Saturday, January 16, 2010

There's a reason conservatives shouldn't claim Martin Luther King: When he was alive, they smeared and demonized him

-- by Dave

Glenn Beck decided to repeat his asking-black-conservatives-dumb-white-guy-questions show with a new round, this time evidently focused on Harry Reid's remarks. Unlike the last time, there weren't any open embarrassments, except for the moment when Beck agreed that poor people are "like a domesticated animal [that] never learns to hunt."

But again, Beck hijacked the words of Martin Luther King Jr. He opened up the show with a King quote written on a chalkboard.

And it really is shameless. Conservatives nowadays love to claim King as one of their own. And it's a complete joke -- because when King was alive, conservatives were the people he had to combat.

Rick Perlstein described this some time back:

When Martin Luther King was buried in Atlanta, the live television coverage lasted seven and a half hours. President Johnson announced a national day of mourning: "Together, a nation united and a nation caring and a nation concerned and a nation that thinks more of the nation's interests than we do of any individual self-interest or political interest--that nation can and shall and will overcome." Richard Nixon called King "a great leader--a man determined that the American Negro should win his rightful place alongside all others in our nation." Even one of King's most beastly political enemies, Mississippi Representative William Colmer, chairman of the House rules committee, honored the president's call to unity by terming the murder "a dastardly act."

Others demurred. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond wrote his constituents, "[W]e are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case." Another, even more prominent conservative said it was just the sort of "great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they'd break."

That was Ronald Reagan, the governor of California, arguing that King had it coming. King was the man who taught people they could choose which laws they'd break--in his soaring exegesis on St. Thomas Aquinas from that Birmingham jail in 1963: "Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. ... Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong."

That's not what you hear from conservatives today, of course. What you get now are convoluted and fantastical tributes arguing that, properly understood, Martin Luther King was actually one of them--or would have been, had he lived. But, if we are going to have a holiday to honor history, we might as well honor history. We might as well recover the true story. Conservatives--both Democrats and Republicans--hated King's doctrines. Hating them was one of the litmus tests of conservatism.

I lived in a conservative town in a conservative state at the time, and I remember how deeply and viscerally people hated Martin Luther King when he was alive. And for years after his death, conservatives fought his legacy. They opposed a national holiday in his honor (Jesse Helms, that conservative icon, launched a filibuster against the proposal). Even today, many conservatives believe the old Bircherite smears that King was a Communist.

I thought Beck had a phobia about Communists. After all, the allegations that King had "Communist ties" are about as well grounded as Beck's own charges that Van Jones was a "self-proclaimed Communist."

But I guess when they make for handy stage props for phony discussions about race with a carefully selected audience -- shows which rapidly devolve into whinefests by black conservatives about being pegged as sellouts -- he'll look the other way.

Now, I dunno about sellouts. But anyone who thinks "conservative values" were anything but a hindrance to the black community for most of this country's history is just plain ignorant.

Especially if you know anything about what Martin Luther King Jr. actually stood for when he was alive -- and who his enemies were. They were conservatives. And for them to try to claim his mantle now is a travesty and a joke.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sarah Palin defends her 'Lie of the Year', claims 'death panels' are still in health-care reform bill

-- by Dave

There's a reason the Tea Party crowd still believes in "death panels" -- namely, because Sarah Palin, who coined the term, keeps claiming that they really do exist still.

Nevermind, of course, that it has long been exposed as a complete falsehood, and was named "Lie of the Year" by PolitiFact. To right-wingers like Sarah Palin, though, you can lie through your teeth, tell the press that up is down, that a report finding you guilty of various abuses of power as Alaska's governor in fact actually "completely exonerates" you -- and everyone will stand around and pretend like it's just another point of view.

So she repeated it again last night on Hannity:

Hannity: You stand by those comments because you think it still exists in the bill.

Palin: I do. It's a commission, it's bureaucracy, it's bureaucrats who will ration care if the bill goes through as Obama wants it to go through. Yes -- it's modeled, in essence, after a British system that does have people to decide whether, based on your quality of life, your age, whether you're gonna deserve health-care coverage or not -- that's what's gonna happen in America if this health-care bill isn't stopped, and it needs to be stopped soon, and that's why the people of this land can't give up in demanding that their voice be heard, demanding that the White House understand that this is a representative form of government, we do expect that the will of the people is listened to and adhered to and implemented via our representatives, who we elect.

Eh? The British system has no such "commissions." As the AP recently reported, officials in Britain recently repudiated claims like Palin's:

The criticism, widely covered in the U.K. media, has clearly stung Britain's left-leaning Labour government. The Department of Health took the unusual step of contacting The Associated Press and e-mailing it a three-page rebuttal to what it said were misconceptions about the NHS being bandied about in the U.S. media – each one followed with the words: "Not true."

At the top of the list was the idea that a patient in his late 70s would not be treated for a brain tumor because he was too old – a transparent reference to Grassley's comments about Kennedy.

And what of Republicans' claim that British patients are robbed of their medical choices? False again, the department said.

"Everyone who is cared for by the NHS in England has formal rights to make choices about the service that they receive," it said in its rebuttal.

Then followed a fact sheet comparing selected statistics such as health spending per capita, infant mortality, life expectancy, and more. Each one showed England outperforming its trans-Atlantic counterpart.

The British government offers health care for free at the point of need, a service pioneered by Labour in 1948. In the six decades since, its promise of universal medical care, from cradle to grave, is taken for granted by Britons to such an extent that politicians – even fiscal conservatives – are loath to attack it.

Apparently Palin is referring to British cost-containment measures:

The NHS has a body called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that decides which new treatments and drugs the NHS should pay for. One of the factors NICE considers when deciding whether to approve funding for a new treatment or drug is cost-effectiveness. To determine the dividing line between what is cost-effective and what isn't, it must set a threshold. Taking its lead from Britain's Department of Transport — which has a cost-per-life-saved threshold for new road schemes of about $2.2 million per life, or about $45,000 per life year gained — NICE rarely approves a drug or treatment that costs more than $45,000 per life year gained. In short, NICE does not want the NHS to spend more than $45,000 to extend a citizen's life by one year.

While NICE's decisions have angered some doctors and patient groups — particularly some oncologists who say they are unable to prescribe expensive, life-extending cancer drugs — mainstream politicians, the media and most Britons accept NICE's rare rejections as a necessary compromise to keep universal coverage affordable in the face of rising health-care costs. As NICE chairman Sir Michael Rawlins recently told TIME, "All health-care systems have implicitly, if not explicitly, adopted some form of cost control. In the U.S., you do it by not providing health care to some people. That's a rather brutal way of doing it."

Indeed, that's the point PolitiFact raised in its piece on Palin's lie:
Democrats responded by saying the accusation wasn't true and highlighting the actual Medicare provision and what it said.

That wasn't necessarily an effective strategy, said Drew Westen, a psychologist who studies political communication and advises Democrats on messaging. "Instead of stopping and asking themselves, 'What are Republicans trying to appeal to?' the Democrats rolled their eyes and said, 'Isn't this stupid,' " he said. "On one level, it was stupid, but on another level, it was hitting seniors very close to where they live."

People intuitively understand that health care reform is about lowering costs, and end-of-life care can be quite costly, he said. The "death panels" claim exploited fears that people already had. Rather than just saying the claim wasn't true, Westen said, a better response would be that there already are "death panels" — run by insurance companies.

Indeed, there is no doubt that "death panels" already exist. They're just called insurance-company policies.

For right-wingers like Sarah Palin, though, it's better to have people denied any coverage whatsoever than the possibility that a government insurance plan might ration access to expensive treatments.

Baldfacedly and defiantly lying about it, evidently, is just part of the deal.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Palin pretends she didn't publicly support the bailouts too when Beck rips McCain as 'a progressive'

-- by Dave

It was Glenn Beck's turn to host new Fox News Analyst Sarah Palin yesterday. It was actually an incredibly boring interview, since Beck mostly seemed interested in whether Palin hung on his every word or not and bought into his theory that Obama is a radical black Marxist bent on destroying America. She did, of course.

It featured all of Beck's tired schticks, including his claim that Republicans like George W. Bush and John McCain are actually "progressives":

Beck: It killed me to vote for John McCain. And I voted for John McCain because of you. Um, John McCain is a progressive. John McCain -- he's an honorable man.

Palin: He is an honorable man.

Beck: He is an honorable man. And that goes a long way -- there's, I mean, that's a rare island to find. He's an honorable man. But he's also a progressive.

He's big government, he was for the bank bailouts, he was for the uh, uhm, health care. He's for all of it. He's for all of it.

Palin played along, pointing out: "Look what he's doing now!" and generally suggesting that those naughty wayward conservatives had gotten the gospel of Glenn and were back on the right track.

Beck seems utterly unaware that, in fact, Palin was for the bank bailouts too.

As you can see from the additional footage we included in the above video, Palin vocally supported the bailouts in her vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden, praising McCain's supposed work in trying to get the bailout package passed:

John McCain thankfully has been one representing reform. Two years ago, remember, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures. He sounded that warning bell.

People in the Senate with him, his colleagues, didn’t want to listen to him and wouldn’t go towards that reform that was needed then. I think that the alarm has been heard, though, and there will be that greater oversight, again thanks to John McCain’s bipartisan efforts that he was so instrumental in bringing folks together over this past week, even suspending his own campaign to make sure he was putting excessive politics aside and putting the country first.

As Dave Weigel noted awhile back, this was just after McCain had "suspended" his campaign to return to Washington to attempt to push the bailout through.

In late September, Palin also defended the bailouts in her interview with Katie Couric:

Palin: That’s why I say, I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the tax payers looking to bail out.

But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy– Helping the — Oh, it’s got to be about job creation too. Shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americas. A

And trade we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive scary thing. But 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation.

This bailout is a part of that.

That is, it's a defense of sorts. Actually, it makes no sense whatever -- it's just a big pot of policy-wonk words thrown together in a way that I think Palin hoped sounded like it made some kinda sense.

The only thing that's really clear from all this is that not only was Palin a full supporter of the bailouts, she was a big fan of health-care reform. In fact, she seems to have believed the bailouts would help reform health care. Eh?

No wonder her followers are similarly awash at sea.

Not to mention her interviewers.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

There's a funny odor emanating from the National Tea Party Convention

-- by Dave

Notice that peculiar odor arising from the news that Sarah Palin plans to speak at the National Tea Party Convention planned the first week of February in Nashville?

It's got the distinct whiff of a scam. Take, for instance, Palin's insistence last night on The O'Reilly Factor -- in her debut as a "Fox News Analyst" -- that "I will not be financially gaining anything from this".

Well, yeah, except for that $100,000 speaking fee. Palin insisted she was going to "turn it right back around and contribute to campaigns, candidates, and issues that will help our country."


But exactly what kind of movement is it that locks out the press and operates behind closed doors? As Dave Weigel says:

This really is unusual. As a journalist, I’ve been allowed into sessions, dinners, everything at conferences hosted by the Eagle Forum and by Focus on the Family. Extra credit to Eagle Forum here — when I was covering the How to Take Back America Conference in St. Louis, Phyllis Schlafly’s son Andy, an organizer, invited me away from my media seat and into a seat at his dinner table to chat with more activists. And some of the most controversial speakers at the National Tea Party Convention, like Rick Scarborough, happily chatted with me inside and outside of their sessions at previous events.

One major implication of this, of course, is that for the third time since the presidential election — the first at a speech in China, the second at a speech for a pro-life group in Indiana — Sarah Palin will give a political speech that members of the media are not allowed to attend.

The National Tea Party Convention is being largely spearheaded by Tea Party Nation, which styles itself an independent operation. But if you look at the list of speakers, among them is WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah, who's keynoting the Friday dinner.

WND, you may recall, has been promoting an assortment of conspiracy theories about Obama, including the "Birther" theory and the claim that concentration camps are being planned for rounding up conservatives. (Weigel has more on this.)

Even the redoubtable Erick Erickson at RedState is sensing the odor:

I think the tea party movement has largely descended into ego and quest for purpose for individuals at the expense of what the tea party movement started out to be.

That’s not to say it is in every case. I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy.

Let me be blunt: charging people $500.00 plus the costs of travel and lodging to go to a “National Tea Party Convention” run by a for profit group no one has ever heard of sounds as credible as an email from Nigeria promising me a million bucks if I fork over my bank account number.

That scammy smell is what you get whenever you combine money and far-right wingnuttery.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ray Stevens' 'Tea Party Anthem' features lyric about euthanizing Grandma

-- by Dave

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Well, Sarah Palin's "death panels" may have been named "Lie of the Year," but they live on in Tea Party movement legend.

Ray Stevens -- noted for such novelty songs as "The Streak" and "Ahab the Arab" -- has a music video out that's being hailed as "the Anthem of the Tea Party movement" titled "We the People":

“We the People” is about Obamacare and the health-care reform bills that have passed both houses of Congress.

The lyrics express a comic, but pointed warning to members of Congress: “You vote Obamacare, we’re going to vote you out of there. We the People have awakened to your tricks. You vote to let this pass, you’re going to be out on your (sound of foghorn).”

They also feature a noteworthy lyric:

We've heard from Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh
What you got in mind for Grandma

[Video: Nurse putting chloroformed cloth over elderly woman's face]

Yeah, now that you mention it, we have heard that from those three -- and a number of others. And we also know that IT'S A FREAKING LIE.

And you'll notice that Bill O'Reilly played this very snippet the other night, quite approvingly, and made no attempt to correct the record. This is how the Fox propagandists keep spreading the lies.

But then, if there were some nugget of news on Fox that were actually true, these nimrods would never believe it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.