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Member since: Fri May 8, 2009, 12:59 AM
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Shutdown shrinks economists' optimism

Source: USA Today

Two weeks after Washington's latest showdown, more than half of economists surveyed by USA TODAY -- 56% -- are less optimistic about growth prospects than they were three months ago. The survey of 41 top economists was conducted Oct. 23-24.

What's more, repeated budget battles in Washington the past few years are having a cumulative effect. Sixty-three percent of the economists say the recurring standoffs are hurting the economy "some" or "a lot." The remainder cite "a little" damage.

"We're falling down a fiscal flight of stairs and we're bouncing from one step to the next, one crisis to the next," says Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida. Snaith is among the economists who have turned less optimistic, saying uncertainty among businesses could persist into next year and dampen capital spending.

* * *

They now expect the economy to grow at a tepid 2.1% annual rate in the fourth quarter and 2.6% in the first quarter, down from their median estimates three months ago of 2.6% and 2.8%, respectively.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/27/economists-survey-october/3194537/

While the corporate media devotes its time to repeating Republican talking points regarding immigration, the ACA, and rehabilitating Ted Cruz, little attention is paid to the continuing damage of the Republicans nihilistic urge to shutdown the government. Indeed, we have come close to shutdowns in the past, and the fact of the matter is that Republicans have been looking for an excuse to shutdown the government.

Huffington Post - "No Election Is Too Small For The Koch Brothers' Money"

I guess not only politicians, but now justice is on sale to the right wing billionaires.


WASHINGTON -- Outside interest groups spent at record levels in state-level judicial elections in the 2012 election cycle, according to a new report, reflecting a trend of increased spending on down-ballot races by political groups looking to control individual state agendas.

The report -- put together by Justice At Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute for Money in State Politics -- shows that independent groups spent $15.4 million on 2012 judicial elections, which helped drive a record $29.7 million in television advertising in those races. The spending by independent groups also represented a record 27 percent of all spending on judicial races.

Some of the big spenders in judicial elections in 2012 included recognizable names from national political movements, such as the billionaire Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association's Law Enforcement Alliance of America.

* * *
Michigan's judicial elections topped the list for spending in the 2012 campaign, with more than $13 million spent by the candidates, political parties and independent groups combined. Political parties were the dominant spenders in Michigan, where a 4-3 conservative majority on the state Supreme Court was at risk, but was ultimately maintained.

Salon - "Stop enabling the right: The media just makes dysfunction worse"

A nice article that notes how the MSM helps enable the extreme right to wreck havoc on our government and economy. Indeed, the heavy hand of the Koch brothers, as well as the ham fisted intimidation by groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation, which act as right wing enforcers who funnel millions in campaign contributions into elections is rarely mentioned in television news reports.


The study of logical and rhetorical fallacies dates back to the ancient Greeks, but for all that studying, we’re still overrun by them—and for understandable reasons. Most fallacies derive from valid rules-of-thumb that are deeply ingrained in our thinking, but are hastily applied, or taken to be conclusive, rather than a good starting point. There are cases when there are only two choices to be had—but not always. In that case, it’s the “false dilemma” or “false dichotomy” fallacy. It’s valid to note that cause precedes effect, and to look for causes accordingly, to take another example. But it’s the “rooster fallacy” (aka post hoc ergo proctor hoc) to assume that the rooster crowing caused the sun to rise. It’s the very utility of the underlying rules-of-thumb that makes fallacies so hard for us to shake.

Fallacies pop up all the time in the course of specific arguments, but the most broadly damaging ones can shape an entire realm of public discourse. Two such fallacies are at war in American politics today, and they’re making progress extremely hard to come by. They were at work in the recent government shutdown, and they haven’t gone anywhere in its aftermath, either.

Fallacy No. 1 is the false balance fallacy—also known as false compromise, argument to moderation (“argumentum ad temperantiam” in Latin), and the golden mean fallacy, among others. It is a major feature of our so-called serious politicians and media figures, who routinely position themselves in between “extremists on both sides.” It’s often the case that two people in an argument each miss something valid in each other’s point of view. So there’s a valid rule-of-thumb here in trying to see both sides. But it becomes a fallacy when this starting point becomes the end, particularly when balance or moderation becomes so important that it’s rigidly, even fanatically adhered to, and the clear preponderance of evidence is given no more weight than someone’s uninformed opinion. As Cenk Uygur put it, “If CNN did sports reporting, every game would be a tie.”

Fallacy No. 2 is the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Unlike most fallacies, it doesn’t derive from a valid rule-of-thumb, though it is connected to some more benign cognitive impulses. Typically, A says, “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.” B replies, “I am Scottish, and put sugar on my porridge.” A responds: “Ah, then you are not a true Scotsman.” This fallacy commonly involves attempts to preserve purity—as when Tea Party conservatives denounced those willing to compromise on shutting down the government as not being “true conservatives.” Appeals to purity can arise anywhere on the political spectrum, but for a variety of reasons they tend to be much more common on the right.

Salon - "Liberal pundit fail: Rush to attack Obamacare site only aids unhinged right"

How can 500,000 people suddenly disappear? Easy. Find a MSM story that actually leads with interviews of any of the thousands of people who have gained access to healthcare due to ACA. Heck, I know people who have managed to sign up for health care and through the website no less, but even more to the point, you can also just use the phone as well. But, looking at the coverage, you would think that the ACA was nothing more than a website.

Perhaps it is guilt after having to sort of acknowledge that Republicans are indeed suicidal that the media, even "liberal" pundits need to prove up the fair and balanced bonafides by making the obligatory remarks about the federal website just a few weeks after launch. But, you would think that one of the thousands who received access to health coverage might get some notice.


Don’t get me wrong: The problems with Healthcare.gov are real, and disturbing, and must be fixed asap. (Think Progress has a dispassionate assessment here.) But excuse me if I believe the president knows that without my telling him. It’s like watching the 21st century version of the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council, and I feel the way I did back then: On the one hand, yes, it’s important for Democrats to acknowledge when government screws up, and to fix it.

On the other hand, when liberals rush conscientiously to do that, they only encourage the completely unbalanced and unhinged coverage of whatever the problem may be.

It was predictable that the media would go nuts about this today, given that they’ve spent so much time having their noses rubbed in how insane the GOP has become, after trying so hard, for so long, to ignore it. It feels like a law of nature. Nature abhors a vacuum; media nature abhors a false-equivalence vacuum.

* * *
That seemed premature to me – even a disastrous website rollout can’t be a stand-in for the entire Affordable Care Act — but of course Lizza’s pronouncement was retweeted widely and for days. The Washington Post’s great Ezra Klein then picked up the cudgel, telling the crew at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where every Obama misstep foretells the end of his presidency, that the Health and Human Services Department is covering up a massive “management failure,” because they had enough pre-launch information to know there were going to be massive problems and neither adjusted their rollout plan or prepared the public.

WaPo - "The ‘Gotham Theory’ of the Republican Party"

This is a great little explanation of the motivations of the Tea Party, which is easy to understand for the closet comic book geeks out there. If it makes us all feel any better, it is because the Tea Party loves American so much that they need to destroy it so that we can start fresh. This helps explain why folks like Rep. Yoho (R) actively were cheering on a possible default as a good thing.


Amid the general malaise that has fallen on Republicans inside and outside Washington as the shutdown has lingered and public blame has fallen squarely on their party’s shoulders, an interesting theory has emerged in some quarters of the GOP.

The theory goes like this: The party can’t sustain itself in its current state. It needs to bottom out in order to begin rebuilding successfully. “Sometimes when a system is broken, it’s better to let it/push it to failure rather than prop it up and let it limp along,” explained Matt McDonald, a veteran of the several Republican presidential campaigns and now a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, a nonpartisan consulting firm. “That way you get to start fresh.”

We have taken to calling that line of thinking the “Gotham Theory” of politics. Here’s why (for you non-”Batman” aficionados): In “Batman Begins,” there is a character named Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) who heads a group set on destroying Gotham, allegedly for its own good. The theory is that Gotham has fallen too far to be saved and that the best thing that can be done for it in the long run is to hasten its demise.

* * *
This is not an entirely new theory as it relates to Republicans or to political parties more generally. (Heck, we wrote about it in the wake of the 2012 election.) But, it is drawing more and more traction of late as Republicans — particularly in the House — have pursued a now-failed strategy to link defunding or delaying Obamacare to funding the government. That strategy has led to record-low job approval numbers for the congressional GOP and increasing concerns that rather than beginning the rebranding effort that the Republican National Committee pushed earlier this year, the party has actually taken a step backward.

Rollingstone - "Republican Extremism and the Lessons of History"

This story does an excellent job of highlighting why we will continue to have crisis after crisis so long as you have big money right wing extremists able to dictate and supplant the traditional power brokers within the Republican party. It is not Boehner's fault, because the modern Republican party has evolved into a tool to be manipulated by the propaganda machine that it once thought it controlled.


How has a faction consisting of no more than four dozen House members come to exercise so much destructive power? The continuing abandonment of professional responsibilities by the nation's mainstream news sources – including most of the metropolitan daily newspapers and the television outlets, network and cable – has had a great deal to do with it. At some point over the past 40 years, the bedrock principle of journalistic objectivity became twisted into the craven idea of false equivalency, whereby blatant falsehoods get reported simply as one side of an argument and receive equal weight with the reported argument of the other side. There is no shortage of explanations for the press's abdication: intimidation at the rise of Fox News and other propaganda operations; a deep confusion about the difference between hard-won objectivity and a lazy, counterfeit neutrality; and the poisonous effects of the postmodern axiom that truth, especially in politics, is a relative thing, depending on your perspective in a tweet. Whatever the explanation, today's journalism has trashed the tradition of fearless, factual reporting pioneered by Walter Lippmann, Edward R. Murrow and Anthony Lewis.

A press devoted to searching for and reporting the truth, wherever it might lead, would have kept the public better informed of the basic details of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling showdowns. It also would have reported seriously the hard truths of the Tea Party "insurgency," including how it was largely created and has since been bankrolled by oil-and-gas moguls like David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, and by a panoply of richly endowed right-wing pressure groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Jim DeMint's Heritage Foundation. It also would have reported on the basic reason for the hard right's growing domination of the Republican Party, which has been the decay of the party at every level, including what passes for its party leadership. No figure exemplifies the problem better than the GOP's highest-ranking official, Speaker John Boehner, whose background and politics have largely escaped scrutiny.

* * *

As a matter of history, Boehner is the most pathetic figure ever to serve as speaker of the House. Questioned last month about why he let right-wing members of his caucus overrule his own crucial – and publicly announced – decision to keep Obamacare out of the budget negotiations, Boehner could only reply that there were many points of view inside the Republican caucus and that "the key to any leadership job is to listen." Henry Clay, who could not only listen but also speak eloquently, would scoff at Boehner's withered definition of leadership. Days into the shutdown, Boehner reportedly told colleagues that he would prevent a default – an uncommon show of firmness. But those reports also raised questions about how long he could command the loyalty of his caucus.

* * *
The current Republican Party is the latest angry exception to the rules of normal consensus-building politics, and it is unlikely that the GOP will function as a normal political party once again anytime soon. The GOP's long rightward march – deeply rooted in the revolt against the New Deal, headed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and accelerated by Newt Gingrich in the 1990s – depends upon the "cannibalism" that Gingrich came to lament; and that cannibalism has devoured, among many things, what had once been the party's strong "moderate" and even "liberal" wings. All that remains as a supposedly tempering force inside the GOP are Republicans so conservative that they cannot really be called tempering, and so inept and on the defensive that they cannot be called a force. If John Boehner is the last man standing against extremism in the party, there is really nothing to bar the door.

Rollingstone - "Inside the Republican Suicide Machine" - Awesome and Brutal

The mainstream media should take some notes on how journalism works, rather than simply pushing the lazy both sides are at fault false equivalency. This is a nice story of how the Republican establishment helped create a machine that they could not end up controlling, and which almost destroyed the country with folks clinging to a delusional ideology, funded by millions of untraceable money, crafted in the echo chamber of hate media.


With those words, Cruz fired the first shot in a civil war that has cleaved Republicans in both chambers of Congress – a struggle that threatens the legitimacy of the Grand Old Party and the stability of the global economy. The fight has little to do with policy, or even ideology. It pits the party's conservative establishment against an extremist insurgency in a battle over strategy, tactics and, ultimately, control of the party. Each side surveys the other with distrust, even contempt. The establishment believes the insurgents' tactics are suicidal; the insurgents believe the establishment lacks the courage of its alleged convictions – while its own members are so convinced of their righteousness that they compare themselves to civil rights heroes like Rosa Parks. The establishment is backed by powerful business concerns with a vested interest in a functioning government. The insurgents are championed by wealthy ideologues who simply seek to tear down government. Both sides are steeled by millions in unregulated, untraceable "dark money."

Having backed the GOP into a shutdown fight that congressional leaders never wanted, the insurgents are winning, and establishment leaders are running scared. America is now careening toward a catastrophic voluntary default on our debt because no one in the Republican Party with the authority to put on the brakes has the guts to apply them, for fear of being toppled from power.

"I've never seen anything like it, and neither has anybody else around here," says the House's eldest statesman, 87-year-old John Dingell, who has represented Michigan since 1955. "It's a grave misfortune for the country."

When Republicans took control of the House in 2011 – fueled by the passion of the Tea Party and the virtually unlimited funding of donors like the Koch brothers – casual observers of American politics saw a House GOP united in the politics of the extreme right. But inside the Capitol, the story was more complicated. The leadership that the Tea Party had vaulted to power – Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor – were members of the GOP's tainted old guard. Although divided by a generation and by an often fierce political rivalry, both Boehner and Cantor abetted the budget-busting "compassionate conservatism" of Karl Rove. Cantor rubber-stamped the "Bridge to Nowhere"; Boehner was a frequent flier on corporate jets. They teamed up to steer the passage of TARP in the face of fierce opposition from grassroots conservatives – a moment that Tea Party leaders cite as the birth of their insurgency.

Rolling Stone - "Six Stories of Obamacare Already Making a Difference"

The MSM is somehow managing to ignore the thousands of people who have been able to obtain coverage as a result of the ACA. I happen to know people who have managed to sign up for coverage after having been denied due to pre-existing conditions, yet somehow the cable networks are incapable of finding any of the thousands of people have been able to enroll for the ACA.


Obamacare is a disaster! It's the worst thing to happen to the country since slavery! It will rape the future of our young people! It will cause wives to leave husbands and husbands to marry their dogs! OK, I made up the dog part – but all the others are, sadly, 100 percent real statements made by right-wing extremists in the last few weeks.

But despite the hand-wringing and rumor-mongering, and despite some gleefully reported website glitches, around 45,000 people across the country have already enrolled in the insurance program set up by the Affordable Care Act, with the actual enrollment deadline still almost two months away.

For those who have enrolled, many of whom were previously uninsured or were hit with massive co-pays, Obamacare is a total success. Here are just a few of their stories:

Phil Sherburne and Leia Bell
This Utah family will pay just $123 a month to cover their family of five, despite a shoulder issue that had left Sherburne unable to get insurance before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. According to Sherburne (who is also a small business owner), the multiple efforts it took to get onto the federal exchange website were well worth it. "It's a great deal. I'm thrilled to have coverage, period," he said to the Salt Lake Tribune. "Once I got onto the site it took about an hour, start to finish."

Raul Labrador (R): Budget battle hurts immigration push

Source: Politico

Rep. Raul Labrador, a key Republican supporter of immigration reform, said he doesn’t expect the House will try to find common ground with the Senate on a comprehensive overhaul after feeling burned by the budget battle.

“Absolutely not,” Labrador (R-Idaho) said at a conservative panel on Wednesday. “If the president is going to show the same kind of good faith effort that he’s shown in the last couple of weeks, I think it would be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with him on immigration.”

Labrador, who was at one time part of a bipartisan group in the House trying to strike a deal on immigration, said the way the continuing resolution and debt ceiling fights have shaken out prove Republicans shouldn’t take up the issue.

“I think what [President Barack Obama] has done over the last two and half weeks, he’s trying to destroy the Republican Party and I think that anything we negotiate right now with the president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind, which is to destroy the Republican Party and not to get good policies.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/raul-labrador-budget-immigration-reform-98404.html

So there you have it. House Republicans are now going to refuse to negotiate over a bipartisan Senate bill that was co-sponsored by Rick Rubio of all people, because it would give President Obama another win, and they just aren't going to let him win another battle.

HuffPo - "The Shutdown's Radical Birther Streak That the Press Can No Longer Ignore"

Nice article that talks about how the MSM politely ignores the over birther fantasies of many Tea Party Republicans.


The extraordinary shutdown maneuver, based upon unprecedented demands, only begins to make sense when the truly extremist nature of the GOP'S activist base is taken into account. It's a rabid base where blowing through the nation's debt ceiling, and plunging the global economy into chaos, is considered a justifiable consequence to brinkmanship. Yet at the same time, it's a group where loud voices claim Obama can be impeached for defaulting on the national debt -- and for raising the debt limit.

And it's a base that still clings to the dark fantasy that Obama's an African-born impostor who's ineligible to be president or to command the U.S. military. And yes, Republican members of Congress still push that nonsense; House Republicans who fueled the futile shutdown. (i.e. "There's no question President Obama's hiding something on his citizenship."

Amidst the avalanche of news coverage and commentary about the shutdown, the birther strain that runs through important parts of the Republican Party remains essentially off limits for Beltway reporters and pundits. That's a mistake. I'm not suggesting it's the dominant story of the day or that it requires constant attention. (Or that birtherism afflicts Senate Republicans.) But it remains a pivotal flash point that provides crucial context for trying to understand the completely unprecedented nature of the current crisis and the mindset fostering it.

The media's birther blind spot is part of the larger press problem in its failure to grasp, and accurately detail, the truly radical nature of the procedural sabotage that Republicans are engaging in; the plotted chaos and dysfunction that's being employed in hopes of halting Obama's second term. (A second term that couldn't be stopped at the ballot box.)
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