, pulling an upset win over the GOP establishment.
I make no endorsement of Mike Castle’s leftward drift over the years. I make no endorsement in the race. I love a lot of what O’Donnell says. I would still be at least tempted to vote for her if I lived in Delaware. But if I were a political consultant telling TEA Partiers and conservative leaders in general what their best purely political action would be, long term, what I would say is this: Go to Mike Castle and get pledges from him to move back rightward.
Politicians as experienced as Castle know the importance of honoring their word to other political actors. (Sort of like “honor among thieves,” except that most politicians really are NOT thieves.) Conservative leaders can go to him, perfectly legally, and say, look, you saw what happened to Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and to Bob Bennett in Utah. You see the polls that have you just five points up on O’Donnell. You know you are at least at some risk of failing to win the nomination. But we can call off the dogs of war. We can stop ginning up the organizational fervor that could propel O’Donnell to victory. What we ask from you is that you keep your door open to us once you are in the Senate; that you sign at least a two-year version of Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge; that you agree in writing that you will not switch parties if elected and that you would resign rather than do so….. that sort of thing. The pledges don’t even need to be public. They can’t mention any specific legislation, and they can’t be couched in terms of a quid pro quo. But they still can be binding on an honorable man, and Castle is an honorable man.
They say neurotics build sand castles and psychotics live in them. From what I’ve seen at many conservative blogs, they look determined to enable the ongoing building of a sand castle of a Republican Party by helping Mike Castle in Delaware. Well, pardon me if I don’t feel their pain as they start to whine when that sand castle comes crashing down on them after November.
It seems every time someone wants to challenge me on the Castle/O’Donnell issue, they have to start out with a straw-man argument. They don’t like, or support O’Donnell, so why should they not assist Castle in attacking her? Yet, I’ve never said anyone had to, or should support her. All I’ve argued is, why should a conservative align with a liberal like Castle to attack a conservative, when not saying anything is a principled option? It isn’t as if we all weigh in on each and every race.
I backed Lowden over Angle, but never attacked Angle. If the GOP can’t produce a satisfactory candidate in DE, then maybe they need to be sent a message in this case. Invest the time and money required to build a state and local party apparatus that can offer up real choices between a D and an R – and recruit them to run, not a Democrat by any other name. Stop following the Democrats off a cliff because it’s the easy way to win. What is it we as conservatives win in the end?
Conservatives win nothing with a Mike Castle in the Senate. Most conservative bloggers are fond of saying, I’m a conservative before I am a Republican. You wouldn’t know it by looking around out here today.
What is the incentive for the GOP to honestly shift to the Right if conservatives will accept whatever the GOP opts to shove down their throats? Reagan won DE statewide twice, Bush 41 won it in 1988. But Castle is the best the GOP can do statewide in DE today? I don’t buy it. If we want the GOP to pay attention to Center-Right views, at some point we are going to have to make a stand.
What good is a GOP to conservatives if every Republican north of Washington is liberal? How does that advance the cause of conservatism? Frankly, it doesn’t. It advances a GOP that can continue to sell out conservative principles for electoral convenience. It isn’t a party that’s leading anywhere, it’s a party following Democrats off the cliff they have been driving America over for decades.
By the reasoning I’ve seen around, we should never have supported Scott Brown in Massachusetts. In this, of all years, I don’t buy that a Castle can win in Delaware, but not an O’Donnell. Still, I’d rather see the GOP lose and have an identified Democrat, rather than one in Red skin.
Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator:
O’Donnell is taking flak for this or that, this alleged misstatement or that bad radio interview. Including from this piece over at NRO by the estimable Jim Geraghty. And, just posted, is this from my wonderful TAS friend and colleague Quin Hillyer.
Taking flak from good conservatives or, as Mark Levin puts it, conservatives who are more Republican than conservative. Not, as Seinfeld might say, that there’s anything wrong with that! And quite specifically let me make sure we understand Quin Hillyer is not included in my estimation of who is not really conservative. Anyone who knows Quin knows in an earlier life he told Edmund Burke to get on the stick with that French Revolution book, not to mention he still grouses about Wendell Willkie. Mr. Hillyer is many things….short on conservatism is not one of those things.
If I may say respectfully, this kind of thing is both terminally old when it comes to attacks on conservatives and, frustratingly, enduringly typical from — yes — some on the right.
Somewhere it always seems there’s a need to refresh on the savage attacks on Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan or, to be current and with no need to refresh, today’s Sarah Palin. Heck, why limit this to running for office? Attacks by conservatives on more prominent conservatives occur these days with the same certainty as the attraction of gin to tonic. Google names like…oh…say…Limbaugh, Rush and you’ll get the idea.
These attacks are so utterly, utterly predictable although I’m sure that a Palin or O’Donnell still finds the sensation amazing as the arrow enters between their shoulder blades.
So let’s take a second to see just how deeply normal if crazy this business has been over the decades.
The conservative is accused by his or her fellows of being: unstable (Goldwater), an extremist (Goldwater, Reagan, William F. Buckley, Jr., Palin), an un-informed lightweight (Reagan, Palin), personally irresponsible with finances (Reagan and O’Donnell), saying something utterly stupid in this interview or that public appearance (all of the above) — and don’t forget the ever dependable cry of racist/race-baiter or race something-or — other (all of the above plus pick-your-favorite talk radio host).
Until the Delaware primary, it is now Christine O’Donnell’s turn to feel that startling arrow-in-the-back sensation that comes with this.
Conservatism is not a candidate. It’s a movement. Based on a set of rock-solid principles. The fight always is to move the ball forward. The quarterback of the moment is…Fox News Alert….always flawed in some fashion. We could and can pick endlessly at the quarterback who is on the field. The real question is …now and always….are we moving the ball? Elections will be won. They will be lost. The objective is to move the ball.
She cannot win in Delaware, which is usually among the ten most Democratic states in the union. Allow me to be a little elistist — what in this odd biography says “serious candidate for Senator”?
I was already predisposed to endorsing Castle, feeling this was a bridge too far (or a RINO too far), and then I recalled who Christine O’Donnell was — she’s a fill-in guest on Hannity and other talk shows. She has always grated on me, because she always seems pretty unprepared (or just not really a strong thinker), and tends to just repeat the same three or four obvious bullet-points.
If I have turned the channel off almost every time she’s been on, I do not see how she is going to wear well in Democrat-stronghold Delaware.
When we were trying to get Scott Brown elected, some objected that he was a RINO. I said at the time: This is a gift from God. It is unseemly to look down one’s nose at a gift from God and ask, “Couldn’t you have gotten something better?”
I do not know why it is that Mike Castle is running 12 points or so ahead of his Democratic rival. It could be partly due to his despised RINOism, of course. And it’s also due to personal characteristics which he alone possesses and cannot be transferred to O’Donnell — like, as the state’s only at-large Representative (the state has only one Rep.), he knows everyone in the state, has campaigned statewide nine times before. For whatever reason, the voters trust him, seem to like him. (Well, “like” as much as one can like a politician.)
For whatever reason, they’ve decided he’s okay by them. And preferable to a Democrat. And so he polls 10-12 points ahead.
Meanwhile the latest Rasmussen poll puts O’Donnell ten points behind Coons.
And on that point, I ask, where is the plausible pathway to candidate growth? What is the realistic plan for getting O’Donnell up from ten points down to at least even?
Me? I’m 100% with Christine O’Donnell, come hell or high water. She’s got Dan Riehl and Mark Levin on her side, and I’m sticking with those guys — no personal offense intended to anyone who disagrees.
What has struck me as misguided all along is the fundamental assumption made by O’Donnell’s critics that Castle can win the general, or that O’Donnell’s chances of winning Nov. 2 are significantly less than Castle’s. I am profoundly dubious of either assumption. O’Donnell is a fresh face and enormously telegenic, whereas Mike Castle . . . eh, not so much.
If there really is a GOP tidal wave coming on Nov. 2 and if an anti-Obama/anti-incumbent/anti-Washington sentiment is the energy behind that tsunami, then O’Donnell is certainly better positioned to harness that energy than Mike Castle.
I don’t have much to add to what Ace said earlier, except that I’m genuinely puzzled at folks who say they’d rather the seat be Democrat than in the hands of a RINO. Given the number of Senate seats now in play, this is tantamount to declaring that they’d rather have a Democratic Senate than a Republican one.
I’m saying, it might be different if Republicans were going to have control of the Senate anyway. Then, heh, no real harm to letting our “problem Senators” know what we expect in the future. Same thing on the flipside. If the Democrats were going to have insurmountable control of the Senate…again, it doesn’t matter so much whether the Democrat or the RINO wins.
But we’re talking about taking control of the Senate, something that only now is turning into a real possibility. And that’s going to take putting up with folks like Collins and Snowe and Castle. As infuriating as they are, I’d rather put up with them than watch the Democrats run the country into the ground under another two years of Majority Leader Reid (or his successor).
It’s just astonishing that folks — good, genuine, GOP people — are actually advocating for a path that leads to Democratic majority in the Senate. Over Delaware, a blue state that we have the unimaginably good fortune to be poised to take way from the Democrats until 2014!
Think about it. Turning a Democratic state Republican for long enough that the folks there might actually learn something. Isn’t that what we want? Turn the blue states red? Why would we pass up a gift like this?
There is a reason to prefer Castle — very, very grudgingly — but we’ve already hashed that out. For further thoughts, see Gabe Malor, who wonders why any righty would rather see a Democrat win than a RINO, particularly when it could mean the difference between Democratic and Republican control of all-important Senate committees next year. The response to that argument is usually some variation on the idea that we’re one crushing defeat away from total victory — that if blue states aren’t ready to elect “true conservatives” yet, well, then it’s better to leave Democrats in control so that they can ruin the country even more and eventually produce a real conservative backlash. (Which, I guess, means we shouldn’t have supported RINO Scott Brown in January, since he spoiled Obama’s filibuster-proof majority.) The flaw in this reasoning, of course, is that some things are bound to go right for Democrats despite their dumbest efforts to prevent that from happening. The economy will start to speed up again, even with The One keeping his foot on the brake of the engine of growth (note the car metaphor!), and if the Democrats control Congress when it does, they’ll get plenty of credit from voters. You’re simply not going to get a map that’s completely red, any more than the idiot liberals who were high on Hopenchange two years ago were ever going to get a map that’s completely blue. And as I said yesterday, however much they may irritate you, RINOs are marginally better than Democrats. I recommend re-reading this Doctor Zero post from last year on that subject, after Glenn Beck suggested that McCain would have been worse for the country than Obama. Ain’t so, although it certainly is comforting to believe it.
Ronald Reagan successfully rebranded the conservative movement as one with a big tent. Why exclusionists like Dan Riehl want to turn it into a small tent movement puzzles me. If they think there is a conservative majority in this country, they’re dead wrong–and their narrow views on issues like immigration, gay rights, and so on are helping make sure there never will be one. The US is a center-right country, with at most maybe 35% ideological conservatives, and a lot of them want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare! By letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, Riehl and his ilk are ensuring themselves of a pure minority. I guess it makes for good talk radio and blog posts, but it’s a lousy electoral strategy.
Let’s see. I once wrote an Examiner editorial on the need for something of a center-Right compromise on immigration I believe the majority of Americans would support. Way to do your research before attacking someone, perfessor!
I’m a large tent conservative and embrace civil unions as a compromise on gay marriage. I believe that also puts me in the majority in America, unlike wherever it is Stephen apparently rests – assuming we disagree. And I’ve never once called for the abolition ofMedicare and took Rand Paul to task for his failure to understand the finer points on Civil Rights issues. So, how the hell is it I am an intolerant exclusionist all of a sudden? Simply because we disagree?
WASHINGTON — Two important GOP constituencies, Big Business and Social Conservatives, are at odds over immigration reform. However, if both sides would take the time to actually understand each other, as opposed to hurling insults this way and that, they’d likely find common ground supported by their mostly conservative beliefs.
Castle voted to gut the Tea Party movement with the Disclose Act. He supports Cap and Trade and regulating green house gases because he’s bought and paid for by the banking lobby. They would get fat on a brand new huge Commodities Market and the middle class would foot the bill through costs, if not taxes – or both, with this administration.
Conservatives haven’t won anything. Crist could still win, as could Harry Reid. Throw a liberal Republican into that mix and you could easily have a Senate happy to throw in with the Dems and Obama, creating a big enough rift that the Right would split, dooming the GOP. The base is only willing to tolerate so much at this point.
The Republican party wasn’t always this way, of course. As Professor Bainbridge points out, there was a time not too long ago when it was the home of conservatives like Paul Laxalt and moderate Republicans like William Cohen. If it’s ever going to be the kind of national party capable of getting it’s agenda through Congress, it’s going to need to be that kind of party again, and that means acknowledging the fact that Mike Castle is the kind of Republican that can be elected statewide in Delaware, and Christine O’Donnell, as she has proven time and again in her quixotic efforts to run for office, most definitely is not.
Purism is a fine thing, it’s even got a nobility of its own, but when it becomes this rigid it just leads to defeat.
Jamie Stiehm at WaPo:
A mistake has been made in the Oval Office makeover that goes beyond the beige.
President Obama’s new presidential rug seemed beyond reproach, with quotations from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. woven along its curved edge.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” According media reports, this quote keeping Obama company on his wheat-colored carpet is from King.
Except it’s not a King quote. The words belong to a long-gone Bostonian champion of social progress. His roots in the republic ran so deep that his grandfather commanded the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington.
For the record, Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama. Unless you’re fascinated by antebellum American reformers, you may not know of the lyrically gifted Parker, an abolitionist, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist thinker who foresaw the end of slavery, though he did not live to see emancipation. He died at age 49 in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War.
A century later, during the civil rights movement, King, an admirer of Parker, quoted the Bostonian’s lofty prophecy during marches and speeches. Often he’d ask in a refrain, “How long? Not long.” He would finish in a flourish: “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Tim Daniel at The Dally Caller:
A seemingly trivial error, or rug-gaffe, you could say, says a lot about our touted-genius president. Educated foolishness? The Manchurian Candidate? It’s another piece in the Obama puzzle that doesn’t fit.
This time last year I blogged about the “Nine Simple Truths,” a list of prescriptions that is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Recall, the “Lincoln” axiom goes like this:
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves
Back then I did a little research (when you could say that I was quite a bit less savvy, and perhaps even less “smart”) and found out that the above “Lincoln” adage is actually from William J.H. Boetcker.
Funny, isn’t it, that a blogger with some research/net skills can track down the actual source of a dictum or, in this case, a sort of urban-Americana poem credited to Honest Abe?
Obama’s rug burn moment isn’t a trillion-dollar deficit issue, but it is telling, nonetheless.
Warner Todd Huston at Gateway Pundit:
Parker was a staunch anti-slavery man who died just on the eve of the American civil war, a man involved in every reform effort of his day, quite a radical for his time. He even supported domestic terrorist John Brown and supplied money for guns to be used in the “Bloody Kansas” fights over slavery.
King admired this white man who fought to end slavery and used his phrase many times — with full attribution, of course.
Sadly, Obama and his rug makers did not do their due diligence and research these quotes properly because they’ve attributed Parker’s inspiring words to King.
This is just one more incident that lends credence to the feeling that Barack Obama has no real feel for America, no connection to her history, and no grasp of what it is to be American.
Like his mis-attributed quote, Barack Obama is only an inch deep American. Sure he and his slipshod researchers knew that there was some famous quote or another, but they just weren’t informed enough about America to get the source of that quote right.
Worse, it is a misappropriation of words connected to Martin Luther King, Jr., the one historical figure that this president aboce all should have taken care to get right.
Is this misquote the end of the world? No, of course not. But it is just another small piece of evidence that points to the fact that this president is essentially disconnected from the country he is supposed to be leading. Barack Obama really isn’t much of an American.
The error perfectly encapsulates the shallowness of Barack Obama’s intellect, and his lack of rigor. Obama is a man who accumulated academic credentials while giving no evidence whatsoever of achieving any depth. He was the only president of the Harvard Law Review to graduate without penning a signed article in that esteemed journal. His academic transcripts remain under lock and key, as do his academic papers.
For the sort of people like David Brooks of the New York Times, who are impressed by fancy degrees and a sharp crease in the trousers, Obama may appear to be the smartest ever occupant of the Oval Office. But, as the old joke goes, deep down, he is shallow. Underfoot, literally, there is woven into his background a prominent vein of phoniness.
For some reason or other, Obama has been able to skate through academia and politics without ever being seriously challenged to prove his depth. A simple veneer of glibness has been enough to win the accolades of the liberal intelligentsia. But now that he has actual responsibilities — including relatively trivial ones like custodianship of the inner sanctum of the presidency — his lack of substance keeps showing up in visible, embarrassing and troubling ways.
For the record, King never claimed the phrase as his own. He quoted Parker, one of his inspirations, in using this phrase, a point never noticed by Barack Obama during his campaign. He repeated the phrase often enough that it caught the attention of Reverend Matt Tittle, who attempted to inform the campaign in April 2008 that Obama was misattributing the quote. The campaign never replied to Tittle, but for a while Obama dropped the reference, and Tittle thought the message had been received.
When did this come out? Well, Tittle blogged about it in December 2008 at the Houston Chronicle. In July 2009, I wrote about it as an Obamateurism of the Day — and that was more than a year before the White House decided to commit their poor research into the press release for the Oval Office rug. When that happened, it became one of this week’s OOTDs, and will be one of the selections in tomorrow’s OOTW poll.
It’s nice of the Post to notice this, even if it ran on a Saturday, but perhaps they might credit Tittle, who first reported it.
Well, as Bob Hope said, “It’s not what we know, but what we know that ain’t so that gets us into trouble.” Or was that Will Rogers?
FWIW: Based on this picture of the carpet itself, none of the quotations are attributed, so the carpet won’t be sent back to rewrite.
And Dodd, with a nod to our video
Markos Moulitsas has a new book out, American Taliban.
Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up.
Kos at Daily Kos:
We’ll see far more reaction as the book officially hits the shelves on Wednesday, but I expect much of the same. Conservatives will hate it, for obvious reasons. Weenie liberals will hate it, for obvious reasons. A bunch of “serious people” will tsk tsk the lack of civility in our discourse — now that a liberal is throwing the punches. And some people will appreciate that I’m throwing those punches.
Because look, this book, ultimately, is a big “fuck you” to every conservative who has ever accused us of wanting the terrorists to win. Why would we? The reasons I hate the crazy Right is the same reason I hate Jihadists — their fetishization of violence, their theocratic tendencies, their disrespect for women, their hatred of gays, their fear of the “other”, their defiance of scientific progress and education, and their attempts to hijack popular culture.
It’s a good book, and it’s paperback, so it’s cheap. Pick up a copy at your favorite online retailer or bookstore, and come up with your own opinion on the matter.
Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect:
Observant readers (or bookshelf scanners) will notice that American Taliban, the new book by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, shares its smiley-face cover art with Liberal Fascism, the controversial 2009 book by conservative writer Jonah Goldberg. Indeed, there is a sense in which American Taliban is the left-wing counterpoint or spiritual successor to Liberal Fascism. But whereas Goldberg sought to make a historical connection between American liberalism and European fascism for the purpose of “clearing the record,” Moulitsas seeks to classify right-wing conservatism as a species of fundamentalist extremism, for the purpose of spurring progressive action.
This is not new ground for Moulitsas. In 2005 he wrote a short post slamming the conservative movement for its similarities to Islamic radicalism: The Taliban, he wrote, “are exactly what we see in the Republican Party as the GOP continues to consolidate power — creeping theocracy, moralizing, us versus them, embrace of torture, the need to constantly declare jihad on someone, hysterics over football-game nipples, control over ‘decency’ on the airwaves, lyrics censorship, hostility to women freedoms, curta[i]ling of civil liberties, and so on.”
Like Liberal Fascism, American Taliban is another entry in the tired genre of “my political opponents are monsters.” Indeed, Moulitsas begins the book with the Goldbergian declaration that “in their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban.” And he fills the remaining 200-plus pages with similar accusations. In the chapter on power, Moulitsas writes that “the American Taliban seek a tyranny of the believers in which the popular will, the laws of the land, and all of secular society are surrendered to their clerics and ideologues.” Which is, of course, why these American Taliban participate in the democratic system and hew to the outcomes of elections. Later in the chapter, Moulitsas argues that the right-wing hates democracy — they “openly dream of their own regressive brand of religious dictatorship” — loves war, fears sex, and openly despises women and gays. In the chapter on “war,” Moulitsas calls Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota a “high priestess of the American Taliban” — a veritable Mullah Omar, it seems! — and in the final chapter on “truth,” Moulitsas concludes by noting the foundational “kinship” between the two Talibans.
Now, it’s true that certain tendencies on the American right have analogues in fundamentalist Islam; for example, and as Moulitsas points out in his chapter on sex, right-wing conservatives share a hatred of pornography with fundamentalist Iranian authorities. Of course the similarities end there; conservatives boycott pornography, Iran punishes it with death.
But, this gets to the huge, glaring problem with American Taliban; ultimately, any similarities are vastly outweighed by incredibly important distinctions and vast differences of degree. I’m no fan of the right wing, but the only possible way it can be “indistinguishable” from the Taliban is if conservatives are stoning women for adultery, stalking elementary schools to throw acid in girls’ faces, and generally enforcing fundamentalist religious law with torture and wanton violence. The chapter on women becomes a joke when you realize that Moulitsas can’t distinguish between the odiousness of right-wing sexism and the vicious amorality of permanently disfiguring “immodest” women. Likewise, there are magnitudes of difference between executing gays (the Taliban) and opposing a hate-crimes bill (Republicans).
It doesn’t help that Moulitsas elides glaring contradictions in his argument and routinely misrepresents his evidence; in one instance, Moulitsas brandishes Ann Coulter’s infamous quotation from 2001, where she declared that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity,” as evidence of the right’s bloodthirsty ways, while ignoring the fact that she was fired from National Review (an organ of the American Taliban) for that exact quotation.
Digby on Bouie:
Ann Coulter was fired for going on TV and slagging National Review Online (she didn’t work for the magazine) for paying peanuts and because they wanted to edit her column. They made a big point about saying they fired her for her unprofessional conduct, not her writing. And she was hired afterward by USA Today (where she was also eventually fired and replaced by Jonah Goldberg.)She still has a nationally syndicated column and her work appears on Townhall, World Net Daily and Human Events among others. She sold many thousands of hate-filled anti-liberal books with titles like Slander and Treason and Godless, appeared all over the country to tumultuous, adoring crowds and landed on the cover of Time magazine — all after she made those statements. Apparently the National Review’s withdrawal of its imprimatur didn’t impress her audience very much. If that’s what constitutes a glaring contradiction in the book, then I’m afraid it isn’t Markos who has failed to do his homework.
This final point I’m afraid, is just perplexing
Conservatives haven’t actually gained from their willingness to bend and misrepresent the truth. For starters, Republicans are still deeply unpopular; according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 24 percent of Americans gave the GOP a positive rating, a historic low. At best, with their constant attacks on “socialism” and “tyranny,” conservatives are responding to a gross caricature of liberalism; after years of taking down liberal straw men, conservatives can neither respond to actual liberals nor offer the public anything other than decades-old dogma. Indeed, their likely electoral gains notwithstanding, movement conservatives are still incapable of making an affirmative case for their governing philosophy. Their “new ideas” are anything but, and to most informed observers, it’s clear that “no” is the only functioning weapon in the Republican Party’s paltry arsenal. Put another way, there’s a reason why the movement’s leading voices are quasi-religious charlatans, rent-seeking celebrities, and failed ex-governors.
I don’t know that we are living in the same political world. Yes, their leaders are charlatans,rent-seeking celebrities and failed ex-governors. What else is new? And yet somehow, the right has been enormously successful for the past 40 years and has dominated politics and government because of their willingness to relentlessly demean and destroy liberalism by any means necessary, usually using institutional power wherever they can lay their hands on it. This is a mind-boggling assertion, really, especially considering the fact that they are on the verge of making an epic comeback even in the face of total institutional disarray and a takeover of the GOP by the lunatic fringe. And it’s purely on their willingness, indeed eagerness, to go for the jugular. Sure the GOP is unpopular. All politicians are unpopular right now. But conservatism has been the big political winner for decades — and constitutes a far bigger ideological bloc than liberalism. In fact, all American politics are played on the right side of the field, with liberalism on defense the whole way.
We are talking about cutting social security in the middle of the worst economy since the 1930s. That’s not a sign of failed conservative ideology. And yes “informed” people understand that they are about nothing. How many people are correctly informed?
He goes on to give a fairly boilerplate Sunday school lecture about truth, justice and the American way and it’s fine as far as it goes. Making up facts is not ok, although I see no evidence in this review that Markos has engaged in anything but hyperbole. But this is silly:
Yes, progressives are depressed and despondent about the future, but that’s no reason for dishonesty and scaremongering, and it doesn’t excuse the obscenity of comparing our political opponents to killers and terrorists. As reality-based members of the American community, we have an obligation toward the truth, even when it isn’t particularly convenient.
Actually, sometimes scaremongering is absolutely necessary for survival. People should be scared right now. History shows that bad things can happen, particularly in times of great transition and stress.
The inconvenient truth here is that these people are dangerous because their worldview is dangerous. Lethal even. And somebody has to have the guts and to call them on it in their own terms. This “tired genre” of “our opponents are monsters” has been decidedly dominated by one side and the consequences have been grave. We have a fight on our hands and the only real question left is whether anyone on our side is willing to wage it.
Bouie responds to Digby:
Listen, I have no problem with throwing punches and fighting the good fight against the forces of wealth and regression. And I won’t hesitate to attack the conservative movement for its sexism, racial resentment and monomaniacal devotion to enriching the privileged. But there’s a vast difference between that, and stressing a moral equivalence between the right and the Taliban. The former is true and focuses our aim for the battles ahead, the latter, as Patrick Appel writes at the Daily Dish, doesn’t “accomplish anything besides juicing book sales and temporarily riling up like-minded folk.”
Hell, Kos admits as much when he describes the purpose of his book, “Because look, this book, ultimately, is a big ‘fuck you’ to every conservative who has ever accused us of wanting the terrorists to win.” Kos isn’t Paul Revere; he isn’t warning us about some incipient threat to our safety; he’s trying to get back at conservatives who accuse liberals of hating their country. Which, as I said in my review, is fair; Kos has never claimed to be an honest broker for the truth. But the fight for progress doesn’t require us to bend the truth or distort our opponents’ ideas; we can wage this war as we always have, by fighting for our values and giving the right the rope it needs to hang itself. Sure, “fuck you” feels good, but the moment you turn to smears is the moment you concede the weakness of your own position.
The conservative movement is a perfect example of what happens when you let dishonesty consume your argument. In its drive to demonize liberals, it has become an incoherent mass of rage and resentment, devoid of anything approximating a governing agenda. The right has become so doctrinaire that it has lost its capacity for self-correction. This year’s Republicans will win because of high unemployment and poor growth, not because the American people have suddenly become more receptive to conservatism (they haven’t).
Yeah, with great respect for Digby, I just don’t agree. I actually think precision, of this sort, is extremely important. Rightly or wrongly I’m a liberal, in large measure, because I think liberals have more respect for my intelligence. I can’t, in great detail, explain health care policy, or financial reform. But when I see one side’s most potent voices arguing that health care reform is actually reparations, or their leadership winking at the notion that Obama is a Muslim, I take it as a caution. It’s brand degradation, the sense that dishonesty and shading actually covers the lack of an argument.Digby argues that Moulitsas should have some kind of poetic license,and shouldn’t be taken literally. That strikes me as squishy. This statement–“in their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban”–is quite literal, and one is obliged to ask if it’s true or not.The notion that “slut-shaming” and “nose-cutting” have the same deeper meaning–presumably a fear of women’s sexuality, though Digby doesn’t say this–is true as far as it takes you. Likewise the notion that black people should be slaves, the notion that they should be shipped back to Africa, that they should be segregated in communities, that they should not be allowed to intermarry, also have the same root cause–that blacks are unequal to whites. At varying points, Abraham Lincoln, John C. Calhoun, William T. Sherman, and Ulysses Grant held one or all of these views, and all probably died thinking blacks were unequal to whites. But that doesn’t make them interchangeable. Lincoln and Grant aren’t “less evil” versions of Calhoun.As is often the case, with arguments that lead with analogy, the point isn’t to clarify anything, it’s to turn heads. Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not think you claim that Glenn Beck is the white Malcolm X because you think it’s a particularly astute analysis; you do it because it will get you on the Atlantic Wire. I don’t believe you claim that the American right’s tactics are “almost indistinguishable” from the Taliban because you think it’s adroit and original. You do it to elbow your way up the best-seller list.That’s fine–it’s an accepted strategy. But speaking only for me, if your committment is to making me look, as opposed to making me think, expect that I will only look once. Everything you say afterward is compromised in my eyes. Faulkner is still waiting.
I tend to think that this is one of the areas where progressives aren’t just doing the right thing, but have a smarter tactical approach to politics. There are scenarios in which tagging your political opponents with smears can be effective, but I don’t see any evidence that the particular apocalyptic “my enemies are totalitarian madmen” strain of Birch/Beck/Goldberg conservatism has helped anyone win any elections. This should be differentiated from the occasional lapse into rhetorical excess that everyone does now and again. I’m talking specifically about the kind of sustained effort to seriously persuade people that Elana Kagan favors sharia or Dwight Eisenhower is a Communist that you see among loons of all stripes but that seems to be granted more respectability on the right.
This stuff doesn’t win votes anyone because, after all, it’s a form of preaching to the choir. Which is fine—the choir needs some sermons. But there’s no real upside in lying to the choir. Political movements need to adapt to the actual situation, and that means having an accurate understanding of your foes. You need to see them as they actually are so that you know the right way to respond. Either underestimating or overestimating their level of viciousness and evil can lead to serious miscalculations. Which is just to say that getting this stuff right is more important than coming up with funny put-downs.
I haven’t read American Taliban and don’t plan to. I figure I already dislike the American right wing enough, so there’s little need to dump another load of fuel onto my own personal mental bonfire. But here’s what’s interesting: this review isn’t on a fringe blog site. It’s not from a reviewer for the DLC. It’s not written by some apostate liberal like Mickey Kaus. It’s written by a mainstream liberal writing in one of America’s premier mainstream liberal publications. Did Liberal Fascism get any similarly incendiary reviews from mainstream conservatives writing in any of America’s premier mainstream conservative publications?
Genuine question here. Maybe I missed the bad reviews from fellow conservatives. But the only one I remember on the way to Liberal Fascism becoming both a huge bestseller and a conservative bellwether was a gentle, academic scolding from fascism scholar Michael Ledeen. Does anyone remember any others?
Both Drum and Yglesias contrast the rebukes from some on the Left to American Taliban with what they recall as near universal acclaim for Liberal Fascism from the Right. I don’t have any comprehensive metrics available to me to do a useful analysis, but I do recall quite a few bloggers on the Right, myself included, pushing back on exactly the same grounds. In my February 2008 post “Goldberg, Coulter, and Savage,” I observed,
While I get the desire to rebut the notion that Fascism is right-wing phenomenon and therefore somehow comparable to American mainstream conservatism, the argument that American liberals are proto-Fascists is quite silly. The use of inflammatory titles, while an excellent publicity vehicle for selling books, is decidedly unhelpful if one’s purpose is to advance serious argument.
There is, however, a stark difference between Coulter, who seriously argues that liberals are traitors, fascists, or whathaveyou, than cutesy publicity stunts.
Contrast this, incidentally, with Glenn Greenwald and Yglesias, two others who managed to secure major book deals off the success of their blogs. Greenwald’s How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok and Yglesias’ Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats are both polemics. But they’re written in such a way that a serious person on the other side might actually read and engage.
E.D Kain at Balloon Juice:
Why I am Not a Conservative
Short answer: When I think about the GOP retaking Congress I get cold sweats and flashbacks of 2000-2008. Ditto that for the prospect of say, Newt Gingrich sitting in The Oval Office. The only Republicans who are at all honest – like Gary Johnson who has really good civil liberties bona fides – would A) never win and B) are really way too economically conservative for me. So yeah, Republicans taking back Congress in a couple months is just bad news as far as I’m concerned.
Long answer after the fold…
It’s certainly been a change of pace and perspective for me to blog here at Balloon Juice, and one I’m profoundly grateful to John for. I’ve been drifting leftward for quite a while now (from dissident conservative to fed-up libertarian to, more recently, pro-market liberal with libertarian and especially civil libertarian streaks) – so drifting leftward, but on uncertain feet. And one weakness of my blogging style and perhaps of the habits I’ve gotten into blogging at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, is that I’ve been able to walk this particular ideological tightrope past the point of its usefulness. The ‘pox on both your houses’ style really is sort of annoying after a while even if it is unintentional and even if it is due to honest doubt rather than an attempt to please everyone. Certainly it’s nothing to build one’s political philosophy upon. And quite frankly, the pushback I’ve gotten in the comments about having it both ways is fair, and it’s gotten me thinking – a lot – about picking a side. How you frame your argument and who you frame it for matters. Picking sides matters.
So I will. I no longer have any desire to be considered a conservative – and no longer consider myself one (I do have a somewhat anti-modernist streak, for instance, which I blame on all the fantasy literature I read as a child but which is more a sort of romanticism than anything very political. I recall as a child being quite depressed by the thought that no matter how far I walked in any direction from my home I would inevitably come up against a paved road. How this translates into right vs. left is another matter though it does make me a strong supporter of localism and buying locally and so forth.)
I’ll vote Democrat this fall and I’ll almost certainly vote Democrat in 2012. If I’d been a Senator last year I would have voted for the HCR bill. The Democratic Party has its flaws but at least it cares about governance, at least Democrats try to make the world a less harsh, more egalitarian place even when sometimes their policies backfire or are simply wrong to begin with. And liberalism generally is just more serious an endeavor than conservatism is. More wonky, more beholden to, you know, data and facts.
I have always voted Democrat in any case, even as a self-described conservative, and remain pro-gay-marriage, anti-war, anti-torture, and against the drug war, against the security state, against crony capitalism. It’s not my politics so much that have undergone a change lately (though they have as well), but my thoughts on who I should and should not align myself with, and why this is important
Conservative politics don’t even lend themselves all that well to conservative ends to begin with.
For instance, I’d say the generous maternity leave in Sweden or Germany is far more in line with a belief in the importance of family than our lack of any policy to that effect. If being pro-family is conservative then I guess I’m conservative in that way – but I think ‘family’ should include committed gay couples. If wanting a stable fiscal future is conservative, then again I suppose that describes me. But we can’t simply cut spending down to the marrow to achieve this, nor should we. Slashing taxes at all costs is not fiscally conservative. Raising them is much more so – and conservatives are by and large too irresponsible to even countenance this. Only a very few are considering cutting defense spending to help balance the budget. And indeed, there are a very few very smart, honest, hopeful thinkers on the right who I admire a great deal but they are only a very few. And not movers and shakers in any case. On the libertarian front – or the liberal-tarian front at least – I see much more hope.
I also share a good deal more cultural affinity with the left, broadly speaking, than with the right and my cultural politics have always reflected this. I watch Colbert and the Daily Show and almost never turn the channel to Fox News. I listen to NPR. I hang out mostly with liberals. I have very liberal views on most social issues. I still believe in the importance of decentralized power structures, checks and balances, and in not placing too much faith in the state – but again, these are positions that are perfectly acceptable on the left in ways that my belief in gay marriage or higher taxes or non-interventionist foreign policy are simply not acceptable on the right.
Dennis Sanders at Moderate Voice:
Blogger E.D. Kain’s “Up from Conservatism” post had me thinking about something that I’ve seen over the years. You take a guy who was a conservative that starts to see some of the problems. They start to see them grow bigger and bigger and start to take on a crusade to reform conservatism. However, they continue to focus on the issues plaguing the movement, until the problems are all they see. At some point, they write a post renouncing their ties to conservatism and citing how awful the movement is. They either choose to become independent or go over to the liberal side of the political spectrum.
On the surface, one can look at this as proof about how messed up conservatives are. I don’t doubt that. The current state of conservatism has caused many to pull up stakes and move towards greener pastures. But I am also bothered by another concern and that is: why are there so few folks committed to reforming conservatism? Why is there not an effort to make conservatism more modern in the way it has been done in the United Kingdom?
Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:
On the six week road trip I took when I left DC and moved backed to California, a highlight was having drinks with E.D. Kain in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he lives with his wife and child, works a day job to pay the bills, and manages to produce lots of enjoyable blogging. He wrote a post a couple days ago that’s handily summed up by this line: “I no longer have any desire to be considered a conservative – and no longer consider myself one.”
Unlike me, but like a lot of politically active people, Mr. Kain finds value in associating himself with a political/ideological team. It ought to trouble movement conservatives that they’re losing a married father in a red state who champions localism, decentralized power, checks and balances, and not placing too much faith in the state, and especially that in his judgment, “these are positions that are perfectly acceptable on the left in ways that my belief in gay marriage or higher taxes or non-interventionist foreign policy are simply not acceptable on the right.”
There are many on the right, however, who’d celebrate his repudiation of the conservative label, because he says things like this:
I would have voted for the HCR bill. The Democratic Party has its flaws but at least it cares about governance, at least Democrats try to make the world a less harsh, more egalitarian place even when sometimes their policies backfire or are simply wrong to begin with. And liberalism generally is just more serious an endeavor than conservatism is. More wonky, more beholden to, you know, data and facts.
Mr. Kain is conflating the conservative movement, a deeply unserious and corrupt political coalition, with the political philosophy of conservatism, which is every bit as serious as liberalism, and isn’t inherently less wonky either.
I disagree with Mr. Kain on health care reform too. I opposed it, and would’ve much preferred something like the plan articulated here. But do I understand why he’s concluded that movement conservatism is to be abandoned? Yes, I understand, and much as I’d encourage him to vote for divided government this November, and to keep trying to reform the right, the more important message is directed at those who prefer a pure, narrow coalition of hard core conservatives to an inclusive one: Mr. Kain fits into neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party, but you’ve driven him toward the latter’s coalition by assessing his particular mix of beliefs and asserting that he is a statist on the side of tyranny.
E.D. Kain explains why he no longer considers himself a conservative. He gives a lot of reasons, some prompting one to ask why he ever considered himself a conservative. But testimonials of anyone publicly “switching sides” always interest me, and prompt me to re-examine just why it is I find the left such a non-option. And I think I can plow through all the unimportant things down to a couple of the core psychological-emotional motivating factors that defines whether any given person will identify himself as “conservative” or “liberal.”
One of those things is whether you truly believe a “conservative” or a “liberal” political worldview is sustainable. I admit I am intrigued by the notion of having every necessity of life guaranteed by the state, particularly when “necessities of life” include things like high-speed internet access and hip organic cuisine—one just cannot survive with the stigma of being unstylish or out of touch with leftist fads. And I am aware that Europe’s experimentation with this sort of indulgent welfare state is, by certain accounts, going quite well. But forgive me if I just don’t believe it. While I’m sometimes tempted by the idea of packing up and heading to a generous European welfare state and living it up while the ship goes down, my gut reaction is that the ship is in fact going down. I don’t think one can ever not be a fiscal conservative unless one is convinced that the new-math of welfare-state economics can actually work beyond a few generations. And I’m not [convinced].
Another deep-seated psychological reason I cannot throw my lot in with liberals is that I don’t have compassion for the most of the would-be beneficiaries of their social safety nets. Some, sure. But I’ve come to the realization that what I might consider terribly unpleasant, others consider perfectly tolerable. Take one example: My wife, though conservative, is a filmmaker and photographer, and thus has a long list of Facebook friends on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum. When a video went around the internet a while back profiling an Orange County, California family living in a motel room, the liberal bloc of my wife’s Friends noted the travesty of conservative OC governance that would let something like that happen in such a relatively wealthy area. But this family was paying approximately $800 a month to live in a motel room. While Orange County is still an expensive place to live, it’s not so expensive that apartments can’t be found for that amount. Moreover, when the interviewer asked the family why they don’t move somewhere, perhaps out of state, where the cost of living is much more affordable. The family responded they had no interest in moving out of temperate and beatific Orange County.
This epitomizes the majority of accounts of the impoverished that I’ve been exposed to in my lifetime. Discomfort, yes. Dire straits, hardly.
More Dennis Sanders:
I’ve seen this coming for a long time: the formerly prolific, hetrodox conservative blogger E.D. Kain has abandoned the conservatives, passing the liberaltarian lable and going full on liberal.Not that being a liberal is a bad thing. Living in the liberal bastion of Minneapolis, I have a lot (and I mean a lot) of friends who are liberal Democrats. And I also happen to sleep with a certain liberal gentleman of Scandanavian descent.
That said in some ways, this is sad, because the American center-right needs more people like Erik. And yet, this is not surprising to me, though it is quite confusing. I don’t know if it’s age or what, but it has always seemed to me that Erik was trying to figure out who he was and where he fit politically. One moment he’s a Ron Paulite, the next moment he’s supporting Scott Brown, the next moment he’s writing the ultra-liberal blog Balloon Juice. Maybe he’s finally found out where he fits. If so, then I am happy for him even though it is the conservative’s loss.
I understand what Erik wants to do here, but it seems to me that it has been quite clear where he has stood and what side he has picked in all the many debates over the years. It was no secret that he was basically sympathetic to the health care legislation, to which I was opposed, and he was furiously hostile to the Arizona immigration law, which I find basically unobjectionable. The label he chose for himself was essentially irrelevant in both of those debates, and there was no danger that he would be confused with the people aligned on the other side of the argument.
I’m sorry to say that I find Erik’s post to be very close to the flip side of the argument that mainstream conservatives have deployed against dissident conservatives for years, which is that we associate with the wrong kinds of people, tolerate “liberal” arguments, and generally fail to be good team players when it comes to organizing for electoral politics and reinforcing absurd ideological claims. In other words, we are too close or insufficiently hostile to the other “side.” From what I can gather, Erik is telling everyone that he isn’t a conservative so as not to be mistaken for “one of them,” which is almost as depressing to watch as it is when a thoughtful person feels compelled to jump through a series of ideological hoops to prove that he is “one of us.”
I had to grimace a little when I read Erik talking about his cultural affinities. The point is not that I object to most of his cultural affinities. When I’m in my car on long road trips, I listen to NPR, too, and I have several friends to the left of Russ Feingold (as well as friends who are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans). I’m sure I could rattle off a list of other such “heterodox” behaviors, but I had thought that Erik agreed that these affinities have or ought to have no bearing on political coalitions. All of this reminds me of the ridiculous political categorizing that people wanted to impose on everyday habits during the debate over “crunchy” conservatism, as if eating organic vegetables or shopping at a co-op were proof of left-wing convictions. Erik continues:
I still believe in the importance of decentralized power structures, checks and balances, and in not placing too much faith in the state – but again, these are positions that are perfectly acceptable on the left in ways that my belief in gay marriage or higher taxes or non-interventionist foreign policy are simply not acceptable on the right.
Perhaps that’s true within the confines of conservative movement institutions and in many conservative media outlets and magazines, but it isn’t true of “the right” as a whole, and this exaggerates how acceptable decentralism really is on the left. There is sympathy for it in some circles, but is it “perfectly acceptable”? It probably depends on what’s being decentralized.
Kain responds at The League:
Perhaps I am still a rather conservative liberal, but at a certain point I just have to stop trying to come up with new contortionist tricks and taxonomical experiments to make my politics fit inside that particular label. If I were more conservative – if my beliefs on immigration or marriage were more to the right, or if my religious beliefs were very traditional in the ways that Daniel’s are, or if I distrusted government more – if any of these things were the case, I wouldn’t give a damn about the inclusiveness of the conservative movement, or the Republican party, or any of that – I would still call myself a conservative. But I am simply not all that conservative. And if the left is too statist, if liberals really do have a deep distrust of free markets or competitive federalism, or any of those other things that I think are important and good for society, well then perhaps they can be convinced otherwise. Perhaps in the end, only the ideas matter. Hopefully Daniel’s ideas about American exceptionalism and the limits of our nation’s power will be accepted by all political stripes. Hopefully good ideas will rise to the top of whatever ideological coalitions exist, and we will all evolve for the better.
As Conor notes in his post on the matter, there are many, many admirable, smart, honest people out there working to reform conservatism. And perhaps they will. One thing I noticed about myself was that I followed the British elections very closely, and was quite enamored with David Cameron’s Toryism – a rather liberal, modernized conservatism. I thought to myself, I could be a conservative like that. But then the coalition with the Liberal Democrats made me think even harder – would I fit in even better with that group? And the answer was yes, I probably would. I’m probably more the liberaltarian Lib-Dem than the modernized Tory.
I have nothing against conservatism the way I understand it, the way I wish it were represented and practiced in this country. I just don’t think that label belongs to me anymore.
Apple® today announced the new Apple TV® which offers the simplest way to watch your favorite HD movies and TV shows on your HD TV for the breakthrough price of just $99. Apple TV users can choose from the largest online selection of HD movies to rent, including first run movies for just $4.99, and the largest online selection of HD TV show episodes to rent* from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America for just 99 cents.
Apple TV also streams content from Netflix, YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe™, as well as music, photos and videos from PCs and Macs to your HD TV. Enjoy gorgeous slideshows of your photos on your HD TV using Apple TV’s selection of built-in slideshows. Apple TV has built-in HDMI, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and an internal power supply for easy set-up, and features silent, cool, very low power operation in an enclosure that’s less than four inches square—80 percent smaller than the previous generation.
“The new Apple TV, paired with the largest selection of online HD movie and TV show rentals, lets users watch Hollywood content on their HD TV whenever they want,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “This tiny, silent box costing just $99 lets users watch thousands of HD movies and TV shows, and makes all of their music, photos and videos effortlessly available on their home entertainment system.”
Apple TV users can now rent thousands of commercial free, HD TV episodes on iTunes® for just 99 cents, with up to 30 days to start watching and then 48 hours to finish—or watch multiple times. Users can also rent over 7,000 movies with over 3,400 available in HD, with most new releases available the same day they are released on DVD.
Matt Burns at Crunchgear:
Forget the iTV name, the refreshed Apple TV is still called the Apple TV. But that’s about where the similarities end. The entire system from the form factor to the UI is different; even the entire concept is different. I think we can officially say Apple is taking the Apple TV and the whole streaming market seriously now. It’s no longer just a hobby despite what Steve says.
The new model is dramatically smaller than the old one — 1/4 of the size actually. It features 802.11n built in with HDMI, Ethernet, and optical audio on the backside. The power supply is even built-in. No more power bricks, people!
Just like the rumors stated, the new Apple TV is significantly smaller than the previous generation. That’s partly because it no longer utilizes a spinning disk hard drive for local storage. Flash memory now handles that task, but it’s really only for buffering as it’s not that large. This device is after all a low-cost streamer designed not to hold your media, but to access it from other locations.
The real news is the added content. Apple feels that people do not want to manage local storage — hence the lack of hard drive — and so content will be delivered from the cloud. Keep in mind, there’s no purchasing content, just renting. First-run movies will be available the same day that they hit DVD for $4.99. TV shows now cost $.99 rather than the old price of $2.99 but only Fox and ABC are on board right now.
Then there’s Netflix. Yep, it’s in the box as well and so is YouTube. Both are available through beautiful custom-built UIs. No more red screens for Netflix. (yay!)
Sam Biddle at Gizmodo
Brian X. Chen at Wired:
The major limitation: For TV rentals, only two studios are on board to stream shows through the Apple TV — ABC and Fox. This isn’t an adequate replacement yet for cable subscriptions.
So calling it a “hobby” was right — Apple’s starting out small, and maybe it’ll roll into something bigger if more studios warm up to the idea.
Nonetheless, I got some hands-on time with the new Apple TV and it is a promising start.
TV and movie rentals are really snappy and fast. After choosing to rent a movie or show, the Apple TV takes a few seconds to prepare a buffer and begins streaming your video live.
Also particularly cool was internet integration. I enjoyed searching through Flickr streams: Select a photo and hit the Play button and it immediately plays a slideshow with music and fancy transitions. I’m too lazy to check my friends’ Flickr streams the normal way on Flickr.com, aren’t you? Plus, the photos look great on a big screen through the Apple TV’s HDMI connection.
The Apple TV’s remote is familiar: It’s got the same aluminum and black design as the current MacBook Pros. It’s also very similar to the current Apple remote that controls Macs — only it’s a little longer and the buttons have small bumps for subtle tactile feedback. It feels great in the hand and navigating through the Apple TV menu was really smooth.
As good as the idea sounds, you won’t be able to use your iPhone or iPad as a remote for the Apple TV (not yet, at least). Instead, there’s a feature called “AirPlay,” so if you’re using your iPad or iPhone to listen to music, look at photos or watch a video, you can tap an AirPlay button, select your Apple TV and boom — your content is streaming onto your Apple TV. We weren’t able to test that since this feature won’t be available until iOS 4.2 ships in November, but we’ll keep you posted.
It’s now a streaming-focused device (as we predicted months ago) in a small matte black enclosure we’re calling “the hockey puck.” It has HDMI, Ethernet, optical audio, and USB plugs around back, and of course 802.11n for the cable-averse. Inside there ain’t much — there’s no local storage, which makes this thing an entirely different beast than old Apple TVs, relying entirely on the “cloud” for content. Those new streaming HD TV rentals from ABC and Fox will be a mere 99 cents, while first run HD movies will be a less thrilling $4.99. Other services include Netflix, YouTube, Flickr, and Mobile Me, along with Rotten Tomatoes integration in the movie catalog. You can also stream from your computer, if you miss those old hard drive-sourced days of yore, but iOS 4.2’s AirPlay also enables streaming from an iPad straight to an Apple TV for something much more surreal. The best news? Apple will start shipping this sucker four weeks from now for $99.
If only there were a way to seriously monetize the platform *and* open it up to all services at the same time. Oh, wait, that’s how Apple completely disrupted the mobile business. It’s called the App Store. Imagine that the AppleTV ran iOS and had it’s own App Store. Let’s see what would happen:
- Every network could distribute their own content in whichever way they wished. HBO could limit it to their subscribers, and ABC could stream to everyone. Some would charge, some would show ads, and everyone would get all the content they wanted. Hulu, Netflix, and everyone else living in perfect harmony. Let the best content & pricepoint win.
- We’d get sports. Every geek blogger misses this, and it’s one of the biggest strangleholds that cable and satellite providers have over their customers. You can already watch live, streaming golf on your iPhone in amazing quality. Now imagine NFL Sunday Ticket on your AppleTV.
- You could watch your Facebook slideshows and SmugMug videos alongside your Flickr stream. Imagine that!
- The AppleTV might become the best selling video game console, just like iPhone and iPod have done for mobile gaming. Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds on my TV with a click? Yes please.
- Apple makes crazy amounts of money. Way more than they do now with their 4 year old hobby.
The new AppleTV runs on the same chip that’s in the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. This should be a no-brainer. What’s the hold up? What’s that you say? The UI? Come on. It’s easy. And it could be the best UI to control a TV ever.
WORLDS BEST TV USER INTERFACE
Just require the use of an iPod, iPhone, or iPad to control it. Put the whole UI on the iOS device in your hand, with full multi-touch. Pinching, rotating, zooming, panning – the whole nine yards. No more remotes, no more infrared, no more mess or fuss. I’m not talking about looking at the TV while your fingers are using an iPod. I’m talking about a fully realized UI on the iPod itself – you’re looking and interacting with it on the iPod.
There are 120M devices capable of this awesome UI out there already. So the $99 price point is still doable. Don’t have an iPod/iPad/iPhone? The bundle is just $299 for both.
That’s what the AppleTV should have been. That would have had lines around the block at launch. This new one?
It’s like an AppleTV from 2007.
Devin Coldeway at Crunchgear:
The other players are scrambling to set themselves in opposition to the new Apple TV: earlier this week, Roku dropped their prices preemptively; Amazon is touting 99-cent shows; now, Boxee is pricing their long-awaited Boxee Box. It’s $199, and they defend the price in a blog post, saying that people really do want the extra features it offers. I’d tend to agree, but in the end it’s the consumers who will decide it.
Lori Montgomery and Anne Kornblut at WaPo:
With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax breaks – potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars – to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.
Among the options under consideration are a temporary payroll-tax holiday and a permanent extension of the now-expired research-and-development tax credit, which rewards companies that conduct research into new technologies within the United States.
Administration officials have struggled to develop new economic policies and an effective message to blunt expected Republican gains in Congress and defuse complaints from Democrats that President Obama is fumbling the issue most important to voters. Following Obama’s vacation and focus on foreign policy in recent weeks, White House advisers have arranged a series of economic events for the president next week, including two trips to swing states and a news conference.
David Leonhardt at NYT:
It’s time to start talking about a tax cut.
The economy is struggling mightily. Some 15 million people remain unemployed. The Federal Reserve has been slow to act and still is not doing much. The Senate has been unable to find the 60 votes needed to pass anything but minor bills.
The best hope for a short-term economic plan that can win bipartisan support is a tax cut — and not the permanent extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts, which have been dominating the debate lately. Such an extension is unlikely to win many Democratic votes. Republicans, meanwhile, are unlikely to support more spending, like the national infrastructure project President Obama has been mentioning.
A well-devised tax cut could be different. Cutting taxes has been the heart of the Republican economic program for 30 years, and last year’s stimulus bill showed that Mr. Obama was open to tax cuts.
The question, then, is what kind of cut can put people back to work quickly.
The last 30 years offer some pretty good answers. For one thing, a permanent reduction in tax rates focused on the affluent — along the lines of those 2001 Bush tax cuts — does little to lift growth in the short term. An across-the-board, one-time cut — like the one that Mr. Bush signed in 2008 or that Mr. Obama signed last year — does more.
But the most effective tax cut for putting people back to work quickly is one that businesses and households get only if they spend money. Last year’s cash-for-clunkers program was an example. So was a recent bipartisan tax credit for businesses that hired workers who had been unemployed for months. Perhaps the broadest example is a temporary cut in the payroll tax for businesses, which reduces the cost of employing people.
Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator:
The Post suggests that the bill would be introduced before the midterm elections. The article quotes William Galston of the Brookings Institution explaining that the timing proves that the decision wouldn’t be motivated by fears about the midterms: “Substantively, there is nothing they could do between now and Election Day that would have any measurable effect on the economy. Nothing.”
If the idea is to make it easier for companies to hire new workers in an attempt to revive the weak labor market, a payroll tax cut would be a good first step. The administration, however, is also toying with a few other policies that would undermine the effect of the payroll tax cut. For example, if the Democrats do allow the Bush tax cuts for top individual earners to expire, the burden will fall onto small business owners — counteracting the effect of the payroll tax cuts mere months after they’re implemented.
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
When all else fails, Democrats throw in the towel on their loopy economic policies and resort to tax cuts — just like the Republicans wanted in February 2009. We learn:
With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax breaks — potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars — to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.
Among the options under consideration are a temporary payroll-tax holiday and a permanent extension of the now-expired research-and-development tax credit, which rewards companies that conduct research into new technologies within the United States.
A couple of problems with that. First, it won’t improve the economy before the election. The voice of sanity for the Democrats, William Galston, says: “Substantively, there is nothing they could do between now and Election Day that would have any measurable effect on the economy. Nothing.” Second, this renders the Obama economy policy entirely incoherent. If the economy is worsening and they admit tax cuts are good, why eliminate the Bush tax cuts? What sense does it make to give with one hand and take away with the other?
We’ll see what the Democrats come up with. As Milton Freidman advised, “I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible.” But conservatives should insist that in addition to any tax cuts Obama proposes, the Bush tax cuts must be retained. Otherwise, we are merely treading water.
Given the mixed signals of late, it’s worth noting that Politico has a report similar to the Post‘s, explaining that administration officials are “mulling a raft of emergency fixes to stimulate the economy before the midterms, including an extension of the research and development tax credit and new infrastructure spending.”
It’s hard to evaluate any of these ideas without more details, and for that matter, no matter what the White House recommends, Congress’ inability to function makes progress unlikely for the foreseeable future.
That said, it’s at least somewhat encouraging to see a shift away from “everything’s on track, so just be patient.” Moreover, there’s obviously real political salience to even just having the debate — with two months before the midterms, it’s worth having the two parties fight over how to help the economy grow. If Republicans intend to kill every proposal the White House offers, that should matter to voters, too.
The Post‘s report concluded that President Obama “could roll out additional measures as soon as next week.” Stay tuned.
Thoughts:1) Practically, this isn’t going to do anything before the mid-terms. These sorts of changes take time to roll out, and there’s no way they could get anything into effect soon enough to make an actual difference in peoples’ lives.2) Whether you think this works as a campaign tactic depends on whether you think people will think that it is going to work. On that question, I have no idea. People do love cash in their pockets, however.3) Politically, this has one major drawback: it’s going to put huge holes in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Since I think those trust funds are meaningless accounting devices, I don’t think this has any practical relevance. But as you will be able to see in my comment section about twenty minutes after I hit “post,” people have a very deep emotional attachment to the idea of the trust funds, which politicians cannot easily trifle with.4) Practically, I think the actual impact will be minimal, at least on employment. It might help people and companies to rebuild their balance sheets (or let struggling companies ride things out a while longer). But the main constraint on business hiring is uncertainty, and a payroll tax isn’t going to change that. Obviously, some workers will get hired at the margin–but if your labor is so marginal that you need a payroll tax holiday to make it economical, then I’d expect that as soon as the payroll tax holiday is over, you’ll probably be fired. Hence, even if you get the job, you’re going to want to save as much of your wages as possible, blunting the multiplier effect we hope to get out of stimulus.
Really? I have a proposal. Suppose the holiday costs the trust fund $400 billion. Just transfer that $400 billion from the general budget to the trust fund.
In fact, we could immediately put $100 trillion gazillion dollars in the trust funds from the general budget, and then they would have enough money to pay Social Security forever. Supposedly.
The trust fund is a measure of what we are promising to pay future Social Security recipients. To me, it is nothing more than that. But what is going to fund Social Security down the road is not the promises that we pour into it today. It is the taxes that people will pay in the future.
I have tried to explain Social Security for a long time. See here, for example. But Megan is probably right. I honestly thought that among trained economists it was understood that the trust fund has no real significance. I thought that anyone who went to a respectable graduate school learned the overlapping generations model, which sometimes gets taught as a model of money but is most evidently a model of Social Security. However, Paul Krugman at least pretends to act as if he never learned that.
There’s something about working in politics which starts making people think everything is about perception rather than reality. I think a full payroll tax holiday would be fine as long as it wasn’t yet another excuse to try to destroy Social Security, but an employer only one would be truly awful on substance, impact, and message. More help for the overlords, no help for you!
But apparently the geniuses in charge think the problem is that “stimulus” and “bailout” have become scary bad words. The problem is that the economy sucks and people don’t have any money.
Heather Horn at The Atlantic with a round-up
Seeking to shed light on the problem, The Times obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District and used the information to estimate the effectiveness of L.A. teachers — something the district could do but has not.
The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student’s performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.
Though controversial among teachers and others, the method has been increasingly embraced by education leaders and policymakers across the country, including the Obama administration.
In coming months, The Times will publish a series of articles and a database analyzing individual teachers’ effectiveness in the nation’s second-largest school district — the first time, experts say, such information has been made public anywhere in the country.
This article examines the performance of more than 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers for whom reliable data were available.
The United Teachers of Los Angeles was quick to blast the Times for their report, according to SCPR:
Unfair, said a statement released by the United Teachers of Los Angeles today. “It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teachers effectiveness,” it said.”The database will cause chaos at school sites, as parents scramble to get their children into classes taught by teachers labeled as `effective’ by a newspaper — not by education professionals,” UTLA said, emphasizing the word “newspaper” in italics. The union said the result is a public, incomplete and
inaccurate picture of a teacher’s effectiveness.
Chad Aldeman at The Quick and The Ed:
Have pity on the individual teachers for this public outing, but, at the same time, don’t blame the Times for what they’re doing. The teachers union has pressured the district against using value-added measures in teacher performance evaluations, and only now are they moving forward together. The district has been complicit for years, and then took the easy way out and gave the data to a newspaper. And, in an ironic twist of fate, the newspaper could publish the value-added results precisely because they were not part of teacher personnel files. Those are private and cannot be released publicly.
In contrast, Tennessee has been using a value-added model since the late 1980’s, and every year since the mid-1990’s every single eligible teacher has received a report on their results. When these results were first introduced, teachers were explicitly told their results would never be published in newspapers and that the data may be used in evaluations. In reality, they had never really been used in evaluations until the state passed a law last January requiring the data to make up 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. This bill, and 100% teacher support for the state’s Race to the Top application that included it, was a key reason the state won a $500 million grant in the first round.
Tennessee is a good comparison, because here is a place with longstanding, low-stakes use of the data. The data will now have much higher stakes attached to it, but there wasn’t nearly the acrimony that’s happening now in LA. That’s because, to a large extent, LAUSD has sat on this information for so long without doing anything with it. Kudos to the intrepid reporter for digging it out and making a story of it, but the fact that it’s been buried for so long and is only seeing the light of day in this manner has made it that much more controversial. LAUSD could’ve avoided all the headache by doing something with the data themselves years ago. That should’ve started with letting the teachers see their own data, because they are interested in it. The teachers quoted in the Times articles and the 2,000+ teacher requests the newspaper has received since the story’s release suggest that teachers do want to know how they perform on these measures.
Instead of a methodical process where teachers slowly become used to seeing their data and therefore comfortable with its use, LA now has a situation where many people are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the data at the same time there’s suddenly pent-up demand from teachers, parents, and the public to see it.
When researchers show distributions of scores, they often show error bands to indicate “the inherent imprecision,” as Felch, Strong, and Smith wrote. For example, see the following figure from a 2000 paper by Kenneth Rowe on value-added measures: The point here is that showing imprecision is easy to do in a way that is professionally competent. Is that what the L.A. Times shows in its database? Here’s the chart for one teacher:
There are two graphing sins here: dequantification and an implication that the estimate for the teacher is infinitely accurate (or at least as accurate as the center of the diamond images). I don’t know what the Times editors and reporters thought they were doing by eliminating a scale, but this doesn’t remove the central problem of visually implying that the estimate of effectiveness is precise. Instead, it commits the sin of dequantification. To borrow from Edward Tufte, is the L.A. Times’ publication of these figures an act of reporting or finger-painting?
It also raises significant questions about the response to Jay Matthews. Was the Times deliberately trying to fudge what they were intending to do with the graphs, or are they really so incompetent an organization that they don’t have people who know how to design statistical figures and also didn’t check such a high-stakes display with people who do this professionally?
Sara Mead at Education Week:
The reality is that, even as value-added student test score data has emerged as the center of current debates over teacher evaluation, it’s only available and relevant for a fraction of the teachers in our public schools today. There is currently no value-added data for kindergarten and early elementary teachers, teachers in non-core subjects, or high school teachers in most places. My brother-in-law, who teaches middle school band and drama, and sister, who teaches high school composition and literature, do not have value-added data.
Some critics see this as an argument against new teacher evaluation systems that incorporate data on student performance. I see it the opposite way: The way we currently evaluate teachers is deeply flawed, not helpful to them or students, and there are lots of things we could do to move towards a more effective system of evaluating and developing teachers. Where we have value-added data as a source of information to inform teacher evaluations, we should use it. But since it’s only available for a subset of teachers, and therefore only a small piece of any meaningful solution to teach evaluation, we shouldn’t let debate over value-added or the various methodologies derail the broader effort to create better ways of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness and using that data to inform professional development and staffing decisions. We also shouldn’t pretend–as I sometimes fear my reform colleagues do–that value-added data is some kind of magic panacea that provides perfect information about teacher effectiveness. And we should put a lot more effort into developing and using validated and reliable observational tools, such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), that look at teacher classroom behaviors and measure the extent to which teachers are implementing behaviors linked to improved student outcomes. (I’m even more concerned that the observational rubrics many districts and states will put into place under their proposed evaluation systems have not yet been validated than I am with any of the issues related to use of value-added data.)
Jack Shafer at Slate:
These conclusions are so sensible, so obvious, so intuitive that only a union official or education bureaucrat could possibly dispute them. Oh, the Economic Policy Institute took its shot, calling teacher assessment based on standardized-test results just “one piece of information” used in a “comprehensive evaluation.”
By doing something LAUSD should have done in the first place, the Times had shamed the cowardly school district into performing its own “value-added analysis” of the data. So far, so good. But what does the school district intend to do with these scores? Release them to the public? No. It’s going to dispense them confidentially to teachers in the fall. For all the good that will do parents and teachers, why doesn’t the school district play ostrich and dig a big hole in Playa del Rey and bury the scores?
Let’s hope the Times stays on this story—and that it or some other publication uses the California Public Records Act to publish these new, LAUSD-generated scores. If you can’t grade the graders, whom can you grade?