Obama Shifts Cash To Fight Zika; Vacationing Republicans Take Credit

Brendan Smialowski via Getty Images

THE HUFFINGTON POST

WASHINGTON ― President Barack Obama’s administration announced Thursday the transfer of some $80 million in additional funds to combat the growing Zika threat after Congress refused to pass a $1.9 billion package before going on a seven-week break.

Nevertheless, congressional Republicans took credit for convincing the White House to act when Congress would not.

“For over six months we have been calling on the administration to use every existing resource at their disposal to address this crisis,” Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “Our calls have been met with little action, while the White House continues to cast aspersions and blame at others for lack of funding.”

The White House asked for $1.9 billion in February, and Rogers and other Republicans responded by questioning the administration’s plans to use the money. The administration then transferred $589 million from other programs ― primarily the effort to combat Ebola ― to begin dealing with Zika.

The Senate passed a compromise Zika package worth $1.1 billion on a bipartisan vote. But when that broadly supported bill came back from negotiations with the House, Republicans added riders to it restricting contraception services, protecting the Confederate flag, cutting Obamacare and weakening the Clean Water Act.

Democrats promptly labeled the riders poison pills and refused to pass the altered bill. Republicans then blamed Democrats for the impasse, as Rogers did again Thursday.

“The House has twice passed responsible, immediate funding legislation for vaccine development, mosquito control, and public health efforts,” Rogers said, referring to the rider-laden measure and an earlier bill that would have provided just one-third of the requested money. “These much-needed funds have been blocked at every turn by Democrats in the Senate, with the backing of the Obama White House.”

Even one of the few Republicans who supported Obama’s initial request, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), blamed Democrats and crowed over the funding transfer.

“Last month I urged President Obama to use all the funds that were already available to fight Zika,” Rubio said in a statement. “Today’s action is long overdue, and the Obama administration should do even more to find unspent funds that can be redirected toward fighting Zika in Florida.”

In a letter to lawmakers Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell explained that the transfer comes at a cost. It means that $34 million being shifted at the National Institutes of Health will be used to continue development of one promising vaccine, but that three other vaccine candidates will have to be shelved. It also means that NIH’s work on Zika diagnostics will stall, Burwell said.

Similarly, $47 million being transferred to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will allow the agency to sign contracts with private companies that work on vaccines, but it does not provide enough money to come close to finishing that work.

“With the actions described above, we have exhausted our ability to even provide short-term financing to help fight Zika,” Burwell wrote. She said that if Congress fails to act by the end of the fiscal year next month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NIH will have to start cutting back Zika efforts.

Burwell opened her letter by noting that, as of Thursday, there were more than 7,300 cases of Zika infection in the United States, including 972 pregnant women with evidence of infection and 15 babies born with Zika-linked birth defects.

And in Florida, where the first local outbreak of Zika has been recorded, there are at least 22 related cases.

Democrats blamed their GOP colleagues for the current state of affairs, and said Congress should come back to work before its scheduled Sept. 6 return to pass the bipartisan Zika bill.

“Without having successfully enacted any funding to fight Zika, Republicans shut down Congress for the longest summer recess in at least 60 years,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “What better use of time do Republicans have right now than to come back here and get the job done for the American people?”

“In its continued failure to enact emergency Zika appropriations, the Republican majority is playing Russian roulette with the health of the American people,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Rogers’ counterpart on the Appropriations Committee. “This failure has forced the administration to divert funding from other critical priorities, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, mental health, viral hepatitis, and home energy assistance for low-income Americans. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is damaging and immoral, and it must stop.”

Michael McAuliff

Missouri Republican Appallingly Says That ‘God’ Can Provide a ‘Silver Lining’ to Rape

From the desk of Donviejo

FORWARD PROGRESSIVES

You would think, in 2016, that the topic of rape and the horrors that accompany it would be fairly well understood. If there’s a group of people who deserve, without question, to be able to do whatever they want without input or judgement from anyone – it’s someone who’s been the victim of a violent sexual assault.

However, for some bizarre reason, some Republicans seem to believe that rape victims who were impregnated by their assailant somehow should either lose control of their bodies, thus being forced by the government to give birth to the child or that they should look on the “bright side” with the “gift that God” bestowed upon them.

Yes, because nothing says “God loves you” quite like being brutally and violently sexually assaulted, resulting in that woman becoming pregnant by the very man who raped her.

Such as Missouri State Rep. Tila Hubrecht, who recently said that if a woman becomes pregnant following a sexual assault that she should look at that as a “silver lining” to the tragedy.

“It is not up to us to say ‘no just because there was a rape, they cannot exist,’” Hubrecht said. “Sometimes bad things happen, horrible things, but sometimes God can give us a silver lining through the birth of a child.”

These comments were made concerning legislation that could give Missouri voters the right to determine whether or not fetuses should be given constitutional rights.

First, the fact that someone would consider fetuses as “people” is absurd. When a baby is born, we don’t consider it 9 months old, do we? Not only that, but what about the Constitutional rights of the actual living and breathing woman? If this somehow became “law,” there’s absolutely no chance it is held up as Constitutional. It would basically ban abortion – which is an issue we settled over 40 years ago with Roe v. Wade.

That’s neither here nor there.

What I want to focus on is how ridiculous it is for anyone to try to tell a rape victim that it’s some sort of “blessing from God” if they happen to become pregnant from the assault and that they should view it as a “silver lining” from the horrific event.

These comments really wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except this sort of attitude isn’t exactly uncommon among the Republican party. In the past we’ve seen Todd Akin try to claim that a woman can’t become pregnant if it’s a “legitimate rape” and I’ve even wrote a story just over a year ago about another Republican who said it can be “beautiful” if a child is the result of a sexual assault. To say nothing about the fairly sizable chunk of the Republican party who don’t believe rape victims should be allowed to have abortions.

The bottom line is, there’s nothing beautiful about any kind of sexual assault – nothing. If a woman who is the unfortunate victim of such a violent and heinous encounter does happen to become pregnant because of it, the only person who should have any say so over whether or not she has that baby is that woman.

End of story.

It is inexcusable and actually very disgusting that this sort of attitude still exists, and somewhat flourishes, within one of our country’s two largest political parties.

By Allen Clifton

Trump campaign in disarray

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Donald Trump’s singular star power appears to be no longer enough—and his campaign’s months-long lack of attention to other fundamentals is emerging as a hindrance to his ability to clinch the nomination outright. | Getty

POLITICO

Donald Trump’s campaign is increasingly falling into disarray as the Manhattan billionaire braces for a loss in Wisconsin that could set him on course for an uncertain convention floor fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

Since March, the campaign has been laying off field staff en masse around the country and has dismantled much of what existed of its organizations in general-election battlegrounds, including Florida and Ohio.

Last month, the campaign laid off the leader of its data team, Matt Braynard, who did not train a successor. It elevated his No. 2, a data engineer with little prior high-level political strategy experience, and also shifted some of his team’s duties to a 2015 college graduate whose last job was an internship with the consumer products company Colgate-Palmolive. Some of the campaign’s data remains inaccessible.

As the final stretch of this hard fought GOP primary bogs down into a delegate fight among party insiders and operatives that likely won’t be decided until the July convention in Cleveland, Trump’s singular star power appears to be no longer enough—and his campaign’s months-long lack of attention to other fundamentals is emerging as a hindrance to his ability to clinch the nomination outright.

“Presidential campaigns are a team sport, and he doesn’t have that mentality,” one high-level GOP operative said. “That’s why they’re missing a lot of these opportunities that are passing them by. [Trump] might be a great quarterback, but every quarterback still needs a strong offensive line.”

Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski flatly rejected the idea that the campaign is in disarray or suffering from low morale.

“Unequivocally not,” he said. “We have the most cohesive, loyal staff, the most loving staff I have ever had the privilege of working with on a campaign.” Lewandowski said the members of Trump’s small senior staff “have such an amazing relationship that the morale is the greatest ever.”

While he acknowledged that the campaign has let go of staff in states that already voted, he chalked that up to “the nature of a campaign.” He asserted that his team has retained its best talent, often by offering jobs in upcoming states, noting that it currently has 45 staffers in Wisconsin.

MORE>>>

Here Are All the Times Republicans Praised Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee

Here Are All the Times Republicans Praised Merrick Garland, Obama's Supreme Court Nominee

Image Credit: AP

POLICY.MIC

Steadfast in their determination to block any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Barack Obama, Senate Republicans are virtually certain to block the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the nation’s highest court.

But long before the Senate GOP moved to thwart Garland’s promotion, leading conservative Republicans championed his appointment to the court.

Read more: Who Is Merrick Garland? Everything You Need to Know About New Supreme Court Nominee

The background: Garland’s name has been floated for Supreme Court nomination twice before in recent years, following the retirements of Justices David Souter in 2009 and John Paul Stevens in 2010.

At the time, many Republicans viewed the centrist circuit judge as a consensus nominee who could attract bipartisan support.

Here’s what they had to say back then.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Hatch, a Judiciary Committee Republican, told Reuters in May 2010 that he wouldn’t hesitate to marshal support for Garland.

“I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of votes. And I will do my best to help him get them,” the senator said. “I know Merrick Garland very well. He would be very well supported by all sides and the president knows that.”

Here Are All the Times Republicans Praised Merrick Garland, Obama's Supreme Court Nominee

Source: Mic/Associated Press

Ed Whelan, leading conservative legal thinker

A former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and official in the George W. Bush-era Department of Justice, Whelan told the Washington Post in April 2010 that Garland was about as good a pick as conservatives could hope for under Obama.

“He’s earned the respect of a range of folks, including conservatives, and I think he is the most likely to exercise judicial restraint,” Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said at the time.

Carrie Severino, conservative legal activist

The chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network and a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, Severino told the Washington Post that Garland was the right’s “best scenario.”

“Of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland,” she said. “He’s the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer.”

Curt Levey, conservative legal activist

In 2010, New York magazine quoted Levey as saying, “You’ll have, if not a love fest, something close to it if [the choice is] a Garland.”

That was then: Such praise came in a very different political context — with Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and Obama still early in his first term.

With an election looming, it’s unlikely that even a consensus nominee like Garland will break the wall of GOP resistance. It was one thing to support a centrist over a more liberal nominee six years ago; it’s quite another when conservatives see the chance to elect a Republican president and install a right-wing justice for the next three decades or more.

But given the heated rhetoric and sharp polarization that’s sure to follow Garland’s nomination, it’s worth remembering when conservatives sounded a very different tune.

Luke Brinker

Report: Terrorism Is Working…On Republicans

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daylight.ma

ADDICTING INFO

If you’re a terrorist, your objective is simple: Incite fear among people by using horrific tactics that shed lots of blood and take innocent lives. Make people afraid to live their lives; give them a reason to hate and fear each other and you’ve done your job.

Never has the success of terrorism been more apparent than it is with the common American conservative. Americans in general have been wary of radicalized Islamic juhadists for decades, but since the attacks of September 11, 2001, conservatives have found a common bond in fear.

Fear sells. Let’s face it — after the 2000 election and the subsequent appointment of Dubyah by the Supreme Court, the man spent the next nine months being as useless as he could be. Some reports had him on vacation more than 60 percent of the time. His administration was but a glimpse of the laughing stock it would become. After the September 11th attacks, Republicans learned a valuable lesson. They learned that fear and fear alone can win elections, and in 2002 successfully gained control of both the executive and legislative branches of government.

Who can forget that debate in 2004 when Dubyah stepped away from the podium with his arm outstrectched like a schoolyard bully shouting, “tell that to Tony Blair!” when John Kerry made the remark that America was alone in Iraq. That year, as Democrats argued logic and tried to point out the direction of the economy, Republicans again ran their campaigns based on fear.

They became the “we’ll keep you safe” party. Safe from what? We’re still trying to figure that out, as Bush’s policies led to an increased global Al Qaeda presence as well as the rise of ISIS. At last check, the creation of more terrorists is the opposite of “safe.”

Still, that tactic is still going strong. While they’ve added a few new tricks to attract the worst America has to offer to replenish their dying base, fear is still tantamount to any Republican campaign. A recent Reuters poll show that while Americans overall aren’t buying it, a vast majority of Republicans are.

The poll actually has some good news. It shows that less than 15 percent of Americans are “generally fearful.” It also shows the party line divide when it comes to the Muslim community. while 60 percent of Democrats view Muslims like every other community, only 30 percent of Republicans can say the same. Seven out of ten GOPers are living in fear, meaning they will vote for whomever pledges the most military action against ISIS.

The spin machine knows it, and they will be going out of their way to exploit it. While Republican candidates tweeted out prayers fo9r San Bernardino they were silently hoping for word that the deaths were at the hands of radical Muslims. If it was another “lone wolf” white guy, they could brush it off and call for more money for mental health that they could later vote down, but if it were Muslims? Boy oh boy, someone in Texas was just re-elected on general principle.

It’s sickening, really, knowing that the American people, the strongest and most resilient society on Earth, can be so easily played. Hagel is smiling down on the chaos as imbeciles struggle with whether to vote for the safety of Donald Trump’s yooooge wall or the security of Ted Cruz’s plans to carpet bomb anywhere God is referred to as “Allah.”

It’s very sad. Tell some big bad “patriots” that they’re nothing but pansies living in fear and giving in to terrorism and watch in amazement as they declare themselves exempt because of all the guns they have. It almost seems too surreal to be true that in the year 2015, people can actually be this stupid.

 

Petraeus continues to tell the GOP what it doesn’t want to hear

Image: CIA Director David Petraeus Rings The Opening Bell At The New York Stock Exchange

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 18: Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus walks the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to ring the Opening Bell as | Spencer Platt

The Rachel Maddow Show / The MaddowBlog

Even after his sex scandal, retired Gen. David Petraeus remained a celebrated figure among Republican policymakers. It wasn’t too long ago that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, called onPresident Obama to fire his entire national security team and replace them with Petraeus.
For those who’ve forgotten, Petraeus was a four-star Army general who led U.S. forces in Iraq during the 2007 surge. In 2010, Obama put him in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and a year later, the president put Petraeus in charge of the CIA, before an affair forced him out.
But given that his credibility on matters of national security remains intact among many GOP lawmakers, it’s worth noting that Petraeus seems to disagree with the Republicans who like him so much. The Associated Press reported yesterday, for example:
A bipartisan group of former top Republican and Democratic officials is backing the program to resettle Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States.
In a letter to all members of Congress, national security experts, retired military and others say the country must offer refuge to the world’s most vulnerable, regardless of religion or nationality.
Among those signing the letter are former secretaries of state from Democratic and Republican administrations – Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Madeleine Albright – as well as Petraeus.
This came a week after Petraeus argued against sending American ground forces into Syria, even as many Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates make the opposite case.
What’s more, as we talked about last year, Petraeus is also at odds with Republicans over an increased U.S. military presence in Iraq, cutting deals with the Taliban, closing the detention facility atGuantanamo Bay, and the right’s Benghazi conspiracy theories.
Maybe Republicans should find a new hero? Whatever Petraeus’ partisan or ideological beliefs, he seems to be siding with President Obama an awful lot on the questions that matter most to the GOP.
H/t: DB

Bill Maher hammers Donald Trump and Ben Carson: ‘Experience? Republicans avoid that like a gay son!’

Bill Maher hammers Donald Trump and Ben Carson: 'Experience? Republicans avoid that like a gay son!'
Screenshot | You Tube

SALON

How else do you explain “Captain Carnival Barker” (Donald Trump) and “Sleepy McCrazy-Pants” (Ben Carson)?

Comedian Bill Maher nailed it on Friday night’s “Real Time” in his monologue about Ben Carson. Following jokes about Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, Maher had the ultimate burn when he said, “If neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson really believes that somebody with zero governing experience is qualified to be president, he must first let someone with zero medical training operate on his brain.”

Carson has long reiterated he’s not a politician, which should set him apart from many other candidates running for the 2016 nomination. In a January 2015 interviewwith Fox News, Carson said, “I do make it clear that I’m not a politician and that I never intend to become a politician.” Don’t worry, no one would mistake you for it.

Maher said that if there’s one thing this election has shown us it is that amateur is the new black. “If there’s one thing republicans can agree on, it’s that the less the head of our government knows about government the better,” Maher said. Perhaps this comes from their secret hatred of government and the desire to reduce the government as much as possible. How else to get someone on the side of smaller government than to make the public agree that a leader they just elected is a moron. Oh, if only they were that smart. “Experience? Republicans avoid that stuff like a gay son!” Maher declared.

This perfectly explains the GOP’s two leading candidates who Maher calls “Captain Carnival Barker” aka Donald Trump and “Sleepy McCrazy-Pants” aka Ben Carson. Yes,that Ben Carson, “who says that the Ayatollah Khamenei and Vladimir Putin went to college together? Which no one can even find a source for, except, perhaps, Ambien.”

This is the GOP frontrunner now? Maher isn’t surprised. “Because 85% of Iowa Republicans say they find the total lack of government experience to be his biggest selling point. But if their kid needed brain surgery, would they say ‘forget Ben Carson. He’s a brain surgery insider.’” Maybe that’s why the Iowa Caucus doesn’t matteranymore—just ask Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee who never became the party’s nominee.

Maher wondered where else in life does anyone apply the thinking that people who don’t understand government should be the ones that run it? A plumber? No… “The shit’s about to back up in here, what we need is an outsider,” he joked.

This has prompted Maher to completely change his thinking on how long elections should be. He once thought our elections should be like the British who take only five weeks. “No, Americans are dumb. They need extra time.”

Check out the video here:

Let’s call them all lunatics: Fearful “balanced” “journalists” let wingnuts run wild

Let's call them all lunatics: Fearful "balanced" "journalists" let wingnuts run wild
(Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane/CNN/AP/Carolyn Kaster/MSNBC/Salon)

SALON

In their 2012 book, “It’s Even Worse Than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein argued that America’s political dysfunction had two causes: First, the mismatch between our constitutional system, requiring compromise, and our increasingly polarized, parliamentary-style politics. Second, the fact that polarization has been asymmetric, turning the GOP into an insurrectionary anti-government party, even when in power. They wrote:

The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Despite overwhelming historical data showing asymmetrical polarization in Congress (more recent additions here), their argument did not convince the anecdote-obsessed Beltway pundit class, with its deep belief that “both sides do it,” no matter what “it” may be. It’s true there are “extremists on both sides,” but as this Wonk Blog post showed, the percentage of non-centrist Republicans skyrocketed from under 10 percent in the Ford years (less than Democrats) to almost 90 percent today, while the Democratic percentage has stayed basically flat [chart]. What’s more, in the last session (2013-2014), the data shows that 147 House Republicans — more than half the caucus — were more ideologically extreme than the most extreme Democrat in the House. There is simply no comparison between the two parties. Asymmetric polarization is not only real, it’s one of the most dominant facts of American politics today.

But it’s a fact that “balanced” journalism has to ignore. To admit that the political world isn’t balanced would shake their whole belief system to its core. And yet, the shaking seems to have begun. As dysfunction in the GOP has reached new heights, not just threatening America and the global economy, but the party itself (both in Congress and the presidential race), the power of that denial may have begun breaking down, as Republican politicians are now criticizing their own party for what it has become, with conservative pundits like David Brooks castigating the GOP for its “right-wing radicalism.”

So it was only natural for Bloomberg View to engage in an email Q&A with Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, “Republicans Gone Wild,” bringing their perspective to bear on where things stand today.

Ornstein first pointed out that the current state of crisis — both in Congress and in the presidential primary — had predictable roots in past strategic moves, heedlessly initiated by party leaders who were now reaping the whirlwind. This basically reverses the order of causation proposed by critics, like Chris Cillizza, who argued that GOP congressmembers were simply following the spontaneous rightward movement of the folks back home:

The fact is that the “Young Guns” — Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, as we wrote early on in the book — actively incited anger and raised expectations among populist Tea Party adherents when they went out in 2009-2010 and recruited candidates to run in the midterms. They told them to use the debt ceiling as an issue and to promise to bludgeon Obama with it to force him to his knees, to repeal Obamacare and cut government dramatically. They promised that if they took the majority they would immediately cut spending by $100 billion.

Of course, the American political system doesn’t work like that. Parliamentary systems do. But not presidential ones. For folks calling themselves “constitutional conservatives” this was a pretty fundamental moment of “Oops!” Continuing:

That led to the debt limit debacle in 2011, when they finally backed down at the brink — after Jason Chaffetz, whom we quote in the book, led the charge to take the country over. And the promise of $100 billion in spending cuts went unfulfilled. The combination of empty threats and unfulfilled promise, amplified by tribal media and social media, has created both a broad public anger at Republican establishment leaders among more radical Tea Party voters, and a seething anger among the 40 to 50 most radical House members at their own leaders for their fecklessness.

The wild promises that the “Young Guns” made played a key role (along with outside groups and money) in winning GOP House control in 2010, but they were alwaysutterly unrealistic — a minor detail that no one inside GOP leadership seemed to notice or care about at the time. One could argue that after 30 years of supply-side, trickle-down mumbo-jumbo they’d become completely adapted to living in fantasyland. How were they to know that this time they’d be getting their fair share of the resulting pain? (An early 2014 report concluded that “lurching from government breakdown to breakdown” had already significantly damaged the U.S. economy, resulting in an additional 750,000 unemployed.)

After that, Mann added:

Norm’s response underscores the reality of asymmetric polarization, which the mainstream media and most good government groups have avoided discussing — at great costs to the country. [Emphasis added.] As we wrote, Republicans have become more an insurgency than a major political party capable of governing. Their actions in Congress in recent weeks and on the presidential campaign trail underscore this reality.

But I would go even farther than Mann regarding the media. Their stubborn adherence to a false balance narrative has, ironically, become an integral part of the GOP’s relentless rightward push. By talking about “government dysfunction” instead of “Republican obstruction,” the media actively helps the most extreme anti-government Republicans thwart any efforts at competent governance and it helps promote their “government is horrible” worldview. It normalizes the abnormal, even the bizarre.

There was once a penalty for becoming too politically extreme: one’s actions would be characterized as unrealistic, destructive, heedless of past experience, etc. Sometimes this was justified, sometimes not (as with the Civil Rights movement). But right or wrong, this media practice inhibited radical movements in either direction. For quite some time now, however, conservative Republicans have realized that by moving right and attacking the media for any criticism, they can turn the media into a tacit ally, forcing them to treat preposterous claims as serious ideas, or even proven facts. Thus, when they were planning to force a government shutdown, a key part of their strategy was spinning the media with a preposterous argument that it was the Democrats who were shutting down the government, even though, as the New York Times reported, the shutdown plan traced back to a meeting early in President Obama’s second term, led by former Attorney General Edwin R. Meese.

In fact, at the time of the shutdown, in October 2013, I wrote a piece, “‘Balanced’ coverage ignores nine reasons why the shutdown is a GOP Idea” in which I argued:

[P]erhaps the single greatest asset the GOP has on its side is the so-called “liberal media,” with its ideological bias toward “balance” that prevents it from honestly reporting that the shutdown is a entirely Republican creation — which would dramatically intensify the pressure on Republicans to fold.

Far from producing accurate, objective reporting, the media’s adherence to “balanced” reporting blotted out almost all relevant history. The nine reasons I cited were:

1. The longstanding GOP fixation on shutting down the government.

2. The GOP’s creation of the shutdown crisis by blocking the budget reconciliation process.

3. The emergence and evolution of the incoherent Ted Cruz/Tea Party plan to force a shutdown over “Obamacare.”

4. The record of prominent Republican politicians and others who repeatedly warned against forcing a government shutdown — including many who are now trying to blame the Democrats.

5. The contrary historical record of some Republicans downplaying the severity of the shutdown.

6. The record of drastic Democratic budget concessions embodied in the “clean CR” [which Republicans rejected].

7. The polling evidence that only GOP base voters are opposed to political compromise — and are indifferent to crisis.

8. Evidence that GOP base intransigence drives policy.

9. The framework of American legislative history.

This was just one example, but the point is true in general: “Balance” does not ensure a clearer, more honest, more complete, more objective picture of the relevant facts — especially in current circumstances.

The GOP’s strategic logic is simple and straightforward: If the media is going to split the difference between what Democrats and Republicans say, then if Republicans simply double their demands, suddenly the media, embracing the “sensible center,” will now articulate the old GOP position as the “sensible center,” the “common sense” place to be. It will also adjust its reporting of “facts” accordingly, screening out all the facts that would once have made the Democratic position seem reasonable or plausible, and bringing in new “facts” — such as the GOP canard that it was really the Democrats who wanted to shut the government down. What’s more, once the media plays along, it’s a trick that can be used over and over again. One can keep moving farther and farther right indefinitely, pulling the “objective” media along for the ride, every step of the way. (Conservatives even developed an operational model to describe the process, known as the “Overton Window,” explained by a conservative activist here.)

The basis for all this is a cultural illusion that the “nonpartisan” media is somehow objective, philosophically in tune with science. But historically, this is far from true. Up until the late 19th century, American journalism was quite partisan, serving substantial “niche” audiences, sustained by subscriptions. When advertising exploded as a revenue source in the early 20th century, a new journalistic model emerged, trying to appeal across parties, while taking care not to anger large advertisers. The broader story is well told by Paul Starr in “The Creation of the Media,” while Jeremy Iggers incorporates this history into his account of how journalism ethics confuses the purposes of journalism in “Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest.”

One of the most persistent critics of the “balanced journalism” that results is James Fallows of the Atlantic magazine, in his ongoing “false equivalence” blog posts, begun in 2012. One such post, quoting from correspondent Shreeharsh Kelkar at MIT, references Starr’s work, along with the concept of “boundary work,” which Kelkar describes as “a kind of rhetorical work that is performed in public argument: something is asserted to be science by stressing what it is not.” He goes on to say:

I think this kind of boundary work exists in journalism too… it’s what you call false equivalence (and Yglesias calls bipartisan think). Here the newspaper is seen as above politics, which is what grubby politicians do.

Such is the basis for the media’s claims of “objectivity.” Starr’s history explains the forces leading to why this happened. And Kelkar goes on to note that these forces are changing once again, corresponding with another change in outlook:

Interestingly enough, we’re now back in more partisan times, thanks to the Web. And it’s interesting to me that you, Matt and others who call the editorials on their false equivalence operate in a completely different new media ecosystem.

The one thing missing from this account is that partisan, ideological and other niche journalism (black newspapers, for example) never went away, although they were pushed toward the margins. But they continued to play important cultural and political roles, especially for movements locked out of power, struggling to find their way in. In this very real historical sense, the blogosphere’s origins were not just Usenet, email lists and the like, they were also the underground press tracing back toIF Stone’s Weekly and George Seldes’ In Fact; the black press, both commercial and movement-based; political journals of the left and right; and so on. These underappreciated traditions provide largely untapped examples of how to do quality political journalism outside of the artificial construct in which false balance is rooted. They point the way forward for us, beyond our current state of asymmetrical dysfunction.

H/t: DB

Wall Street Journal Warns Republicans Are Greatest Threat To America’s Economy

Shut er down

POLITICUS USA

It is fairly well known that since Republican demigod Ronald Reagan was president, the GOP have concentrated on the one and only economic agenda that has proven to fail since its inception. Oh it is true that there are several other failed economic policies Republicans embrace besides just giving outrageously generous and unfunded tax cuts to the richest one percent, but oil subsidies, spending cuts, financial deregulation, poverty wages and allowing corporations to hide their trillions of dollars in profits are secondary in the extent of harm to the economy and Americans to the absurd trickle down scam. However, over the past six years Republicans have employed a novel means of wreaking economic havoc on the nation that typically has had nothing whatsoever to do with spending, debt and deficit, or growing the economy, and this year they are using religion to slow down job creation and thwart economic growth.

The world’s economists, like all Americans, have sat back and marveled at how Republicans in Congress have deliberately and repeatedly taken the country into fiscal deadline after fiscal deadline to force Democrats to bend to their will. Now, as another deadlines looms, a majority of economists responding to a Wall Street Journal survey predicted Republicans would once again damage the economy and world financial markets because evangelicals hate Roe v. Wade, contraception, and the incomprehensible idea of women making their own reproductive health choices that are contrary to evangelical and Catholic clergy.

According to a recent survey of 62 real economists by the Wall Street Journal, it is not the instability of China’s stock market, or its move to devalue its currency, or the Greek Eurozone crisis, or the possibility of the Federal Reserve finally raising interest rates. What frightens a great majority of the nation’s leading economic experts most of all is that the Republican-controlled Congress willprecipitate another fiscal crisis this fall” when Republicans plan to either shut down the government unless Planned Parenthood is destroyed, or hold the debt ceiling hostage until Planned Parenthood is destroyed. It is important to note that the push to put an end to Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with the economy, debt and deficit, national security, jobs, or economic growth; it is about legislating and enforcing an extremist religious policy.

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