Catching up

"Just the facts, ma'am."

I was trying to catch up with what I missed while I was in the coma and I discovered one of Bob Somerby’s best posts EVER:

“How can voters be so ill informed?” Throughout this column, Krugman points to the disinformation which comes from “politicians”—especially conservative pols. This is part of the explanation for the public’s ignorance, of course. But many other major sectors have helped create this, our own private Egypt.

Consider a remarkable event from just a few weeks ago—an event which has been widely discussed, by only by liberal writers.

Hay-yo! Mike Stark, a liberal activist, somehow got through on the telephone line to speak to El Rushbo, Rush Limbaugh. Operating from a slightly muddled basic framework, Stark challenged some of the basic ways Ronald Reagan is described by conservatives. This is the way the chat began. For the full transcript and tape, just click here:

STARK (2/4/11): Hi, Rush. I, um—I’m calling because— Well, first of all, I’m a liberal, and I seriously don’t understand this, uh, Reagan idolatry on behalf of conservatives. I’ll get, I’ll give you my reasons. Instead of privatizing Social Security, he raised taxes. We’re all paying higher taxes today out of our paychecks every single week because he decided to save Social Security. He–

LIMBAUGH: Wait, wait. Hold it. I need to go— Wait! Jeez.

STARK: –the Greenspan Commission. He signed it into law, and it raised taxes on Social Security.

LIMBAUGH: What— Wait, you’re talking about Reagan or Clinton?

STARK: I’m talking about Reagan. Reagan did that. He raised taxes on Social Security.

“Reagan raised taxes on Social Security,” Stark accurately said. He did this through “the Greenspan commission,” whose proposals he “signed into law.” As a matter of basic American history, these statements are about as controversial as saying that Reagan was governor of California, or that his wife was named Nancy. But Limbaugh, a very important broadcaster, quickly began deceiving his listeners, the vast bulk of whom are American citizens and registered voters.

Moments later, still speaking with Stark, Limbaugh was handing them this:

LIMBAUGH: Where did you get this silly notion that Reagan raised taxes on Social Security? What websites do you read? Where did you pick that up?

STARK: Look up the Greenspan Commission. It’s not too hard to find. I mean, it’s a matter of history.

LIMBAUGH: Where did you get it? I mean, you’re asking me questions. I’m just reversing one on you here.

STARK: I’m sorry. It’s just general knowledge. It’s something I’ve known for a long time. I can’t remember where I got it from.

LIMBAUGH: You can’t remember? You’ve never heard of a website called Media Matters which highlighted it yesterday?

STARK: Oh, no. I know Media Matters very well but that’s not where I got it.

LIMBAUGH: Oh, not where you got it. It’s an amazing coincidence.

“Where did you get this silly notion that Reagan raised taxes on Social Security?” Having asked this remarkable question, Limbaugh instantly shifted ground, getting Stark to discuss a demonized web site, Media Matters.

Eventually, Limbaugh backtracked from that remarkable opening statement. Stark was no longer on the line when Limbaugh offered this silly, fleeting account of Reagan’s actions on Social Security:

LIMBAUGH: Reagan was forced to raise payroll taxes by a crisis in Social Security in 1983. He endorsed that rescue plan that was written by Alan Greenspan. It was reluctant. He was not a big supporter of that. Remember, Reagan did not have a congressional majority with him.

“Reagan was forced to raise payroll taxes,” Limbaugh now said, acknowledging the accuracy of the statement he had first called a “silly notion.” He didn’t even attempt to explain why he said Reagan was “forced” to do this—but this claim was basically nonsense too. (To read President Reagan’s effusive remarks at the 1983 bill-signing ceremony, see below.) And alas! This fleeting admission came late in a monologue about how people like Stark can’t be reasoned with! Limbaugh, to the now-absent Stark: “Your call is actually kinda interesting because you represent the impossibility of bridging the gap. Somebody like you just has to be defeated. There’s no crossing the aisle and finding common ground with you.”

Limbaugh isn’t a politician—he’s a very important national broadcaster with an extremely large audience. On a daily basis, he deceives millions of voters in just the way he did here. Why do people continue to trust him, in the way described by conservative writer Conor Friedersdorf a few weeks ago? In part, to borrow Friedersdorf’s language, because “they don’t realize that [the nation’s radio stations] puts this man on the air fully understanding that large parts of his program are uninformed nonsense mixed with brazen bullshit” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/9/11).

Friedersdorf was explaining why voters trust Glenn Beck—but his explanation extends to Limbaugh. That said, why don’t voters know or understand that Limbaugh is constantly deceiving them? In large part, this is the fault of other major sectors—including the mainstream press and the bulk of the “liberal” world.

Limbaugh’s statements to Stark were truly remarkable. He started by denouncing an obvious statement of fact as a “silly notion.” Later, he fleetingly backtracked, while presenting a blatantly silly notion of his own—the idea that Reagan was somehow “forced” to sign that 1983 Social Security measure. At a time when the nation is struggling hard to find solutions to budget problems, it’s news when a major figure like Limbaugh presents such nonsense to millions of voters. That’s especially true in the face of what Krugman notes today—in the face of the fact that the public has no earthly idea how the federal budget actually works.

An eighth-grade civics text can tell you—a democracy simply can’t function this way! But down through the years, the nation’s mainstream press organs have given wide berth to frauds like Limbaugh. And these same mainstream organs are very reluctant to report and discuss the facts touched on in Krugman’s piece—to report the fact that we the people are cluelesss about our own government. Meanwhile, the weak-willed boys and girls of our “liberal journals” have sat on the sidelines politely observing. Can you name the liberal journal which has ever criticized the mainstream press corps for its determined silence on these matters?

Can we talk? Limbaugh operates within a consensual code of silence agreed to by all major sectors. That helps explain how we’ve come to live in our own private laughable gong-show.

In a rational world, what would liberal and progressive entities do to tackle these various problems? Several suggestions:

First, we would look for ways to tell the public that they’re being disinformed. To state the obvious, this can’t be done in the clownish manner adopted by public clowns like Keith Olbermann. Progressives have to find ways to gain the trust of the broad range of average voters. This idea never occurs to most major “liberals,” a point we’ll discuss tomorrow as we look at some recent blog posts.

Second, we would insist that major mainstream organs discuss these matters as news. In a democracy, it’s news when the public doesn’t know squat from squadoodle about basic budget matters; it ought to widely reported as such. It’s news when people like Limbaugh conduct such clownish discussions.

How might progressive organs gain the trust of a wide range of voters? Of one thing you can be certain—you will never be asked to consider such questions on the pseudo-liberal web. We pseudo-liberals have turned out to be little better than the ditto-heads we’ve always mocked.

We live to mock The Other Tribe. One result? Our own private gong-show.

“Democracy” is just a word in this country, so clownish is our public discourse. By now, much of the clowning comes from our own side. Tomorrow, a further note on this incomparable post.

You may have noticed that I don’t ever get my panties in a bunch over Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. That’s because they are clowns. Yes, I said it. They are clowns.

They caper and dance, performing for the amusement of their fans. They are entertainers, not leaders. They are not role models. Nor are they the problem with our country.

The problem with our nation today is not that Beck and Limbaugh spread lies and misinformation. The problem is there is no one on the opposite side spreading truth and facts. In the marketplace of ideas they have a virtual monopoly.

During the health care reform “debate” there was a dearth of information available. Information like this:

Total spending on health care, per person, 2007:
United States: $7290
France: $3601
United Kingdom: $2992
Italy: $2686

How can we make smart choices when we lack such basic information?

Now I understand why Beck, Limbaugh and the rest of the wingnut chorus fail to tell us the truth. I don’t take it personal or worry about that.

But why aren’t there more voices on the left speaking up and telling the truth?

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72 Responses to Catching up

  1. myiq2xu says:

    Is “Obamacare” disparaging?

  2. Mimi says:

    The problem is that there are enormous numbers of people who actually agree with the Republicans whether the Republicans feed them horseshit or not. They want budgets cut, school teacher fired, the sick and elderly to die, etc. There is a creeping “I am miserable so I want everyone else as bad off as I am” mentality sweeping the nation. Hope and change has turned into misery and funk.

    • myiq2xu says:

      I don’t believe that.

      People want good schools and want our elderly taken care of. They don’t want anyone to starve, they want good roads and bridges that don’t fall down. By and large the voters LIKE good government. But many of them are convinced they are paying too much for too little.

      Reagan promised to cut taxes AND government. But he only cut taxes.

      • insanelysane says:

        Reagan became a hero to them when he busted the Air Traffic union.

      • 1539days says:

        I just think it’s funny that the progs who try to poison Reagan for conservatives don’t realize what it means to them. Reagan was an FDR Democrat for years. This is the FDR who was against public sector unions, fought a war which killed hundreds of thousands and spent money until the national debt was over 100% of GDP. The prog bloggers should love Reagan.

        Tea Party conservatives are not Reaganites, even if they say they are. this is a difference between Reagan Moral Majority conservatism and Barry Goldwater libertarian conservatism.

        • Mary says:

          Ironically, some “progs” spout talking points heard from Ed or Rachel or Tweety (incorrect ones) just as much as they accuse Beck or O’Reilly’s listeners of spouting talking points.

          Two different sides of same coin.

      • Lola-at-Large says:

        It’s not just that they are convinced that they are getting too little for too much, it’s also that they see quite plainly how the Washington elite uses their money for corrupt ends. They want some control back over how that money is spent.

  3. votermom says:

    There is a real niche opportunity is truth telling.
    Nobody is providing it and everybody is starved for it.

  4. insanelysane says:

    There are a few truth tellers on our side.
    Al Frankin is one and his book Lies and the Lying Liars was a start. I am hoping once he finishes his freshman term he will become a lion in the Senate with a really big roar.
    Jon Stewart is another who speaks the truth in ways we can understand.
    It takes courage and support.
    Most liberals have neither.

    • DeniseVB says:

      It’s why Air America failed. Even in my rabid liberal days, the ranting and whining grew tiresome.

      What I see now is a lot of profit keeping liberals “angry”, not informed. Both Stewart and Franken have done very well in that market, as is Rush and Beck on the RW side. Surely, there’s something in the middle that’s not only informative, but fun too 😉 So far, all I’ve found is Cspan 😀

  5. Nijma says:

    Welcome back to the land of the living.

    I recommend chicken soup–with lots of garlic to keep the vampires away. Seriously. Garlic has healing properties that Big Pharm is not motivated to tell you about.

    BTW, I hear there is a huge email campaign with holocaust images. I haven’t seem them myself, but my right-ish wing family members who sent me pictures of illegals crossing the Mexican border and drinking out of animal reservoirs with snarky captions about leaving trash on the ground are now having nightmares over the holocaust photos. Response to the Egypt thing, I presume.

  6. Nijma says:

    Oh crap, are my comments still going in the spam filter?

  7. ralphb says:

    Unions have to make concessions

    No one likes to lose benefits. We all want what was promised years ago. However, it is simply not going to happen. As long as these budget deficits are staring taxpayers in the eye, unions are putting themselves in a difficult situation by thinking they will not have to give something back.

    Otherwise, union workers will end up like the police and firefighters in Camden, N.J.; playing hardball, only to see a mayor slash their jobs and leave half of the cops with no jobs, no health care and limited future choices.

    Really not happy about agreeing with Roland Martin. This article seems well reasoned though and he isn’t calling anyone names.

  8. ralphb says:


    Meanwhile, what about Maddow’s claim — also repeated across the liberal blogosphere — that Walker’s tax-cut bills approved in January are responsible for the $137 million deficit?

    Lang’s fiscal bureau report and news accounts addressed that issue as well.

    The tax cuts will cost the state a projected $140 million in tax revenue — but not until the next two-year budget, from July 2011 to June 2013. The cuts are not even in effect yet, so they cannot be part of the current problem.

    Here’s the bottom line:

    There is fierce debate over the approach Walker took to address the short-term budget deficit. But there should be no debate on whether or not there is a shortfall. While not historically large, the shortfall in the current budget needed to be addressed in some fashion. Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it.

    We rate Maddow’s take False.

    so much for the Governor causing the problem before he could solve it.

    • jjmtacoma says:

      It would be nice if the “progressives” would be honest about things and not just parrot feel-good “we are so stinking superior” type rhetoric. This is a case in point of Somerby’s post.

      • ralphb says:

        The Right has their share of BS propaganda, like this jewel, which conveniently leaves out payroll taxes and fees paid by the non 1 percenters.

        In fact, according to the IRS, which collects such data, the share of income taxes paid by the richest 1 percent almost equals the share of income taxes paid by the bottom 95 percent. Today, roughly a third of those who file a tax return don’t pay any federal income tax at all, or get more in refundable tax credits than they pay in taxes.

      • jjmtacoma says:

        Oh for sure – the right is where the “obama is a socialist” bull shit comes from. I just wish the “other side” was a better example of doing it the honest/right way.

    • Mary says:

      Wow…..the so called Rhodes Scholar didn’t check her manipulative facts.

      Not the first time, according to Somerby. He rants all the time about her manipulations.

      Whip the crowd into a frenzy, without correct info. Ugh.

    • okasha skatsi says:

      Oh. So if this is true, he’s “only” guilty of passing a huge tax cut for his kleptocrat tcronies, knowing that he’s making an already large deficit worse–and still trying to make up the difference by robbing the working class. Ah, gee. That’s so much better. Gotta make the Koch Brother’s shrivelled little miser hearts go pitty-pat.

      Actually, this two-year cycle two-step sounds a lot like what the Repugs did here in Texas, with the result that they’ve well and truly busted the state budget.

      • ralphb says:

        People should stop peddling what is obviously crap to anyone who thinks about it. It’s an impossibility for him to have created the deficit this time, yet that’s the cry of the Left.

        Why would anyone pay attention to anything else, like that Koch Brothers junk, when it comes from the same place as the first obvious BS propaganda.

        One side or the other should try a little truth for a change, they might be worthy of respect.

        • jjmtacoma says:

          yes, dealing in half truths is just as bad.

          If they (the so-called “progressives”) had used just a couple more words to say Wisconsin already has a deficit that will have to be fixed and Walker is handing out money that will put the state in similar footing next year… Then they would have been stating facts and wouldn’t have to walk it back when they get caught.

        • okasha skatsi says:

          Perhaps you should explain why you think that knowingly worsening a severe deficit for the benefit of Walker’s cronies is somehow less reprehensible than creating it. Whichever version of this story turns out to be correct, Walker is at the very least irresponsible and clearly bent on union-busting.

          As for the Koch Brother” contributions, directly to Walker’s campaign and indirectly through the Republican Governor’s Association, they’re on record just like everyone else’s..

        • ralphb says:

          Perhaps you should just tell the truth and stop defending the original statement.

          I don’t have the faintest clue what Walker is responsible for and I don’t know his motives. Neither do the people making this shit up as they go along.

        • okasha skatsi says:

          I’m not defending the original statement. I’m pointing out that even if the Truth-O-Meter is correct, Walker is in large part responsible for his state’s ongoing budget shortfall, whether we’re talking about its current condition or the fiscal biennium that begins in July.

          The people “who are making this shit up as they go along,” by the way, include Wisconsin’s own budget office–which is why I want some corroboration before I accept the TOM’s version as gospel.

  9. Pingback: Hey, Wisconsin Public Servants – « Cailleach

  10. Mr. Mike says:

    I had a problem finishing reading that quote from Bob Somerby.
    Not that there is anything wrong with what he says but because he is a Cassandra, nobody in the media he criticizes listens. They are paid to deliver the news their corporate masters want us to hear and they do that job well.
    I mean, who would want to give up a shot at a house on Nantucket, living with the other media swells that sold their souls for thirty pieces of silver?

    Oh, they’ll send him whiny emails from time to time but the won’t change their ways. (He told me that but he wouldn’t divulge who it was).

    I’m waiting for Bob and Joe Cannon to hook up, that would be interesting.

  11. Pacific John says:

    And yet, despite an unprecedented torrent of propaganda, more than half of DP voters – skewed heavily toward the working class at that – figured it out for themselves.

    This is clearly a case of the people being far better than the elite institutions that claim to represent them… and that’s saying something since I have a higher opinion of my dog than I do of most people 😉

    If we really want a case of elite institutional malpractice, that would be sending people to die in Iraq with 70% of the country thinking the regime was directly responsible for 9/11. But even there, effectively, we had two parties on the same side, opposed to the truth only in varying degrees. An old campaign buddy of mine who was on Congressional staff at the time took the party line, literally, that it would all be over in a few weeks, and he could go back to pummeling Bush on the economy and domestic issues in plenty of time for the next election, just like they did with GHWB.

    • myiq2xu says:

      When we need to raise taxes and the range of public discourse goes from “cut taxes” to “do nothing” the chances of a tax increase are nil.

      • ralphb says:

        Yep and the range of public discourse is shrinking not expanding.

        Frankly, without cutting the crap out of Defense and increasing the funding stream for Social Security and Medicare, we’re probably budget doomed. That’s mainly true of Medicare but wth. Everything else is a sham of one size or other.

        • 1539days says:

          Now that the Republicans are in charge, every Democrat is crawling out of the woodwork to claim defense is bad and tax the rich. Well, if that was the right thing to do, why didn’t they do it WHEN THEY HAD A FREAKIN FILIBUSTER PROOF MAJORITY?

        • okasha skatsi says:

          Because Obama is in all but name a conservative Republican who has dragged the whole party rightward. Many of us liberals left on May 31, 2008, remember?

        • 1539days says:

          That’s why he vetoed all that good Democratic legistaion for 2 years then.

        • okasha skatsi says:

          The rightward drift of the party and the floor leadership’s loyalty to BO is why “that good Democratic legislation” never got out of committee.

  12. myiq2xu says:

    There is something special and unique about a blog that can post these words on its front page:

    Tunch’s anal glands are fine.

  13. myiq2xu says:

    She’s a real bitch:

    For more than 20 years, candidates running for office in the Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association in Annandale have stood, waved and received polite applause at the annual meeting in June. Everyone votes, eats ice cream, chats with neighbors and goes home.

    This past election, to make the meeting move faster, only the names and qualifications of the candidates were announced. Running for president, Ms. Beatha Lee was described as a relatively new resident, interested in neighborhood activities and the outdoors, and who had experience in Maine overseeing an estate of 26 acres.

    Though unfamiliar with Lee’s name, the crowd of about 50 raised their hands, assuming that the candidate was a civic-minded newcomer. These days, it’s hard to get anyone to volunteer to devote the time needed to serve as an officer. The slate that Lee headed was unanimously elected. Everyone ate ice cream, watched a karate demonstration and went home.

    Only weeks later did many discover that their new president was, in fact, a dog.

    Ms. Beatha Lee is a shaggy, dirty-white Wheaten terrier.

    • insanelysane says:

      Honestly, I have a real hard time finding fault with any dog, so, I bet Ms Beatha Lee will do a fine job in her new post. Terriers are tenacious.

      I wish her the best.

  14. ralphb says:

    Texas Sparkle “A Week With My Father”

    At the very root of the problems in the African American community is fatherless homes. A child needs a father. I think we can see in the inner city what happens when a father is not there. A child finds itself lost. To repair the black family it is essential that we bring fathers back into the home.

    The question has always been, how do we do that? If the first black President speaking about it doesn’t have an effect, what then? The truth is that the ones who needed to hear the President’s words, didn’t listen. The ones in the inner city are mired in drugs, prison, despair, and hopelessness. They can’t relate to a Harvard educated wealthy black man. This is no reflection on Obama. His words about fathers have been perfect. It’s just not reaching those who need to hear them, because they are just trying to survive, and are lost.

    I think I have found the way to reach them. A black gentleman named Giacomo Knox got in touch with me about a web series he produced called, “A Week With My Father.”

    This is something that seems worthwhile in a big way.

    • “At the very root of the problems in the African American community is fatherless homes. A child needs a father. I think we can see in the inner city what happens when a father is not there.”

      That’s seriously sexist. A bad father is worse than none at all. A single mom may be much better than a father who has to be told to come home. No father and two moms may be better. Two moms and a grandmother may be best of all.

      • myiq2xu says:

        Fathers are not optional.

        What is sexist is to treat fathers like they are expendable.

        • 1539days says:

          This is one of those things the term “politically incorrect” was created for.

          Yes, it is possible for a single mom to raise kids and have them turn out all right. But it happens less often statistically and the single moms often have to work their asses off 20 hours a day to do it.

          In this case, the author is talking about men who left before they could even prove themselves to be bad fathers. That alone could make them bad fathers. It could also make them irresponsible kids who will regret that action 20-30 years later. That still doesn’t mean they would not have been beneficial to the family.

        • WMCB says:

          True. And I say that as someone raised by a single mother, who did a fabulous job.

      • okasha skatsi says:

        Two fathers works pretty well, too.

        There was a major study on parenting a few years ago–anent the controversy over gay couples either having or adopting children–that showed that kids do best when they have two parents, regardless of the gender configuration of the family. For hetersexuals, of course, that means a mother and a father present and available. There’s always the caveat that kids are better off with one parent than with two if one is negligent or abusive.

    • Honora says:

      The problem with using Obama as an example of how important fathers are, is that he was raised ‘fatherless’ and became president. In fact, many of our presidents (Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford come to mind) were not raised by their fathers due to death.

      I totally agree that having two parent households are the ‘best’ and having both parents involved in their children’s upbringing is the ideal, but reality is what it is. My dad died when I was 8 and my mother raised four kids under the age of 12 after that and did a wonderful job, as is evidenced by me!! 😉

      I think that fathers provide an important role in both their sons and daughters development, but we can not force men to engage in their children’s lives. I think the best society can do is support at risk children, who are at risk for whatever reason.

  15. They’ve always got to put down the clowns.

  16. sandress says:

    Meh. I don’t think it’s a lack of truth-telling on either side that’s the problem. I think it’s the lack of demand. A pretty sizable proportion of the public either doesn’t care or doesn’t know how to tell the difference between truth and bullshit.

  17. A simpler example of untruth is any talk about Social Security that doesn’t explain that SS pays its own way with FICA taxes, and has a trust fund for fluctuations which is earning large amounts of interest.

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