Archive

  • Daily Meme: Monica Lewinsky Tells All (Again)

    Online editors and traffic-watchers across the country jumped for joy today when Vanity Fair published a teaser of Monica Lewinsky's tell-all piece in its latest issue, due out later this week. Here's the money quote: “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.” Now, let the scandal-reminiscing and chattering begin! The timing—just as Hillary Clinton toys with another presidential run—is uncanny, writes Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Maybe, says CNN's Ashley Banfield, but this isn't the first time Hillary has run for president. At least Republicans may finally have something to obsess about besides the faux Benghazi scandal . (Already, Rand Paul is galavanting around the TV circuit saying the Clinton affair shows that Democrats are the ones with the real war on women.) Is this Lewinsky's last-ditch...
  • What a Real Propaganda Campaign Looks Like

    U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements
    Unfortunately, I have the sense that I'll be writing quite a bit about Benghazi in the coming months, since Republicans are cranking up their scandal calliope and the news media will eventually turn its bored gaze to the noise and fireworks. As we should keep in mind, the alleged misdeed at the heart of this matter has been downgraded from "the administration allowed four Americans to be killed" to "the administration tried to spin the story to make sure they didn't look bad." That is, quite literally, the terrible crime Republicans now believe the Obama administration committed, and the thing about which we're all supposed to be outraged. That's it. They spun. And how can we get to the bottom of this spinning without a select committee, and hour upon hour of hearings, complete with a blizzard of feigned outrage, to pile on top of the hour upon hour of hearings we've already had? Last night, the Daily Show gave us a little reminder of what a real propaganda campaign looks like: The...
  • The Difference Between Liberal Justices and Conservative Justices

    You don't like it? Tough luck. (Flickr/Stephen Masker)
    Liberals have for some time believed that all of conservatives' high-falutin' talk about "original intent" and judges who will "interpret the Constitution, not make laws" is just a crock. Rather, what they want is judges who will give them the results they want, whatever the Constitution may happen to say. "Original intent" is a particularly flexible, and therefore fundamentally bogus, rationale, since it's usually impossible to apply 18th century ideals to 21st century legal questions and arrive at a judgment based solely on your impression of what was in James Madison's mind, and therefore no matter what your preferred outcome is, you can justify it on the basis of original intent. And no one is more guilty of flinging that kind of baloney than Antonin Scalia. But conservatives respond that liberals do the same thing, pretending to believe in abstract principles when they really just want the people they like to prevail in every case that comes before the courts. Resolving the...
  • Daily Meme: Separation, Schleparation

    The Supreme Court of the United States took a bold stand today for the invocation of somebody’s God at official government functions. It may not be your God--hey, maybe you don’t even have a God. (Wait, is that even legal in America?) At Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner writes that ”advocates of church-state separation are warning that the 5-4 decision could lead to the marginalizing of religious minorities in localities across the country.” At issue in the case decided today is the practice of beginning government meetings in the town of Greece, New York, with a Christian prayer, a tradition that Justice Anthony Kennedy described, in the majority opinion, “a benign acknowledgment of religion's role in society.” Justice Elana Kagan penned the dissent, noting a great many prayers offered in Jesus’s name at Greece town meetings. You don’t have a problem with J.C., now do you? In the meantime, Ralph Reed (remember him?), now chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, promised, Posner...
  • Why Cultural Affinity Isn't Enough

    As you travel the political web today, you'll probably be seeing this ad a lot, the latest from Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst. Like many a candidate (mostly Republicans) before her, Ernst wants voters to know that, like them, she enjoys firearms. And she'll prove it by shooting one, while the narrator says, "Once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni's gonna unload" over the sound of her bullets travelling freedom's path on their way to rip through the guts of tyranny: And if you go to Ernst's web site today, you'll see this ad under a huge headline reading "Give Joni a Shot," with the "o" in "shot" made into a target. In other words: "Vote for me because gunsgunsguns!" If you're a Republican and you want to send a signal of cultural affinity, there's no easier way to do it than by firing a gun . Guns have carried symbolic weight for a long time, but never more so than now. They send a message both about conservatives and about liberals; not only "I'm one of you," but also, "...
  • Daily Meme: The Gun That Didn't Smoke

    Sometimes reading the news can induce a distinct sensation of déjà vu . Why, for example, is Benghazi suddenly in the headlines--again? This particular trip down memory lane comes courtesy of a batch of freshly-released e-mails . The revelation? A White House aide gave advice to Susan Rice , then the U.N. ambassador, about how to present the unfolding tragedy on national television. The magnitude of these revelations depends, invariably, upon your preferred source of news and outrage. Sean Hannity , Lindsay Graham , and Darrell Issa all say the emails are a "smoking gun." The main conservative talking point? The White House put "politics ahead of truth." For Republicans, the e-mails give new credence to their much-beloved theory that the fallout from the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, was evidence of a Watergate-esque cover-up . Issa said the failure to turn over the e-mails was "in violation of any reasonable transparency or historic precedent at least since Richard...
  • Guillotine Revival Movement Gains Momentum

    Flickr/The Tedster
    When things began to go terribly wrong with Clayton Lockett's execution in Oklahoma the other day—when instead of drifting gently off into unconsciousness and death, Lockett began to moan and buck on the gurney—one of the first things the officials did was lower the blinds over the window through which observers peered into the death chamber. Because after all, people shouldn't have to witness a man suffer as the state is killing him, right? Lockett's execution was hardly the first botched one we've had, particularly with lethal injection, a process prison officials seem extraordinarily incompetent at implementing properly. But for whatever reason, it has brought about a more substantial debate about the death penalty than we've had in some time. And as part of that, it looks like my semi-serious advocacy for the return of the guillotine is finally gaining momentum. It already has endorsements from Conor Friedersdorf and Sonny Bunch , with more sure to follow. Frankly, I've never...
  • Daily Meme: The Demise of the Viral Obamacare Victim Story

    The political ground on the Affordable Care Act seems to be shifting—perhaps enough to help Democrats in the fall, perhaps not. But as more and more information about the law's operation comes in, Republicans are having a harder time arguing that all those people getting insurance is a terrible thing. Yesterday, we learned that health care spending spiked in the first quarter of 2014. Even before Republicans could open their mouths, Jonathan Chait (among other people) informed them that this was exactly what everyone knew would happen . Because when you give millions of people coverage, they go to the doctor. Simon Malloy of Salon notes that "we seem to be past the era of the viral Obamacare victim story." And after that, what can Republican candidates say? Because weirdly, "It turns out that Americans really, really like having access to affordable healthcare, and when they finally get it, they use it." So Republicans are trying a new tack. They've released a report claiming that...
  • Could a Clinton Candidacy Give Us a Healthy Debate About Sexism?

    Yeah, there'll be more of this.
    Hillary Clinton has had, let's say, a difficult relationship with the media. It isn't too surprising for someone who's been in the national spotlight for over two decades; outside of John McCain, I can't think of many politicians who love the press and feel like they always get a fair shake. But there's a piece in Politico today by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman that goes into some interesting detail about Clinton's feelings on this topic, particularly about some of the sexism she's had to endure. "Look, she hates you. Period. That's never going to change," says one anonymous Clinton ally, referring to the media. Here's more: If Clinton says yes, she'll have access to a bottomless pool of Democratic political talent and cash to match all those hyperbolic pronouncements about her inevitability. If she doesn't run, the single biggest factor holding her back will be the media, according to an informal survey of three dozen friends, allies and former aides interviewed for this article...
  • What Drives Credit Card Debt?

    Americans cumulatively have $854 billion in revolving loan (mostly credit card) debt, according to the Federal Reserve. The amount has actually declined since the Great Recession, as credit card issuers tightened their lending standards, borrowers became more cautious, and strong and effective consumer protection laws went into effect, producing substantial savings for households. Still, $854 billion is no small matter, and its source is worth considering. Why do some people stagger under a mountain of credit card debt, paying high interest rates on their outstanding balances and never seeming to come out ahead, while others rarely if ever carry debt for long, despite pulling out their plastic on a regular basis? That’s the question I set out to answer in a new study , which compares two groups of low- and middle-income households with working age adults. The households are statistically indistinguishable in terms of income, racial and ethnic background, age, marital status and rate...

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