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Tilting at Windmills

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January 19, 2011

WEDNESDAY'S MINI-REPORT.... Today's edition of quick hits:

* It seems hard to even imagine, but Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) will be released from the hospital this week, and will make the transition to Houston's Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, which specializes in helping people recuperate from brain injuries.

* Hu Jintao at the White House: "President Barack Obama pressed China on Wednesday to improve its human rights record and let its currency float freely, balancing a protocol-filled state welcome for Chinese President Hu Jintao with pointed messages on two key U.S. priorities."

* Tunisia: "Leaders of Tunisia's tiny legal opposition parties prepared a push to reshuffle the nascent unity government, scrambling Wednesday to appease public anger that at the cabinet's continued dominance by members of the ruling party of the ousted dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali."

* Afghanistan: "President Hamid Karzai ordered a month's delay in seating a new Parliament on Wednesday, heightening a constitutional crisis that threatens to fuel bitter infighting and potentially even violence among the country's rival factions."

* Unexpectedly, American manufacturing is creating more jobs than it's losing. It's the first time in more than a decade.

* I do love the White House White Board. The latest installment tackles the prospect of health care repeal.

* Over 100 leading law professors: "People can disagree about the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act, but there can be no serious doubt about the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision."

* Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) apologized for the whole "brothers and sisters" flap. Good move.

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can be a little careless with his rhetoric sometimes. Describing Hu Jintao as a "dictator" was probably not a good idea -- especially given that the two are scheduled to meet tomorrow.

* Trying to strip the political discourse of all martial metaphors, including casual references to candidates "in the crosshairs," is just a silly exercise.

* That said, the political discourse would benefit from officials refraining from making Goebbels-related arguments. Yes, that means you, Rep. Steve Cohen (D) of Tennessee.

* At first blush, Christina Romer's New York Times op-ed on deficit reduction seems misplaced. But the piece is cleverer than it might seem.

* It's worth remembering, from time to time, that claims from the right about Social Security's solvency just aren't true.

* The first ever attempt to look at college progression in terms of actual learning.

* How mind-numbing was the GOP rhetoric on the House floor today? Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) offers one of the dumber examples.

* Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), speaking from the floor: "You know, I want to just advise people watching at home playing that now popular drinking game of 'you take a shot whenever Republicans say something that's not true.' Please assign a designated driver. This is going to be a long afternoon." And it was.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Comments

Joseph Goebbels perfected the concept and practice of the Big Lie in the mid-20th century.

Why is it somehow not-ok to make the obvious connection between the Nazi Minister of Propaganda's favorite political tactic (besides murder, of course), and current GOP political strategy? Seems perfectly ok.

Godwin's Law seems increasingly inadequate in face of a GOP that looks more and more like the political descendent of the NSDAP. I applaud Cohen for calling them what they are.

Posted by: anon on January 19, 2011 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Amen, brother. Those reprobates got me so drunk I could barely walk to the fridge for more ... and I gotta work tomorrow. Boss will love this excuse: the Republicans got me too drunk, they just wouldn't stop!

Posted by: jsacto on January 19, 2011 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree that it's not necessarily helpful to compare your opponents to Goebbels, it must be frustrating when their entire line of attack is nothing but the Big Lie. For example, that Shimkus quote you linked to further down -- declaring that the country is "bankrupt" and it's all because of "entitlements," which is both blatantly false on its face, and even more dishonest beyond that, because he voted for the programs that are the actual cause of the current deficits.

Posted by: Redshift on January 19, 2011 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Joseph Goebbels perfected the concept and practice of the Big Lie in the mid-20th century.

Why is it somehow not-ok to make the obvious connection between the Nazi Minister of Propaganda's favorite political tactic (besides murder, of course), and current GOP political strategy? Seems perfectly ok.

Godwin's Law seems increasingly inadequate in face of a GOP that looks more and more like the political descendent of the NSDAP. I applaud Cohen for calling them what they are."

I agree. And I am a jew who normally cannot stand these types of comparisons.

Posted by: bonncaruso on January 19, 2011 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure Gov. Bentley really deserves any credit for his "apology." If you read it, it's almost as if the staff member who wrote it challenged himself or herself to pull every possible cliche from the non-apology-apology playbook!

Posted by: Andy on January 19, 2011 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of the House, missing in today's comments was mention of the Speaker of the House declining an invitation to the state dinner this evening. On the heels of declining a trip on Air Force One.

In the early days of Hollywood, film directors would park notorious drunkard W.C. Fields atop a tall wooden platform for the luncheon break, as insurance that the star would be sober enough to recite his lines during the afternoon filming.

-because he could not wait for the sun to sink below the yardarm to begin to imbibe his cocktails. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 19, 2011 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Bravo to Rep. Anthony Weiner for speaking the truth about the GOP's Kabuki Theater demonstration today regarding the ACA. One of my favorite moments was when a female Democrat asked anyone on the committee to explain how 30 million people could be insured without creating thousands of new jobs for nurses, physicians and in every other level of care when we face massive shortages in these occupations already. Dead silence. No one responded, and then the elephants marched on. What a farce.

Posted by: max on January 19, 2011 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Over 100 leading law professors: "People can disagree about the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act, but there can be no serious doubt about the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision."

I'm sure Scalia will prove up to the challenge.

Posted by: thorin-1 on January 19, 2011 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "... political discourse would benefit from officials refraining from making Goebbels-related arguments."

Political discourse would benefit from people telling the truth. And what Rep. Cohen said in the transcript that Steve linked to -- pointing out that Republican rhetoric about the ACA is a perfect example of Goebbels' "big lie" propaganda technique -- is exactly, precisely true:

"They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie. Just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like `blood libel.' That's the same kind of thing.

"The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it -- and you had the Holocaust. You tell the lie over and over again. And we heard it on this floor: Government takeover of health care. Politifact... said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover. It's insurance."

I'll tell you what would benefit the political discourse: if mealy-mouthed "sensible liberal" bloggers would stop vacuously blathering about the Republicans' "lack of intellectual seriousness" and start saying as directly and forthrightly as Rep. Cohen that the Republicans are deliberate, calculating, conscienceless liars.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 19, 2011 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), speaking from the floor: "You know, I want to just advise people watching at home playing that now popular drinking game of 'you take a shot whenever Republicans say something that's not true.' Please assign a designated driver."

Make sure that designated driver knows the way to the nearest hospital, because if anyone really did play that game, they'd surely be near death from alcohol poisoning!

Posted by: electrolite on January 19, 2011 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Okay: Republicans like SecularAnimist are deliberate, calculating, conscienceless liars.

Seriously, SecularAnimist, what the hell? You come in here and lie about the health care bill all the time.

Posted by: mcc on January 19, 2011 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, there WILL a be crisis regarding SS funding. It will commence the day those bonds are needed to pay out benefits.
THAT is what this whole "SS crisis" is all about - a reluctance on the Democrats' part and a complete refusal on the Republicans' to acknowledge that the funds have been spent and need to be paid back. Their repayment is also a large part of the ongoing "deficit" problem. Paying back $2-3 Trillion, even over two decades, will add a minimum of $150 billion to each years' budget.
Even if the economy roars into life, and remains there, the bonds will still need to be repaid just to cover the costs of us babyboomers as current SS income is nowhere near enough. Any sentient Republican (oxymoron?) realizes that NOT repaying the SS bonds will be looked on as a default and will almost certainly destroy the credit of the US. Which is why they are so in favor of raising the retirement age and cutting benefits - to reduce the pressure on repaying the bonds; at all if possible, as few as must be if necessary.
Some bonds will HAVE to be repaid, if only for appearances' sake; but, with increased retirement and decreased benefits, there will be the possiblity of using then-current income to pay most or all of then-current outgo.
Which is what got us into this mess originally...

Posted by: Doug on January 19, 2011 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

What we're seeing here in America is what the founding fathers warned us of, what I call factionalizing.

Read Madison's Federalist Paper #10 FMI.
http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 19, 2011 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

* It seems hard to even imagine, but Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) will be released from hospital this week, and will make the transition to Houston's Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, which specializes in helping people recuperate from brain injuries.

once we get past the 'how wonderful and amazing she's alive' phase, it'll be interesting to know if her position on gun control has changed at all (if she still has reasonable cognition)
.

Posted by: gak on January 19, 2011 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

mcc wrote: "You come in here and lie about the health care bill all the time."

Oh, really?

If you want to publicly accuse me of lying about the health care bill, it would be common decency on your part to give at least ONE example of a false statement that I have made about it.

If I "lie" about it "all the time" that should be very easy to do.

Just one, single example is all you need, out of all those "lies" that I tell "all the time".

I'm waiting.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 19, 2011 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Google search for site:washingtonmonthly.com secularanimist hcr

"It's the corporate-stooge Senate Democrats who have "screwed up" health care reform by turning it into corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations."

"So, really, maybe it's the corporate stooge Senate Democrats and Obama who are "with the Republicans" on passing "conservative" so-called "reform" "

"The ONLY REASON the individual mandate exists is to protect the profits of the for-profit insurance corporations at public expense. The individual mandate is what we got in return for the Democrats putting single-payer off the table from the start and then the Senate Democrats putting a public option off the table. What a sweet deal. Not. It's a Republican idea, it's an insurance corporation idea, it's a bad idea, and it represents a fundamentally WRONG direction for health care policy in the USA."

"[The Affordable Care Act] rejects, abandons and excludes ANY form of national public health insurance [mcc edit: see sec. 1334 here] and instead entrenches the for-profit insurance corporations as the permanent foundation of the USA's health care system"

Top four hits, I sorta lost track of the tab at that point. It seems to me (1) you are in no place to expect "common decency" from anyone, as you certainly are not voluntarily practicing such a thing yourself; and (2) you are not really in a place to complain about Republicans trying to tear down the health care bill, when you are speaking with identical words to them in many ways on that same bill..

Posted by: mcc on January 19, 2011 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

On the "Who Doesn't Learn" that has been widely reported, I think that it would be better for the press to wait until the book purporting the findings has been reviewed by peers.

There are several issues to be raised at the outset. First, which colleges were measured and why were they chosen? As to testing, there is no standard mandate for students to take achievement exams in college. What compelled participation in the project? Even though their are before and after measures, that in and of itself does not constitute a scientific study: one needs controls to compare the measurement group with the non measurement group. While there seems to be some controls for types of majors, those in and of themselves are week. First there are many majors, and second there are vast differences in curricula and emphases across institutions. And lastly, is there compelling evidence given by the researchers that the students measured in fact statistically align with the nation's student populations?

Until these facts have been investigated, this is not a scientific study whose validity may be applied to college students in general or education policy. It is merely pre-sales publicity.

Unfortunately, and I have witnessed several examples of this type of hype before, policy decisions get made or revisions to perfectly good programs get ram-rodded through even though the research did not meet the scientific minimums.

It happens in education, in economic development, in food and drug policy (notwithstanding FDA actions), and in infrastructure investments.

Posted by: Dave Swenson on January 19, 2011 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Following up on Dave Swenson's concerns (above), does the CLA actually measure what it claims to measure? How does it evaluate "critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills"?

Posted by: R on January 19, 2011 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

It's not often I disagree with Steve but the Cohen case is one. As anon and others argue above, we can hardly remove all/any references to Goebbels from our discourse without creating a gaping hole in the history of Europe last century and in the history and methodologies of propaganda.

Where Cohen went wrong was to bring in the Holocaust and Jews. And the reason that is inappropriate is, of course, the very significant differences in magnitude of the present case and the historical case.

And it's a pity he screwed up in that respect because it simply is the case that the Big Lie technique is being utilized by Republicans presently in the case Cohen refers to an many others. Further, no other voice has so succinctly stated the technique as Goebbel's stated it. But by his careless (in my estimation) allusion to the Holocaust element, he's drawn attention away from what he wished to place it on. And attention needs to be focused on the what these people are up to, quite knowingly.

In the more important aspect here, he's got it right.

Posted by: Bernie Latham on January 19, 2011 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait for some foreign leader to press the US to improve its human rights record. Hu has no room to talk, but many Europeans do.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 19, 2011 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Good Samaritan was just that, not a pre-Christian Jew but a heathen Samaritan. Yet the heathen Samaritan was able to show charity to a Jew. Pretty obviously he wasn’t a brother or otherwise related to Gov. Bentley.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on January 19, 2011 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

get this,

http://firedoglake.com/2011/01/18/new-washington-postabc-poll-americans-view-tea-party-less-favorably-than-russia-socialism/

Poll finds Tea Party is viewed favorably by 35% of Americans.

Same poll finds socialism is viewed favorably by 36% of Americans.

Two years ago it would have been half that number.

Thanks, Tea Baggers,

you are fucking geniuses!

No people on Earth but you idiots could have doubled the popularity of socialism in America in just two years, my hat is off to you!

Posted by: cld on January 19, 2011 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

After Colin Ferguson's shooting rampage in 1993 there was lots of talk about his being inflamed by violent black nationalist rhetoric, and some right-wing commentators like Pat Buchanan (as I recall from reading Sullivan) noted the prevalence of the rhetorical atmosphere etc. then, when it was "left-wing" agitation.

Posted by: neil b on January 19, 2011 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Cohen isn't backing down -- far from it. And he uses the same argument I was about to: a)it's true and, b) as a Jew he knows, perhaps, a bit more about the effects of the Big Lie relentlessly repeated, than does Beck, Limbaugh et al (who use the Big N word all the time)
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/steve-cohen-i-meant-what-i-said-about-gopers-and-nazis-lying.php

Posted by: exlibra on January 19, 2011 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

I hope PA will let me post twice in a row...

So the "prance and posture vote" is over and, naturally, it had passed as expected. But I find it somewhat satisfying that only 3 Dems voted with the Repubs. Just about a week ago, Boner and others were calculating there'd be a whole lot of them. They assumed that all the original 13, who'd voted against it to begin with, would vote for repeal, plus maybe some others they could sweet talk. At one point, they were even thinking they'd have enough to override a veto. But, not tonight, Josephine...

Posted by: exlibra on January 19, 2011 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Where Cohen went wrong was to bring in the Holocaust and Jews. And the reason that is inappropriate is, of course, the very significant differences in magnitude of the present case and the historical case."

Well... I don't know if I can say you're wrong here, but personally, I feel okay with Cohen making analogies to historical persecution of Jews in a way I do not feel comfortable with, say, Sarah Palin making analogies to historical persecution of Jews.

I mean, Steve Cohen especially.

Posted by: mcc on January 19, 2011 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

"A moderate" (not on your past postings, you're not), @22:21

If Cohen has called for extermination of any Repubs, directly or by innuendo, I must have missed it. So, yeah, I call BS on your false equivalency.

Posted by: exlibra on January 19, 2011 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

* "That said, the political discourse would benefit from officials refraining from making Goebbels-related arguments".

The "honorable opposition" types will bust your ass every time.

You've got a pronounced David Broder streak in your make-up, Benen.

Posted by: JW on January 19, 2011 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Those who remember their History---ante up.

Those who fail to remember their History---invoke Godwin.

I can honestly imagine Churchhill referring to this Godwin nonsense as "crocodile fodder...."

Posted by: S. Waybright on January 20, 2011 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

I concur with everyone else here who thinks the Joseph Goebbels comparisons are apt. These people only care that the propaganda worked then and its working now. Its important for someone, esp those in the media, to point out that these are LIES, instead of relying on a false sense of civility.

Posted by: John Henry on January 20, 2011 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

Repeal. Phase one complete.

So let me get this straight: A Democratic controlled House, Senate, and executive branch passes Government Healthcare and that is a historic event. One year later the House is lost in one of the largest landslide victories in almost 100 years, Obamacare is repealed in the house by a larger margin than it was passed and that isn't historic?!? Don't let reality get in the way of your perfectly planned talking points.

Posted by: Orwell on January 20, 2011 at 7:25 AM | PERMALINK

And what about the vote taken by GOP'ers on government health care for themselves?

Also Mr Cohen made a truthful comparison.

Posted by: joan on January 20, 2011 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

If you read Cohen's comment you realize his reference to Goebbels was apt. His Holocaust example might have been a little over the top. On the other hand there are other examples of Goebbels using the big lie, but only a few scholars remember them.

I get very tired of people insisting the Holocaust was a singular event. It wasn't. Other large groups of non-Jewish people have been murdered by their own governments. In the 20th century alone there were the Armenians in Turkey, the Ukranians in the Soviet Union, the Cambodians under Pol Pol and several other examples of genocide.

We are entitled, no, obligated, to examine the events that led to the Holocaust and to draw the appropriate lessons from those events. Joseph Goebbels propaganda techniques were a part of that history. When advertising professionals like Frank Luntz and Rush Limbaugh take charge of policy they use the techniques they know and the Big Lie is one of those techniques.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 20, 2011 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

Orwell has a point - and is it not sad that the tea baggers, funded by the health insurance companies and Koch brothers, and disgusting Dick Armey, not to mention the right wing supreme court and citizens united, used the tactics made clear by Mr Cohen to take the government away from the people,who pay taxes, and give it to the corporations, who pay republicans.

Posted by: js on January 20, 2011 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

Obamacare is repealed in the house by a larger margin than it was passed and that isn't historic?!?

That's right, it isn't, because repeal isn't going anywhere after that -- it likely won't even be considered by the Senate -- and everyone, even the Republicans whose water you carry, knows it.

Jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on January 20, 2011 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I�ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

Posted by: free crack adobe on January 20, 2011 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

That was really mean of Anthony Weiner, because of course it was so dead on hilarious! If the game were played all the time we would have alcoholism worse than Russia whenever R's (or D's) were on television.

Posted by: Trollop on January 20, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

President Barack Obama pressed China on Wednesday to improve its human rights record and let its currency float freely, balancing a protocol-filled state welcome for Chinese President Hu Jintao with pointed messages on two key U.S. priorities.

Obama didn't "press" anything. Please don't carry water for the corporate interests of the U.S., who don't care about human/civil rights one bit. They only care that the market with China remains open, human and civil rights be damned.

Obama shuffles the Dalai Lama out the backdoor of the White House while fetting Hu with a state dinner. The same Hu who refused to let the Nobel Peace Prize winner out of China to accept his medal.

Meanwhile, Apple factories in China are plagued with poor working conditions, low pay, and high rates of suicide. But that's OK, at least Americans are getting their awesome, swanky new iPads. Who cares that some poor person who made it may or may not have enough to eat?

Obama didn't "press" anything. He said that differences over human rights wouldn't preclude China/U.S. cooperation in other venues.

In other words, human rights is off the table.

Congrats, Obama. You are really earning that Peace Prize.

Posted by: Schlocky Balboa on January 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, your attitude toward Rep. Cohen's remarks is pure Broderism, and I'm glad to see most posters here disagree with you. No need to search desperately for words to describe the technique of Republican discourse the last 10 years. "The Big Lie" is exactly what it is, and one ought not shy away from telling that truth.

Ignoring how fascism took root in the Weimar Republic only makes it easier to sprout again.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on January 20, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

mcc wrote: "Top four hits, I sorta lost track of the tab at that point."

You posted four excerpts from comments I posted here regarding the ACA.

NOT ONE of those excerpts contained a "lie" -- not one of them contained even ONE false statement, either a deliberate falsehood (i.e. a lie) or an error.

(Your one citation to the language of the ACA as posted on Facebook does not contradict my statement that the ACA rejected and excluded any form of "national public health insurance".)

Yesterday, you claimed that I "come in here and lie about the health care bill all the time".

Asked to give even ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE of a "lie" that I posted here, you offered four quotes that contain no "lies" at all.

You falsely accuse me of lying.

You falsely accuse me of "speaking with identical words to" Republican opponents of the ACA, when in fact I have consistently criticized the ACA for the exact opposite reasons given by Republicans.

And then you complain that I am not behaving with common decency.

I am sorry if my harsh words about the Republican propaganda against the ACA have offended you.

But that's no reason to falsely accuse me of lying.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I read Bentley's "apology" and wondered why anyone would call it that. What he actually said is that he's sorry that anyone would feel offended, not for what he said. He has no problem with his statement and can't understand why anyone else would either. Or in other words, "if you feel offended, it's your problem, not mine."

It's a good thing that Jesus has different criteria for His brothers and sisters, or else Bentley would be an only child.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 20, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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