Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three from Truthout:


Saturday 25 June 2011

New York Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage
Geraldine Baum and Tina Susman, The Los Angeles Times: "New York voted Friday night to allow same-sex marriage, becoming the most diverse and populated state to pass legislation that gay advocates hope will jump-start a nationwide movement that has stalled in recent years... The bill would take effect 30 days after it is signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who made it a centerpiece of his election campaign last year... Though four New England states, Iowa and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage over the last decade, 30 states have approved constitutional amendments to ban it."
Read the Article

Why the Republican War on Workers Rights Undermines the American Economy
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "Republicans in Congress are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board, which is likely to consider a relatively minor rule change allowing workers to vote on whether to unionize soon after a union has been proposed, rather than allowing employers to delay the vote for years. Many employers have used the delaying tactics to retaliate against workers who try to organize, and intimidate others into rejecting a union. This war on workers’ rights is an assault on the middle class, and it is undermining the American economy."
Read the Article

Half of World's Refugees are Running From US Wars
Sarah Bufkin, ThinkProgress: "America’s wars are forcing Afghans and Iraqis to flee their homes in greater numbers. According to a recent U.N. High Commission for Refugees study, nearly one half of the world’s refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq, 3.05 million and 1.68 million, respectively. But neither the United States nor much of the developed world bears the burden of the 10.55 million refugees under the UNHCR’s purview globally. Instead, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria serve as the top host countries. The Economist has charted the numbers."
Read the Article 

Friday, June 24, 2011

stephen fry: condom language

Via JMG: Peter Falk Dies At Age 83


Actor Peter Falk has died at the age of 83 after suffering several years of advanced Alzheimer's Disease. Falk was best known for playing TV detective Columbo, for which he won five Emmy Awards. In 1972 he won a Tony Award for his performance in Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue. He was twice nominated for an Academy Award, first for 1960's Murder, Inc., then again the next year for Pocketful Of Miracles.


reposted from Joe

AmericBlog: AARP in "full damage-control mode" after reports they support Social Security benefit cuts

And well they should be. The question is, who's lying, the AARP or the AARP?

It started with this report in the Wall Street Journal (the cached version is here):
AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington's debate over how to revamp the nation's entitlement programs.

The decision, which AARP hasn't discussed publicly, came after a wrenching debate inside the organization. In 2005, the last time Social Security was debated, AARP led the effort to kill President George W. Bush's plan for partial privatization. AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain.

"The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," said John Rother, AARP's long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart.
And deeper in the article, there's this:
In an early sign of its new approach, AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women's groups and liberal advocacy organizations created to fight Social Security benefit cuts. "The coalition's role was to kind of anchor the left, and our role is going to be to actually get something done," said Mr. Rother.
Can you feel the macho thrill in that last phrase?

Well, that was so June 17th. The next day they were "hammered" for their position. Suddenly it's June 21, and according to Politico, the AARP sun now rises in the west:
The phones rang in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office just hours after news reports surfaced late last week, asserting that the powerful seniors lobby, AARP, is open to cuts in Social Security benefits.

It was AARP calling — in full damage-control mode — assuring Reid’s office that nothing had changed and that the group remains fully dedicated to protecting Social Security. Hours later, the group issued a statement from its CEO to members of Congress, disputing the reports as “misleading” and saying that the entitlement program should not be used as a “piggy bank” to solve the nation’s fiscal woes.
They have always been at war with Eastasia.

Not much to add to this report. Note the nondenial — the Journal piece was not wrong, but "misleading". Of course it was; it mislead people toward the actual positions held by the AARP leadership. Bummer that.

The AARP has looked like a suspect organization ever since supporting Bush II's drug "benefit" plan. The AP in 2003:
AARP threw the weight of its 35 million members behind a planned Medicare prescription drug benefit on Monday, handing Republicans a pivotal endorsement as they fight Democratic critics.
And they have not been covered in glory since (see Jon Walker's walk through the history of AARP and SS benefit cuts for more).

As someone suggested (sorry, forgot who), it would be wonderfully fitting if the Boomer generation, which cut its teeth burning draft cards, would cap its last years burning AARP cards.

For those who are action-oriented, here's the mailing address from their contact page. Be firm but polite; and the more you show effort, the more effect you have, so handwritten wins over MS Word, and so on.
AARP
601 E Street, NW
Washington DC 20049
(Oh, and it's easier to mail torn card than burnt ones — in case you trend that way.)

GP

Via AmericaBlog: Rich now richer than before the economic crisis

Oh we've had class warfare alright. It just wasn't from the left asking for basic health care. Too bad we have a Democratic party that is too blinded by the deep pockets of Wall Street to give a damn about the real class warfare. This new report should not come as a surprise to anyone with open eyes since it's already been discussed and then completely ignored by the political class. Why do we keep voting for these people?
The globe's richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them – nearly 11 million – than before the recession struck.

In the world of the well-heeled, the rich are referred to as "high net worth individuals" (HNWIs) and defined as people who have more than $1m (£620,000) of free cash.

According to the annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the wealth of HNWIs around the world reached $42.7tn (£26.5tn) in 2010, rising nearly 10% in a year and surpassing the peak of $40.7tn reached in 2007, even as austerity budgets were implemented by many governments in the developed world.

Via AmericaBlog: Taibbi on Bachmann: A "six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator" with "Divine Wind" delusions

Michele Bachmann is a fascinating figure, in my view. To all appearances, she's smart, focused, driven, and full-on nuts. Quite the combo.





A taste of Taibbi's prose from his feature Rolling Stone article on her: she's "a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions." He documents that, but it's not his main point. There's no way to do justice to the full piece; you'll have to dive into the deep end and read the whole thing.

Many write-ups on his article are quoting the Bachmann-Palin comparison. My teaser slice is this one (my emphasis):
Bachmann's story, to hear her tell it, is about a suburban homemaker who is chosen by God to become a politician who will restore faith and family values to public life and do battle with secular humanism. But by the time you've finished reviewing her record of lies and embellishments and contradictions, you'll have no idea if she actually believes in her own divine inspiration, or whether it's a big con job. Or maybe both are true — in which case this hard-charging challenger for the GOP nomination is a rare breed of political psychopath, equal parts crazed Divine Wind kamikaze-for-Jesus and calculating, six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator. Whatever she is, she's no joke.
Most Bachmann commenters focus on her children, her poll numbers, her crazed crisco-like self-anointing, or her neo-Palin looks. It's the psychopath part that's new in Taibbi's analysis, based on his documentation of her promiscuous lying. For example:
Bachmann's anti-standards crusade led her to her first political run. In 1999, she joined four other Republicans in Stillwater in an attempt to seize control of the school board. The "Slate of Five" proved unpopular: The GOP candidates finished dead last. ... The slate of five had been put together by a local Republican kingpin named Bill Pulkrabek, who this spring was jailed for domestic assault after he allegedly pulled his mistress down a set of stairs by her hair. According to Pulkrabek, Bachmann initially came to him asking for advice on how to defeat Gary Laidig, a moderate Republican state senator, but he advised her to run for the school board first. ... In her later telling of the story, however, Bachmann substituted a higher authority than Bill Pulkrabek. It was God, she insisted, not a girlfriend-abusing politician, who instructed her to get involved in politics. "As if we didn't have enough to do, He called me to run for the Minnesota State Senate," she said in 2006. "I had no idea, no desire to be in politics. None."

In another version of the story told by Bachmann, she ran against Laidig only because a GOP endorsing convention in April of that year spontaneously selected her, prompting yet another Home Alone extreme-surprise moment. "I came in wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and moccasins, and I had no makeup on at all," she said. "I had made not one phone call, and spent not five cents, and I did not solicit a vote." Laidig, who calls Bachmann a "cold and calculating" person, didn't buy it. "Absolute bullshit," he told reporters. "She planned this all along."
Taibbi calls this a kind of lies-for-the-Lord syndrome, where intentions bless deeds. Similar to when former Attorney General John Mitchell was asked by the Watergate committee if he'd kill to get Nixon re-elected, and he answered, "Senator, you ask a hard question." (My paraphrase, but very close.)

Again, a fun read; do check it out.

For my money, Bachmann is positioning herself to be a rinsed-in-Jesus VP handmaiden to the magic-underwear headliner, Mitt Romney, who looks more and more like the only viable GOP candidate in 2012.

They would both benefit, he by the right-wing version of green-washing, which he desperately needs. And she by the obvious leg up.

Again, she's not dumb, just crazy-for-Christ. (Sam Seder shares this view of her target, by the way, as sometimes expressed on his podcast. If nothing else, it makes great political sense.)

GP

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Betsy Loves Sarah Palin!!

Via the Coffee Party Movement:

In an internal document, a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters spelled out their principal strategy: "Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact." Ever since, they have been sowing doubt even more effectively than the tobacco companies before them. - Al Gore
 
 
To sell their false narrative, the Polluters and Ideologues have found it essential to undermine the public's respect for Science and Reason by attacking the integrity of the climate scientists.
 

Quote of the Day: Thom Hartmann

I've been saying for a long time that Republicans have one strategy - to crash the economy so that President Obama loses in 2012 - Thom Hartmann



"Now - finally - it looks like Democrats have figured that out. In a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, top Democrats called out Republicans for stopping anything that will help the economy. As Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, "Our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work: President Obama." Many of the stimulus measures Republicans are voting down - such as a payroll tax cut for employers - are the very same things they used to support, which is just more proof they don't give a damn about the economy - they only care about the 2012 elections."

Via NPR: Schools Blend Computers With Classroom Learning

Kindergartners at KIPP Empower Academy in South Los Angeles work on laptops while in another corner of the room, a group of students do an activity with a teacher.
 
Enlarge Larry Abramson/NPR Kindergartners at KIPP Empower Academy in South Los Angeles work on laptops while in another corner of the room, a group of students do an activity with a teacher.


Part 1 of a two-part report

Part 2 of a two part report

Two from Truthout:




Thursday 23 June 2011

William Rivers Pitt | Clarence Thomas Must Go
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I do not like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In my opinion, he has no business sitting on the high court after the reprehensible treatment he forced Anita Hill to endure, and has been a disgrace to the bench lo these last twenty years. Anthony Weiner, one of Clarence Thomas' most ardent critics, was just run out of Washington DC on a rail for behavior far less offensive; Mr. Thomas is lucky there was no such thing as Twitter when he was sexually harassing Hill, or he'd be chasing ambulances outside of muni court like the hack he is. He sits up there like a lump, never speaking or offering questions to petitioners, and has not had an original thought since his shameful Senate approval. But his vapid intellectual presence on the bench is only a small part of the story. Mr. Thomas has, by all appearances, turned his position on the court into a license to print money for himself, his family, and a few choice friends."
Read the Article


On the News With Thom Hartmann: Obama Announces Drawdown, Bad News for the Economy, and More ...
Truthout is pleased to begin offering daily newscasts from leading progressive author and talk show host Thom Hartmann. In these segments, Hartmann will highlight the day's top stories and offer a unique look at the issues behind them. Today, he'll address the phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Bernanke's sobering assessment of the US economy, Barney Frank and Ron Paul's team effort to fight marijuana laws, and more.
Watch the Video
 

Via NPR: Math Videos Go From YouTube Hit To Classroom Tool

Fifth-graders (from left) Reese Toomre, Lucas Nguyen and Michael An race through the Khan  Academy's Trigonometry Challenge. The program allows more advanced students to  move ahead, while other students can proceed at their own pace.

Fifth-graders (from left) Reese Toomre, Lucas Nguyen and Michael An race through the Khan Academy's Trigonometry Challenge. The program allows more advanced students to move ahead, while other students can proceed at their own pace.


Via avaaz.org: The Amazon is in serious danger

The Amazon is in serious danger -- the lower house of the Brazilian congress has approved a gutting of Brazil’s forest protection laws. Unless we act now, vast tracts of our planet’s lungs could be opened up to clear-cutting devastation.

The move has sparked widespread anger and protests across the country. And tension is rising -- in the last few weeks, several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered, purportedly by armed thugs hired by illegal loggers. The timing is critical. They’re trying to silence criticism just as the law is discussed in the Senate. But President Dilma can veto the changes, if we can persuade her to overcome political pressure and step onto the global stage as a leader.

79% of Brazilians support Dilma's veto of the forest law changes, but their voices are being challenged by logger lobbies. It’s now up to all of us to raise the stakes and make Amazon protection a global issue. Let’s come together now in a giant call to stop the murders and illegal logging, and save the Amazon. Sign the petition below -- it’ll be delivered to Dilma when we reach 500,000 signers:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_amazon/?vl

People love Brazil! The sun, the music, the dancing, the football, the nature -- it’s a country that inspires millions around the world. This is why Brazil is hosting the next World Cup, why Rio has the 2016 Olympics and next year’s Earth Summit, a meeting to stop the slow death of our planet.

Our love is not misplaced -- the Amazon Is vital to life on earth -- 20% of our oxygen and 60% of our freshwater comes from this magnificent rainforest. That’s why it’s so crucial that we all protect it.

But Brazil is also a rapidly developing country, battling to lift tens of millions out of poverty, and the pressure to clear-cut and mine for profit on its political leaders is intense. This is why they’re dangerously close to buckling on environmental protections. Local activists are being murdered, intimidated and silenced, it’s up to Avaaz members across the world to stand with Brazilians and urge Brazil’s politicians to be strong.

Many of us have seen in our own countries how growth often comes at the expense of our natural heritage, our waters and air get polluted, our forests die.

For Brazil, there is an alternative. Dilma’s predecessor massively reduced deforestation and cemented the country’s international reputation as an environmental leader, while also enjoying huge economic growth. Let’s come together now, and urge Dilma to follow in those footsteps -- sign the petition to save the Amazon, then forward this email to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_amazon/?vl

In the last 3 years, Brazilian Avaaz members have taken massive leaps towards the world we all want: They won landmark anti-corruption legislation, and have lobbied their government to play a leadership role at the UN, protect human rights and intervene to support democracy in the Middle East, and help protect human rights in Africa and beyond.

Now, as brave Brazilian activists are being killed for protecting a critical global resource, let’s come together, and build an international movement to save the Amazon and herald Brazil as a true international leader once more. Sign the petition, then forward this email to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_amazon/?vl

With hope,

Emma, Ricken, Alice, Ben, Iain, Laura, Graziela, Luis and the rest of the Avaaz Team


MORE INFORMATION

BBC -- Brazil passes 'retrograde' forest code:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13544000

AP -- Another Amazon activist killed in logging conflict:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gpeblqINNdOyGwLJOL2QRXInY4bA?docId=CNG.b3569aafd06fe78f58be73c5faaa97a5.71

Mongabay -- Majority of Brazilians reject changes in Amazon Forest Code:
http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0611-amazon_code_poll.html

Science Insider -- Furor Over Proposed Brazilian Forest Law:
http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/05/furor-over-proposed-brazilian.html

Guardian -- Death in the Amazon: a war being fought for us all:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2011/jun/15/amazon-rainforest-brazil-murder

Washington Post -- Brazil’s lower house approves looser forest protections:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/brazils-lower-house-approves-looser-forest-protections/2011/05/25/AGgXnaBH_story.html

Brazil's forest bill threat to Amazon
http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/05/26/brazils-forestry-bill-threat-to-amazon/


Support the Avaaz community! We're entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way -- donate here.

Via CREDO: Our response to President Obama's speech on Afghanistan.

Dear Daniel,

President Obama addressed the nation last night to lay out his new strategy for Afghanistan and explain his plans for a troop withdrawal starting in July. 

For months, CREDO members have been very active in pushing for a significant withdrawal. But that is not what President Obama announced. And given the willingness of the media to characterize the withdrawal as "aggressive" or "rapid," we wanted to share our perspective on where we are and where we will go from here. 

In his speech last night, President Obama announced plans to withdraw only 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 servicemembers by September of 2012. 

This means that at the end of his first term, President Obama will have twice as many troops in Afghanistan as when he came into office.
 
This plan for withdrawal is a token gesture that signifies years more of the large-scale military occupation of Afghanistan — not a real effort to end the war.
And while a token withdrawal starting in July is better than no withdrawal at all, the fact of the matter is that there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan and we need to focus on rapidly bringing all of our troops home. 

Yet there are still signs that our activism is making a difference. 

We've seen increased efforts in Congress to push for a speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan. Recently, the House narrowly defeated the McGovern-Jones amendment that would require a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. And just last week, 26 senators signed onto a letter urging President Obama to start a "sizable and sustained" withdrawal in July (and that does not count other senators who made public statements to that effect since the letter was sent). 

CREDO has supported these efforts with thousands of phone calls and dozens of constituent meetings. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a progressive champion working to end this war, even delivered over 120,000 petition signatures from CREDO members to President Obama urging him to make the July withdrawal significant. 

And I was recently told privately by a Congressman that many of his colleagues were unhappy with the continued war but were holding their tongues and not speaking out publicly until the president announced his plans for the withdrawal. 

Based on that conversation I expect that many of these members of Congress were as disappointed as we were by the president's announcement. 

So with increasing support for our position in Congress, and poll after poll showing that the public wants the president to end the war in Afghanistan, we are slowly but surely gaining momentum.
 
We will continue to push for an end to the war in Afghanistan, and we hope you will continue to join us in this effort. 

Thank you for all that you do. Your activism matters. 

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets 

P.S. We thought you might want to see how members of Congress responded to President Obama's speech. The Huffington Post has a good roundup of reactions from Democratic members of Congress, including those leading the effort to end the war in Afghanistan. You can read that article by clicking here

Via Climate Progress: Jon Stewart 1, Politifact 0: Fox News Viewers Are The Most Misinformed

Posted: 23 Jun 2011 09:07 AM PDT



A WPO poll found a remarkable 60% of those who watched Fox News almost daily believe that “Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring,” whereas only 30% who never watch it believe that.  Only 25% of those who watch CNN almost daily hold that erroneous belief — and only 14% who listen to NPR or PBS almost daily.
Chris Mooney, in a DeSmogBlog re-post

I have a lot of respect for political fact checking sites. I think they play a critical role, especially in our misinformation-saturated political and media environment.

However, sometimes these sites fall for the allure of phony bipartisanship. In other words, in an environment in which conservatives are more inaccurate and more misinformed about science and basic policy facts, the “fact checkers” nevertheless feel unduly compelled to correct “liberal” errors too—which is fine, as long as they are really errors.

But sometimes they aren’t. A case in point is Politifact’s recent and deeply misguided attempt to correct Jon Stewart on the topic of … misinformation and Fox News. This is a subject on which we’ve developed some expertise here … my recent post on studies showing that Fox News viewers are more misinformed, on an array of issues, is the most comprehensive such collection that I’m aware of, at least when it comes to public opinion surveys detecting statistical correlations between being misinformed about contested facts and Fox News viewership. I’ve repeatedly asked whether anyone knows of additional studies—including contradictory studies—but none have yet been cited.

Stewart, very much in the vein of my prior post, went on the air with Fox’s Chris Wallace and stated,
“Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
My research, and my recent post, most emphatically supports this statement.


Indeed, I cited five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) separate public opinion studies in support of it—although I carefully noted that these studies do not prove causation (e.g., that watching Fox News causes one to be more misinformed). The causal arrow could very well run the other way—believing wrong things could make one more likely to watch Fox News in the first place.

But the fundamental point is, when it comes to believing political misinformation and watching Fox News, I know of no other studies than these five–though I’d be glad to see additional studies produced. Until then, these five all point in one obvious direction.

“Every poll,” to quote Stewart.

Politifact wasn’t even aware of the studies I’ve cited. Instead, the site’s attempt to debunk Stewart largely relied on misunderstanding what he meant.

What Stewart obviously meant—and what I mean—is that when it comes to politicized, contested issues where the facts have been made murky due to political biases, it is Fox viewers who are the most likely to believe incorrect things—to fall prey to misinformation. A quintessential example of such an issue is global warming, or whether Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or was collaborating with Al Qaeda. There are many, many others.

To rebut Stewart’s claim, Politifact relied upon irrelevant and off-point studies. Thus, the site cited a number of Pew surveys that examine basic political literacy and relate it to what kind of media citizens consume. E.g., questions like whether people know “who the vice president is, who the president of Russia is, whether the Chief Justice is conservative, which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives and whether the U.S. has a trade deficit.”

Too few citizens know the answers to such basic questions—which is lamentable, but also irrelevant in the current context. These are not contested issues, nor are they skewed by an active misinformation campaign. As a result, on such issues, many Americans may be ill-informed but liberals and conservatives are nevertheless able to agree.
Moreover, on such issues, I would expect cable news viewers of all types to be generally better informed than the general public, because such viewers are, by definition, politically engaged—they care about politics. So they are more likely to know the baseline stuff, whatever channel they watch. (Politifact partly acknowledges the criticism here, but still tries to save face.)

That’s precisely what was found in a study of a related type of media: Right wing talk radio. C. Richard Hofstetter of San Diego State and his colleagues found of right wing radio listeners that “despite the flamboyance of many hosts and messages, audiences nevertheless appear to hold higher levels of information in association with involvement with political talk.” And yet at the same time, the researchers also found that “exposure to conservative talk shows was related to increased misinformation, while exposure to moderate political talk shows was related to decreased levels of political misinformation, after controlling for other variables.” In other words, this study found something very similar to what has been repeatedly found about Fox.

Thus, the bulk of the studies cited by Politifact have nothing to do with whether Fox viewers believe the truth, or falsehoods, on politicized and contested issues. I cannot stress how fundamental a distinction this is. Indeed, it is quite literally a separate issue from the perspective of psychology and neuroscience.

From the point of view of the political brain, whether 2 + 2 = 4, or whether Joe Biden is the vice president, is one type of question. It’s the type of question where there’s no political stake and anyone can agree, because it doesn’t require any emotional sacrifice to do so. It therefore likely engages circuits of “cold reasoning.”

However, whether global warming is human caused is fundamentally different. The latter issue is politicized, and thus engages emotions, identity, and classic pathways of biased reasoning. It therefore likely triggers circuits of “hot reasoning.” (For a study showing why the two are so different with respect to the brain, see here.)
It is of course around contested political facts, and contested scientific facts, where we find active, politically impelled, and emotionally laden misinformation campaigns—and it is in the latter realm that Fox News viewers are clearly more misinformed. Once again, I’ve cited 5 studies to this effect—concerning the Iraq war, the 2010 election, global warming, health care reform, and the Ground Zero Mosque. By contrast, Politifact only cites two of these studies, and attempts to critique one of them (the 2010 election study)—misguidedly to my mind, but who really even cares. It is obvious where the weight of the evidence lies at this point, unless further, relevant studies are brought to bear.

As a result of all of this, Politifact should either produce relevant research to rebut Stewart, or run a far more forthcoming retraction than has been issued so far. Note, however, that the issue grew a tad more complicated last night when Stewart did an excellent segment on all of this, where he both dramatized how much Fox misinformed viewers and yet also kind of conceded Politifact’s point, when he didn’t actually have to. He wasn’t wrong. They were wrong.

When the fact checkers fail—and in this case, they not only failed, they generated a falsehood of their own–they have a special responsibility to self-correct.

UPDATE: I’ve run across (thanks to Steve Benen) a sixth survey that supports Stewart. It is a 2009 NBC News poll about health care misinformation, and guess what?
In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma. What’s more, a good chunk of folks who get their news from broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) believe these things, too.
Chris Mooney, in a DeSmogBlog re-post

[Joe Romm:   Two studies suggest that indeed watching Fox news does causes people to become misinformed, as I discuss here.]
Related Post

Via Lester and Charlie:


The celebration party for the 55 drafters of the U.S. Constitution was stocked with 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven large bowls of punch. They must have been bracing for how people would interpret it.
 

Via english.aljazeera.net:

 

Pics de hoje / Today's Snaps

When they deliver the holy water, it comes on a motorbike...
night view, Praça Tiradentes
Milton, Silvia  e duas  pias

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Via NPR: Remarks Of President Obama On Afghanistan

 
June 22, 2011
 
Good evening. Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda's leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We're starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda's leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. "The message," he said, "is we don't forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes."

The information that we recovered from bin Laden's compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -– thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we've inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we've already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning — but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war. We'll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we've made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies. We won't try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We'll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us. They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We've learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that's been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm's way. We've ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America's engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don't have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we're doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We're a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource –- our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve.

I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell. A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden.

Standing in front of a model of bin Laden's compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost –- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten. This officer — like so many others I've met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -– spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

That's a lesson worth remembering -– that we are all a part of one American family. Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish. Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next.

May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.

Via Truthout:


In war, truth is the first casualty.
-Aeschylus, Greek tragic dramatist (525 BC - 456 BC)

Via JMG: Sarah Palin Quits Again


Sarah "The Quitter" Palin has called off the second half of her much ballyhooed "patriotic bus tour" of American historical sites.
While the tour was never clearly defined with specific stops (especially to the media), Palin had made clear her intention to visit the very politically influential states of Iowa and South Carolina, which raised reasonable expectations that she had some sort of political goal in mind. Well it appears that those stops, and all others, have not been shelved and the Palins have retreated to their home of Alaska for the rest of the summer. Roughly a month ago, the entire media world seemed particularly vexed by Palin’s One Nation bus tour. Several prominent personalities wondered what was the point of Palin taking a tour through numerous swing states if not the most obvious explanation: running for President.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Serial Adulterer Newt Gingrigh Had A $1M Line Of Credit With Tiffany

Via JMG: Rolling Stone On Crazy Eyes


From an extensive Rolling Stone profile by Matt Taibbi:
Bachmann's entire political career has followed this exact same pattern of God-speaks-directly-to-me fundamentalism mixed with pathological, relentless, conscienceless lying. She's not a liar in the traditional way of politicians, who tend to lie dully, usefully and (they hope) believably, often with the aim of courting competing demographics at the same time. That's not what Bachmann's thing is. Bachmann lies because she can't help it, because it's a built-in component of both her genetics and her ideology. She is at once the most entertaining and the most dangerous kind of liar, a turbocharged cross between a born bullshit artist and a religious fanatic, for whom lying to the infidel is a kind of holy duty.
Definitely read the full article.

(Tipped by JMG reader Justin)


reposted from Joe
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