Older and still dumb.

Barely two years later, I’m still amazed by a few things about the financial crisis of 2008. It doesn’t help that it was a complicated mess, and we have propagandists using it for their own ends, and yeesh that midterm election, but they boil down to this:

1) Most Americans have no idea how close to the cliff we came, and
2) How much of the bailout money has been paid back, and
3) What life would be like in this country without it.

Every so often when I’m on Facebook, I drop in on my former Indiana congressman, who has discovered the joys of social networking. I don’t dare friend him — it’s not him, it’s his commenters — but he’s capable of insight here and there, and it was fascinating, earlier this week, to see him trying to school his talk radio-listenin’ former constituents on just how essential TARP was. This being a Facebook thread, it’s pretty incoherent taken a piece at a time, but it would seem Mark Souder, bless his wicked little heart, gets it:

One of his friends says: Who touted the $700 billion? Obama and his “the sky is falling” GOP whimp friends. Members of Congress have no idea of what things cost when they pass bills like this. Don’t revise history.

Souder replies: I’m sorry to be aggressive on this but we absolutely do know. For example, National City Bank (number one at the time in our area) was toast and would have taken down much of our area’s businesses. We were getting a call a day of businesses having their loans foreclosed. Instead of a bank run, the govt floated cash and forced a merger. …It was incredibly scary. I got phone calls and e-mails at all hours of the day. It was Its A Wonderful Life on all fronts. …Stop acting like everyone in Congress is stupid. Too many liberals but most knew exactly what we were doing. The Republican members kicked all staff, including leadership staff, out of the room and argued for four and one-half hours. Business majors were furious at all the lawyers – bluntly said – who were clueless. But, unfortunately, many who knew better just told you what you wanted to hear. EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of Congress knew that 700 billion was a credit card limit, not the actual spent. It was useful for political purposes to smear the Democrats by acting like 700 billion was spent – unless you wanted to have to defend yourself, like I did, to the Tea Party groups.

“It was useful for political purposes to smear the Democrats” — heh heh. Yes, it was, and it would have been nice to have heard a few more honest Republicans speak to this, but ah well.

If you’re not inclined to go spelunking on Facebook, try this NYT piece based on Fed documents, which gives you more information:

As financial markets shuddered and then nearly imploded in 2008, the Federal Reserve opened its vault to the world on a scope much wider and deeper than previously disclosed.

Citigroup, struggling to stay afloat, sought help from the Fed at least 174 times during one remarkable 13-month period. Barclays, the British bank, at one point owed nearly $48 billion to the Fed. Even better-off banks like Goldman Sachs took advantage of Fed loans offered at rock-bottom rates.

The Fed’s efforts to stave off a financial crisis reached far beyond Wall Street, touching manufacturers like General Electric, the Detroit automakers and Harley-Davidson, central banks from Britain to Japan and insurers and pension funds in Sweden and South Korea.

I remember listening to a “This American Life” piece from the time that spoke of what happened when, one scary fall day in 2008, the U.S. banking system “broke the buck,” i.e., had NO money to lend. I recommend it to anyone who thinks enormous multinational corporations should run their finances the way your grandma does — i.e., McDonald’s shouldn’t roll out cappuccino machines in all its stores until it has saved the money in that coffee can in the cupboard. Everybody likes the car metaphor when it comes to economies these days. When I think of economics at this level, I think of early cars, how you had to be a mechanic yourself to keep one running, how a purring engine was a matter of manually adjusting fuel and air and spark juuuust right, then readjusting, then readjusting again, and being prepared to start from scratch when need be.

Economics is complicated. There’s a reason people get doctorates in it, and why so much of its study involves theory, theories that frequently don’t pan out. I only wish we had someone willing to break this stuff down in ways average people can understand, and then explain it on prime time. Kind of like the way Glenn Beck wraps his racism up in nostalgia for the good ol’ days.

As it shakes out, the TARP program will end up costing closer to $25 billion, not $700 billion. As for these nitwits who think the economy would be better off “in the long run” if it had been allowed to go off the cliff, I have this to say: Fuck you. Even Mark Souder agrees with me on that:

Bankruptcy (of the automotive companies) was discussed in depth, many times. Chrysler is much more marginal than GM. But for car companies, it was not understood by most Members initially about the Pension Guarantee Fund that people pay into. If a company goes bankrupt, those on pensions only get half their pension amount (we have far more people on pensions in our area than employed at the big companies) and the govt pays the whole thing. It would have cost far, far, far more for the govt to cover the pensions. And that is just one small part (unemployment, medcaid, GM is the largest employer of people with disabilities in america – most who would have then become taxpayer dependent, and on and on).

OK, it’s getting late. A little bloggage?

Via MMJeff, a heartbreaker about a survivor of a terrible crash between a distracted tractor-trailer driver (cell phone) and several vehicles, including a van carrying a group of Amish people. The survivor is Amish; she forgave, didn’t sue and tried to recover. Alas, the rest of the world doesn’t work that way:

“English people told us not to worry about it, they would be paid,” Eicher said, using the term the Amish bestow on outsiders. “We assumed they were paid.”

Then, this fall, the same bills started up again. One letter seemed particularly menacing, printed on bright fuchsia paper.

Pay up, the letters said.

She owes $23,273 to the hospital and $2,360 to a radiology group. She can’t see her chiropractor anymore because the insurance company just rejected $6,624 billed since the crash.


New Yorkers, spill: Is Andrea Peyser really as crazy as Gawker regularly makes her out to be?

No one is saying what’s wrong with Aretha Franklin, but everybody’s praying for her.

If you ask me, blind items and the internet were a match made in heaven.

At Wayne. Gotta go. Have a swell one, all.

Posted at 10:31 am in Current events, Media |

56 responses to “Older and still dumb.”

  1. LAMary said on December 2, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Why does anyone listen to Glenn Beck other than to reinforce their own racism and paranoia? He’s a really terrible person.

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  2. adrianne said on December 2, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Everyone knows Andrea is a bitter, angry marginally talented columnist who’s still flogging her tired wares on the pages of the New York Post. No one takes her seriously.

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  3. Sherri said on December 2, 2010 at 11:31 am

    The people who did that episode of “This American Life” do regular podcasts explaining the economy as “Planet Money.” The “Planet Money” podcasts are all free, including archives, and can be found at http://www.npr.org/money. They did several other “This American Life” episodes as well.

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  4. nancy said on December 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Yes, I’m a big Planet Money fan. (I even know who Toxie is.) I only despair that their audience isn’t bigger.

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  5. brian stouder said on December 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

    And in addition to Aretha, Heather Locklear seems to be in great difficulty; some sort of bacterial malady.

    Regarding econ-101, when a hall full of Allen County* voters cheer whenever the bagman Coats derided “bailouts of the auto companies”, it became clear to me that economic discussions in a political cycle are akin to physics discussion at a Trekkie convention (ie – pointless and isolated from reality)

    *home of a major – and just expanded – GM truck assembly plant

    PS – and not for nothing, but our local talk-radio lip-flappers, and Republicans who should know better (councilman Mitch Harper) are increasing their anti-Dick Lugar barking.

    If it comes to Lugar getting primaried by a teabagger, I’m hoping Christine O’Donnell tires of Delaware and moves to Indiana. Her performance art campaign might be kind of fun, and anyway – it would assure Mr Ellsworth of a Senate seat

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  6. jcburns said on December 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I think Planet Money and this American Life has done some stellar reporting on the financial problem.
    I have a great deal of trouble listening (for some reason) to their reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, though. She does this kind of moderne snark-accent that, you know, twists? The end of sentences? That makes you, like, visualize? Her head tilted over?
    And then there’s the Ira Glass-inspired pauses. That sometimes spatter over. the. end. of. sentences.
    Anyway, as you can tell, it bugs me. I’m worried that one day that will be considered the BBC-neutral of female radio reporter voices (it already seems to be contagious to the Michigan Radio staff), and I will end up pledging money to places that read the news with stentorian clarity.

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  7. mark said on December 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    “the TARP program will end up costing closer to $25 billion, not $700 billion.” Really? Says who. Certainly not the Slate piece to which you linked.

    $700 billion was the amount authorized for loans- not even the harshest critic claimed that every loan would default and that any and all pledged collateral would be worthless. The “cost” was never going to be $700 billion.

    Edit: This report supports Nancy’s figure: http://money.cnn.com/2010/11/30/news/economy/GAO_TARP_report/

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  8. Mark P. said on December 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    (other) mark – I saw the $25 billion number, too.

    As far as trying to talk facts – why bother? Facts are to these people like water is to a duck. It’s almost like trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language. I think the only hope is for someone with the right ideas who can communicate in the non-rational range. Obama had potential, but it turns out that America is still a deeply racist country. (Not that Obama is perfect, but given the choices, that matters little.) The fact that Obama is so much more intelligent than most of these people makes it even worse. They are supposed to feel superior and yet they cannot. Cognitive dissonance on a major scale.

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  9. MaryRC said on December 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I don’t know if Andrea Peyser is crazy, but boy, what a sourpuss.

    “… procedures that left Martha grandchild-less. And the rest of us relieved.”? That’s not even funny.

    I do love the comments on Gawker whenever they target her, though (which seems to be every week). I had no idea that she was married with a daughter. She actually has to deal with other human beings in a positive way, every day?

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  10. nancy said on December 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Yep, sorry, wrong linkage. Is Bloomberg good enough for you, Mark ? Here’s their story:

    The Troubled Asset Relief Program will cost taxpayers far less than initially feared, with the price tag likely to total about $25 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    “It was not apparent when the TARP was created two years ago that the costs would be this low,” the nonpartisan agency said today in a report seconding administration predictions. “Because the financial system stabilized and then improved, the amount of funds used by the TARP was well below the $700 billion initially authorized and the outcomes of most transactions made through the TARP were favorable for the federal government.”

    More to the point, what if it had been $100 billion? Or $200 billion? Is that too high a price to keep the economy from imploding? Not to me.

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  11. LAMary said on December 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    “…I have a great deal of trouble listening (for some reason) to their reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, though. She does this kind of moderne snark-accent that, you know, twists? The end of sentences? That makes you, like, visualize? Her head tilted over?
    And then there’s the Ira Glass-inspired pauses. That sometimes spatter over. the. end. of. sentences.”

    I know exactly what you mean. Bugs the hell out of me too. No question the information is good, but the delivery is affected.

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  12. mark said on December 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    While this vastly oversimplifies, I think we had an economy imploding due to bad debt- motgages, corporate obligations, credit card bills, etc., and due to perverse schemes to securitize that debt and unfunded schemes to insure and reinsure bad debt.

    We avoided, to a large degree, the immediate consequences of decades of bad lending and overspending by making the US taxpayers the guarantors- through TARP, FannieMAe and Freddie MAC, auto company bailouts, IMF bailouts and 3.3 trillion in Fed lending throughout the world, through an $800 billion domestic stimulus program, and through hundreds of billions in unemployment benefit extensions and commensurate loans to the states responsible for making the payments.

    The stimulus and unemployment benefits are pretty typical moves, and addressed immediate domestic consequences of the recession. The bailouts? I think it is still very unclear whether we solved the problem or only delayed it, while shifting the potential consequences from those who engaged in the inappropriate conduct (hello, Goldman Sachs) to the country, generally.

    There is something very wrong when Congress can’t get the Fed to explain what it is doing behind closed doors.

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  13. Jeff Borden said on December 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm


    It is not fair to target Glenn Beck. Sure, he lives in a giant mansion in Connecticut. Sure, he travels to and from New York in an armored Escalade. Sure, he is always accompanied by two huge bodyguards packing 9-mm automatics.

    But he’s an average American, dammit. He’s salt of the earth. . .a simple child of God trying ever so hard to save our great nation from the liberal pussies who seek its subjugation. And if he has to resort to racial taunts, well, it’s merely a byproduct of his profound and pure love of Ammurica.

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  14. dan_g said on December 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you Nancy. That TARP stuff was great. Problem is that Fox viewers live in an alternate universe when it comes to facts and they think that President Obama did it and we aren’t getting anything paid back.

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  15. Sue said on December 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    So, folks – evolution or creationism?

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  16. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    If God can plant fossils to test our faith, why not peculiar microbes?



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  17. Dexter said on December 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for the thumbs-up, fellow Beck disciple JeffBorden. Let us celebrate his wisdom even more with this re-hash, as Beck straightens out those of us who were hoodwinked and buffaloed into thinking Bruce Springsteen was / is a patriot, when now Beck reveals, after 26 years, that Springsteen is a COMMIE PINKO !

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  18. Sue said on December 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Oh, MMJeff, that’s wonderful. My very favorite sentence:
    “The Bible is silent on this issue, but logic dictates they [fossils] must have been planted at or near the time of the creation of the Earth.”
    Yes, logic would dictate that.

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  19. LAMary said on December 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for showing me that discussion board, MMJeff. It does induce heavy sighing.

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  20. Sue said on December 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Are any of the fossils holding anti-nuke signs? If so that’s definitive proof that the universe was created by Terry Pratchett.

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  21. Rana said on December 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I’ve never understood why people of creationist bent are so freaked out by the prospect of evolution, at least if this is truly about God. To me, positing a deity that is capable of setting something as complex as evolution in motion, leading eventually to sentient creatures capable of using their brains to explore and unpack the process, makes just as much theological sense as positing a deity that created everything at once by going “poof.”

    It has long seemed to me that if they were truly strong in their faith, science would reaffirm it, or, at worst, be irrelevant to it. Isn’t a crucial part of having faith believing in something despite evidence to the contrary, or a lack of evidence? I’ve come to conclude that what they’re upset about isn’t attacks on their religion or challenges to their faith, but rather that membership in their religion is no longer an automatic bestower of privilege and influence, especially among the indifferent or the secular.

    So their attempts to create a religious alternative that is sciency and downplays faith, suggest to me that they themselves don’t really think that faith is enough these days, and that if they want to retain followers and be listened to, they have to at least offer a science-like alternative to actual science. In other words, that they have already accepted that science is a more authoritative world view, while resenting that it has higher standards for granting authority – you can’t just declare yourself a scientist and be respected. Instead you have to demonstrate, repeatedly, through hard work, that your ideas are worth listening to; it’s a lot harder to game the system by sheer force of personality and money. Creationism seems to offer the best of both worlds – you get to don the mantle of authority called Science while having the freedom to make shit up and avoid the hard work of providing testable evidence for your hypotheses.

    (Of course, some of them are sufficiently ignorant that they don’t understand that science isn’t a religion, just as atheism is not. The idea that people could exist without believing in some form of deity as part of an organized faith seems impossible for some of them to accept.)

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  22. Connie said on December 2, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Google has addressed the issue of bad publicity leading to higher rankings: http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/12/02/5567082-google-sucker-punches-online-retail-bully .

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  23. Julie Robinson said on December 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Rana, my hubby loves a book by Francis Collins, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”. Collins is a genetics researcher who says neither science nor God are threatened by each other. To me, God is the author of all creation, and it doesn’t matter if he wrote on a computer or by quill feather and ink. Why couldn’t his method of creation be evolution?

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  24. Dexter said on December 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    My meager contribution to the Faith discussion. Keith Richards and Tom Waits. Crank it up loud.

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  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Kenneth Miller has a really good book like that which I can’t check the title for just now from this spot, but I’m sure of the scientist/author’s name. “Finding Darwin’s God” or something close to that.

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  26. Rana said on December 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Julie, I may have to look for that book, maybe for myself, maybe for my mother-in-law’s husband, who is interested in such things.

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  27. prospero said on December 2, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    TARP paid for itself.
    American voters are too stupid to vote. Still doesn’t make Obama a white pawn of the Project for a New American Centurty.

    The level of ignorance is stunning, These are people that still believe in the Laffer curve and that hedge fund managers will create jobs from their tax breaks, because they love America. Are Americans this stupid?

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  28. Mark P. said on December 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Dexter, do you remember the Republicans playing “Born in the USA” during one of their conventions? What a bunch of tone-deaf nitwits. And they have only gotten worse.

    (I think I remember that correctly. Can anyone confirm that? Based on Wikipedia, Reagan apparently misunderstood the theme of the song, as did other conservatives, notably the patented idiot George Will. But there is no mention of it being played at a convention.)

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  29. Rana said on December 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Mark P – I don’t know about the convention, but both Reagan and Bob Dole tried to use it during their campaigns (to the disapproval of Springsteen): http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/soldonsong/songlibrary/indepth/bornintheusa.shtml

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  30. LAMary said on December 2, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I thought it was Bush numero uno who tried to use Born in the USA as his campaign song until Springstein told them to knock it off.

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  31. moe99 said on December 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Jeff tmmo, Kenneth Miller was a professor of my daughter’s at Brown. She thought he was the best. She certainly got an excellent science education there. And at Garfield,her central Seattle public high school.


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  32. Jolene said on December 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    What I recall, Mark, was that Reagan wanted to use it in his campaign, and Springsteen objected. Don’t recall anything specific about conventions.

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  33. deb said on December 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    mark p., i remember reagan trying to co-opt those lyrics but i don’t think the song was actually used at a convention. i do remember reading something from a younger, hipper republican operative groaning that he hoped reagan didn’t start using the line “this gun’s for hire.” i can’t find any of this online, though. maybe someone else has a better memory of this.

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  34. nancy said on December 2, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Reagan being of the Benny Goodman era, I don’t think *he* had anything to do with it. Rather, I remember the song being played at GOP rallies, and everyone waving their flags and yelling BORN IN THE USA, etc., without actually paying any attention to the verses. Given that Bruce’s vocal was fairly gritty on that track, it probably looked a little like this:

    “BORN DOWN mmmemmmem
    mmmm HIT THE GROUND.
    mmmm DOG BEAT mmm
    mmmmm COVERING UP



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  35. coozledad said on December 2, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Reagan should have just gone with this:
    Would have been more natural.

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  36. prospero said on December 2, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    #34 as good as you get. Infuriating. These aholes are clueless. The pertinent lyric is

    Born down in a dead man’s town
    The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
    You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
    Till you spend half your life just covering up
    Born in the U.S.A.
    I was born in the U.S.A.
    I was born in the U.S.A.
    Born in the U.S.A.
    Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
    Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man
    Born in the U.S.A.
    I was born in the U.S.A.
    I was born in the U.S.A.
    I was born in the U.S.A.
    Born in the U.S.A.
    Come back home to the refinery
    Hiring man says “son if it was up to me”
    Went down to see my V.A. man
    He said “son don’t you understand now”
    Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
    They’re still there he’s all gone
    He had a woman he loved in Saigon
    I got a picture of him in her arms now
    Down in the shadow of penitentiary
    Out by the gas fires of the refinery
    I’m ten years burning down the road
    Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go
    Born in the U.S.A.
    I was born in the U.S.A.
    Born in the U.S.A.
    I’m a long gone daddy in the U.S.A.
    Born in the U.S.A.
    Born in the U.S.A.
    Born in the U.S.A.
    I’m a cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.

    Fairly strong statement. Attempting to usurp that statement? It’s impossible to comprehend anything more reprehensible. Reagan may have been Oltimered. His lackeys Cheney and Rummy weren’t. They pulled off keeping the hostages in Irani hands until after the election, didn’t they? Oh, and Cheney was one of the greatest draft-dodgers until W came along, but Kerry was disgraceful for serving, And Americans bought this shit? Morons. Look at the bullshit invasions and occupations that cost about a of the deficit this pointy=head little ahole ran off the books. It’s the next guy’s fault” These “small businesses” these asshole republicans are talking about, they mean hedge fund managers that fucked us all over in the first place, for cash.

    That’s Republicans for you.

    What the Boss actually thinksabout W?.

    Republicans are lying pieces of shit.

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  37. Linda said on December 2, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Why does anyone listen to Glenn Beck other than to reinforce their own racism and paranoia?

    Ding, ding, ding. The internet and cable have created a universe where people can create their own echo chamber, and reinforce their own views/information/ignorance. I’ve had this experience when talking to otherwise reasonably intelligent people: they will tell an anecdote about how they understand an issue: “High electrical prices are caused by NIMBYs. Nobody wants to allow power plants to be built. That’s what happened in California.”
    Me: “No. It was proved that Enron manipulated supply to increase rates.”
    Friend: “No. It’s because of NIMBYs. If they let producers build more power plants….” And then tells the same story. As if I had said nothing.

    And nothing will change their story. They will repeat the same anecdote over and over, like a broken record, because that’s how they understand issues, and it’s an Armorall (c) coating over their thought process. And they will restrict their information gathering to do the same thing. In the comments section of Free Republic was a posting that floored me: “Fox News is getting too left wing. I now only get my news from Free Republic and Newsmax.”

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  38. prospero said on December 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    These yahoos are so fucking stupid and such rabid bigots they are dying to pin this on the black guy. The deficit, that’s the profligate and entirely moronic tax cuts, and the off-the -books invasions and occupations. I mean, seriously, can these assholes come close to accounting for these?

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  39. brian stouder said on December 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I’d a’ thought the blind-item fetishisitc A-list director (at the foot of Nance’s entry, today) (so to speak) would have gotten more play.

    David Lynch was my first thought, but the first 30 or so commenters all agreed it was Quentin Tarantino.

    But then, way near the end, someone does indeed push forward Lynch’s name.

    On our other subject, I’ve got to say that Prospero’s utterly unforgiving view of the Republican party is one that I would have argued with endlessly, as recently as five years ago.

    But, honestly, I cannot say that his view is inaccurate in any way, at all.

    This ain’t to say the Democrats are all virtue and intelligence. Maybe the real truth is that the day is approaching that I’ll be one of those guys who believes absolutely nothing

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  40. nancy said on December 2, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    It’s true about the echo chamber, and I expect Mark will be swinging by soon to accuse us all of being one, but for confirmation, I only look at that exchange between my ex-congressman and his constituent, who blames TARP, a program drawn up and executed under the Bush administration, on “Obama and his whimp friends.” Witness also the people who cannot be persuaded that the Chevy Volt was really in the works before the GM bailout, and tell everyone they know that the car was “ordered by Obama.”

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  41. brian stouder said on December 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    I would love to own a Volt, or a similarly cutting edge American-made car.

    That particular car would fit our family’s second-car needs like a glove.

    But as to Nance’s echo-chamber observation, I heard the king of radio lip-flappers today going on and on about the great FRAUD of all these “trillions” of dollars that were “secretly” given away to companies that didn’t even need it, like GE!! Apparently he’s never heard of GE Capital, nor paid any attention to people like Andrew Ross Sorkin (for one example) who actually, like, KNOW a thing or two, and could point out to him what would have happened if our economic fate was simply left to the “invisible hand”.

    But back to the idea of the “echo chamber”: the meme we will hear is that the bailouts and TARP were all Obama slush-funds and frauds…hell, we may now know what Rep-ISSA (et al) will launch hearings into. The fact that the subject is so big, and so complex, and so resistant to simple explanations – is in fact EXACTLY the PROOF of the truth of all the conspiracy theories that the right wing fever swamps keep bubbling up with.

    Yes, Prospero – we really are that stupid.

    It almost dovetails with the Civil War discussion the other day. The old truism that that was “a Rich Man’s war, and the poor man’s fight” is oddly parallel with this incredibly stupid emerging “understanding” of our late crash.

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  42. Linda said on December 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Part of the reason Americans can babble about “letting them fail” is because middle class people in our country have never felt the horror of a Depression-era collapse, just as we can glibly talk about turning countries that piss us off into “parking lots,” because we have never felt the terror of a war on our soil. We are like sleepwalkers in an old Warner Brothers cartoon who are miraculously rescued every step of the way, and wake up wondering what all the fuss was about.

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  43. Rana said on December 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    What tends to get me about the echo chamber phenomenon is not that it’s groups of people spending time with others who believe the same thing and repeat it among themselves. That seems pretty much human nature, to find kindred spirits who don’t attack you for believing differently. Where it gets nasty is when those groups become so disassociated that they can’t agree on a shared yardstick for determining whose point of view is valid.

    It’s particularly bad when actual facts are deemed irrelevant, whether it’s birthers refusing to listen to the Records administration of Hawaii about the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate or greenwashed lefties who think that industrial “alternative” energy can’t possibly be environmentally damaging. Certainly the dominant media outlets don’t help with this, with their tendency to boil everything down to he said/she said “debates” instead of analyzing the validity of the respective positions’ claims.

    (I won’t get into the difficulties of teaching students who have been taught to believe that merely stating “it’s my opinion” is somehow the same as making a persuasive argument with evidence, but it’s part of the same phenomenon.)

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  44. Jolene said on December 2, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Where it gets nasty is when those groups become so disassociated that they can’t agree on a shared yardstick for determining whose point of view is valid.

    This is such an important observation. In a race, you can easily determine who is the better runner because you can see who crosses the finish line first. There are difficulties–if someone is tripped or leaves the starting block early–but the difficulties in determining what constitutes a fact (i.e., the outcome of the race) are trivial compared to determining, say, whether the merit pay for teachers leads to improved student performance. But there are methods for addressing these and other questions that researchers have developed through years of effort, refining strategies for observation, measurement, and testing as they went along.

    But so few people are willing to take the risk of figuring out what the real basis of their beliefs is. So much better to say, “It’s my opinion.” In the DADT hearings today, James Webb, a pro-military conservative Dem, referred to the study led by Jeh Johnson and General Ham as “a landmark effort,” something that would stand for a long time as an example of excellent work done to understand the various ramifications of a serious issue. And, assuredly, they had every reason to do a good job and every resource at their disposal to do it. But, all that made no difference to John McCain and some of the other Republicans who, because he didn’t like the findings, could only resort to moving the goalposts rather than accepting the findings as given.

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  45. Dexter said on December 2, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    OK. To set it straight, it was Reagan. His handlers were using “Born In the USA”, not even realizing the implications of the song, which are easily discerned with one listen.
    I thought it might have been Bruce’s answer to the country songwriters like Lee Greenwood who made a nice living writing and performing songs with uber-patriotism at their centers.
    Beck mentioned Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” as another example of a song which was used to confuse and indoctrinate him…Beck just didn’t
    understand the heart of that song either, and I understand that, because I was singing that song as a small child and hell, I damn-sure hadn’t heard of The Wobblies at that stage of life.
    Of course, “This Land Is Your Land” was written , as Bruce narrates on an album “a (sic) answer to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. Woody hated “God Bless America” and what it stood for.

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  46. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Well, thank the Lord no Democrats ever are motivated by ideology over calm rationality.

    Without supporting sloppy thinking and the casual lumping together of complex phenomena, which is bipartisan but sadly not uncommon among my fellow Republicans, can I note that it gets rather wearing to constantly hear fecal outbursts as definitive descriptions of conservative analysis, or see racism used as an absolute descriptive quality of anyone who’s not strongly progressive.

    Rana, your closing parenthetic comment is tragically accurate across the political spectrum. “That’s *your* opinion” is deployed as an argument ender from either side of the aisle, and it’s troubling whomever uses it.

    John Derbyshire just came out in semi-support of single payer at National Review Online today, simply because he could see no logical ground for opposing that approach in today’s world from a basic conservative perspective. When you just look at arguments, logic, and outcomes, it’s amazing what can happen.

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  47. Rana said on December 3, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Jeff (tmmo) I wish there was a lot more rationality on both sides. When I was teaching environmental studies (which attracts a lot of students who self-identify as liberals) I tended to find that the conservative students made better, more thoughtful arguments because they knew they needed to show concretely why their interpretations were valid. The lazier students on the other end thought that merely parroting the “right” opinions would be enough to secure them an “A.” Guess which group I felt showed more respect and understanding for my own beliefs?

    One thing that I mourn (and here I will sound much older than my status as one of the young’uns here) is the time when there were conservatives in politics that I could respect and disagree thoughtfully with. My dad is one such – and he’s decided that he’s now an independent because the current version of the GOP is so irrational. (Indeed, he takes great delight in debunking the falsehoods his more Tea-Party-ish cousins have picked up from whatever news sources it is they use.) Or take The Economist, a magazine that I not infrequently disagree with, but always respect, because the basis for their positions is clear and well-reasoned.

    I used to believe that if enough people made a case for something, even politicians on the opposing side would listen and adjust their thinking. I became very cynical during the Bush administration when I realized that not only would this not happen, but they had given up even the pretense of pretending to listen. (As much as I hate Mike Pence and think that he’s a boob, he does at least respond to the actual content of my correspondence with his office, unlike Evan Bayh, who always turns it into an occasion to wax eloquent on whatever useless and only tangentially-related accomplishment he’s currently proud of.)

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  48. coozledad said on December 3, 2010 at 1:02 am

    The Republican’s free market religion is really a smokescreen for a greasy-haired punk variation on the feudal impulse. It’s absolutely incompatible with post enlightenment values, and points more toward the Charles Taylor model of governance.
    I remember when McCain was regularly getting blown for being one of their centrists.

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  49. moe99 said on December 3, 2010 at 2:29 am

    Jeff tmmo. Unfortunately you are participating in the “if A then B is equal comparison.” It’s a logical argument fallacy. You cannot post a comparable number of numbnut Democrat sayings or philosophy to equal all the crap out there that the Republicans are swilling and spitting out into the public discourse. I triple dog dare you to do it.

    What you can find is numberless, craven Democrats without the spine to speak up and take these aholes down.

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  50. prospero said on December 3, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Please excuse my bad language. Jeff. Do you honestly think letting rich people hold on to more of their cash creates jobs. No, you’re reasonably intelligent, so you know they just buy each others: houses.

    Isn’t it a fact that being a country actually means we care about what happens to each other? Republicans in Congress clearly do not care a shit about anybody that isn’t Big Pharma, or Wall Street, or Big Farm.

    There are surely Democratic Party politicians that are scam artists. Republicans have connived for years to make the boss-worker division go from 30:1 to 300:1. So if I say fuck or bullshit occasionally, sorry. These bastards are stealing our country.

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  51. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 3, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Oh, the occasional scatological talking-point doesn’t bother me. And the argument that Republicans are generally less “thoughtful” or even just generically stupid compared to their Democratic betters — there’s a case to be made. The Stupid Party versus the Nanny Party . . . wasn’t that how J.S. Mill divvvied up the two major political factions back in the Mother Country in another century? Still operative, I think.

    It’s what some of y’all miss when the crude, brutal assumptions are hammered down, time and time again, that any of us on the right are only interested in stealing our women-folks’ shoes and leaving them a breadcrumb trail to the kitchen, while we plutocractic patriarchs head out the garden gate to beat the lawn crew after schtupping the nanny (all undocumented illegals) and head off to a KKK meeting at the bank board room.

    There are hopes & dreams & yes, even good intentions in the GOP, let alone among religious conservatives, which can be worked with. Rana, hat tip to you and environmental studies, which is where my wife teaches when she gets to teach (having ascended into the questionable heights of administration). But Moe, if I were to take on a triple dog dare — don’t those usually not work out well all around? — I’d be starting with environmental education. One of my wife’s greatest frustrations is the large number of front line EE folk who are still trying to sell “all the pandas and polar bears are about to die” line with small kids, which generates pushback which then the offending teachers get hugely self-righteous about, and in the end, there’s less, not more total community willingness to talk about resource consumption and stewardship.

    Put down the “numbnut sayings and philosophy” approach, and there is great interest in making pretty significant community change to improve the local & global environment. The same goes for working on family breakdown and children’s welfare, something I learned on a state level when we were trying to get CHIP passed 14 years ago. And so on.

    But Prospero, don’t sweat the cussing. That, in and of itself, bothers me not at all. Except in front of the chilluns.

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  52. coozledad said on December 3, 2010 at 8:38 am

    If you make a country hostile to the people who have to shoulder most of the burden for fighting for it, and making the stuff that gets sold, they’ll quit fighting for it. We’re already on the brink of irredeemable chronic shitheapery, and the Republicans are using every tool at their disposal to make it worse.
    The silver lining is that there are a few enclaves where Republicans are unwelcome, or just too pants-shitting scared to visit. These places seem to be doing better as a result.
    And fuck Raleigh.

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  53. Connie said on December 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

    On the subject of contacting your representatives: my daughter recently contacted her state rep to ask him to support the Sunday liquor sales bill. She says she received a canned reply that made it clear that Sunday liquor sales were immoral and so was anyone who supported it.

    This is a kid with lots of lobbying experience from her two year internship with the Indiana Wildlife Federation. She was quite horrified by the response.

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  54. Suzanne said on December 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Holy crap. I nearly spit out my coffee finding myself, as I did, agreeing with Mr. Souder and wondering if he’s smarter than I ever gave him credit for. Oh, well. Not in his district any more. Now in Mr. Pence’s, who I used to admire, but now fear is drinking the far right kool-aid.

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  55. Bryan said on December 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Here’s a bit of good news. The hospital that was owed $23K by the Amish woman injured in that deadly crash has written her case off as charity.


    Other folks still want money from her, unfortunately.

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  56. brian stouder said on December 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    That IS a bit of good news. The ending was pretty touching, also

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