Thursday, February 25, 2010

NPR Undermines a Right-Wing Talking Point

The Unpublishable Spouse asked me yesterday: "Would you please take out the garbage?"

"Unprecedented," I said, "Nothing of this sort has ever been asked before! I cannot break with tradition in such an unprecedented, unheard-of, entirely new, completely different, altogether unique, decidedly distinct way, one unlike anything previously seen or experienced in the great wide world, and it would be irresponsible of me to attempt any such untried, untested, unproven, unconsidered, possibly ill-considered, reckless and intemperate action. We should stop, consider the consequences of this decision and act in a step-by-step, responsible, piecemeal fashion, rather than invoke the nuclear option, the fissile, fusile process of atomically exploding the civic and civil in pursuit of your ideological, and possibly scatological, agenda."

Spouse: "But I took out the garbage last week!"

Me: "Last week? I don't think so. What you did last week was nothing like what you are demanding I do now in this headlong rush to action, this precipitate departure from normal procedure whose dire consequences we dare not contemplate lest its very thought burn out our retinas and liquify our brains, leaving us mindless zombies wandering a post-apocalyptic hellscape of our worst imaginings or the US Senate!"

Spouse: "How is it different?"

Me: "Well, for one thing, that was last week and this is this week. By definition this is new and different, time-indexed and Cartesian-coordinated, uniquely described and identified by its location in the space-time continuum, a segment of the space-time worm, a time-slice of our individual existences, a particularity, a specific event with a haecceity, a primitive thisness, that renders it totally distinct from any other thing."

Spouse: "In what measurable, testable, perceivable way is it different, even with its thisness or thatness, its hereness or thereness, primitive, sophisticated or otherwise?"

Me: "Well, in this case, I would be taking out the garbage, and in that case, you took out the garbage. Even the unsophisticated and uninitiated must recognize that events are individuated by their space-time constituents."

Spouse: "I know no such thing, and anyway why should who did something matter to what it is they are doing? And don't start in on the rivers, and why no one can step in the same one twice, or I'll dump this glass of water over your head."

Me: "Even if I admit that token identity is not the only kind, that events can be type-identical, these are still different types."

Spouse: "Enough with your philosophical obfuscations, tell me how they're different!"

Me: "The garbage to be taken out now certainly consists of different garbage-parts, all atomically-garbagically-distinct at the micro-nano-pico-garbagico-level. How can the garbage be the same if its parts are all different, and how can my act of taking out that garbage be the same if the passionate-part, the thing acted upon, is different?"

Spouse: "Semantics! Types! Tokens! Your pragmatics better get pragmatic before your kneecaps all get brokens!"

Me: "A fallacious appeal to force, ad baculum, how could you-um? Who is it that takes refuge in violence?"

Spouse: "I'll ask one more time: how is your taking out the garbage now different from my taking it out last week?"

Me: "This time the garbage truck has already left, while we were arguing, and it would be a waste of time to take the garbage out now."

End dialog.

Inspired by the Republican objections to using budget reconciliation to pass health care reform and their, no doubt, pre-conceived distinctions without a difference used to question-beggingly distinguish everyone else's previous use of it from the current use of it, all while maintaining the same rhetorical stance. Republican slogan: "Ad astra per fallacia!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NPR Proudly Spreading Right-Wing Talking Points Since . . .

I really don't know why I listen to NPR in the morning anymore. This morning featured an analysis of Evan Bayh's decision not to seek reelection to the Senate. The interviewer asked, "What did he mean when he said there was too much partisanship in the Senate?" The analyst responded that he was talking about mean, lefty bloggers on the interwebs or something. Perhaps they could have listened to Bayh's actual words in which he actually cited an example of the actual partisanship that he was actually upset about. His example was the idea for a bipartisan commission to be congressionally empowered to make budget cuts to reduce the deficit. (This is a bad idea anyway--did he enter the Senate to get someone else to make tough decisions for him? Apparently. Moreover, the deficit is not the problem right now, unemployment is the problem.) So, what was the problem with his failure of bipartisanship? 7 senators who had previously co-sponsored the legislation had voted against the legislation entirely because Obama had endorsed it. Essentially, this was something these senators believed in (if anyone can say such a thing about a politician), but they changed their positions on it entirely because they did not want Obama to have something that he wanted. (If Obama tries to pass a bill praising, Mom, apple pie and baseball, or truth, justice and the American way, would they vote against that? Someone ought to make them decide.) Who were those 7 masked, hypocritical bandits? Why, they were all Republicans, of course.

In short, instead of actually paying attention to Bayh's own example of excessive partisanship on the part of Republicans (although Bayh was too bipartisan to mention their party affiliation), the "analyst" on NPR threw some crap about lefties against the wall in the hope that it would stick. It simply boggles the mind that no one on that program has any interest in informing their listeners but prefer simply to make things up, especially in support of right-wing propaganda.

(To be clear, Bayh apparently really doesn't like the lefty bloggers, and they don't like him. But the lefty bloggers are not in the Senate. And if, somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, their influence has grown so vast and pervasive that they can influence Senators to be more liberal, then NPR was still totally irresponsible in not mentioning Bayh's specific complaint about Republican senators.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NPR still Apologists for Right-Wingers

I've written about this before, but I continue to be amazed at the extent to which National Public Radio provides a platform for baseless Republican/right-wing talking points and otherwise enables right-wing memes.

First, yesterday (Feb. 2) they spent an inordinate amount of time on a sympathetic portrayal of tea-party activist and blogger Liberty Belle (Keli Carender) in which this blogger claimed that the reason she opposed reform of the health care system is that the government would be funding it with other people's money. Here's the quote:

"I tried to boil down in essence what makes me so angry about it," Carender says. "And it was this idea that he [Democratic Congressman Norm Dicks of Washington] and other people decide what the needs are in society. They get to decide. But in order to fund those things, they have to take from some people in order to give to the other people."

Obviously this is not a complaint about health care reform; it's not even a complaint about redistributive taxation. This is a complaint about government. It is simply not possible for a government to exist unless it takes money from some people and uses it for purposes which do not benefit those people in exact proportion to the amount they were taxed. It bothers her that people in government get to decide how to spend tax money. Seriously.

At this point, one might expect the interviewer to move on to other topics, perhaps ask after the interviewees course of medication and whether it is treating her psychological problems (or, as my spouse suggests, asks where her parents are). Instead they continued for another several minutes with their loving portrayal of someone whose only merit is that she is passionate about things about which she is completely ignorant. Nonetheless, the NPR report contained nary a word to indicate the irrationality or ignorance of her thinking. Can a puff piece on Lyndon LaRouche be far behind? I suggest the title, "LaRouche, Not a Typical Troglodyte, Thinks for Himself."

The pattern of enabling continued this morning (Feb. 3) in somewhat muted form. This morning they noted that the administration had faced criticism for the underwear bomber's failure to provide information and that this failure was a result of his being given the rights of criminal defendants guaranteed by our constitution. This narrative, according to NPR, turned out to be wholly untrue. So, kudos to NPR for actually reporting a fact, but mysteriously the source of these fabrications disappeared. (I claim these are fabrications because the claims must not have been based on the facts since the facts do not support the claims at all. There never was reason to think his being mirandized had led to him clamming up. In fact, traditional interrogation techniques had been quite successful.) We cannot have an informed discourse when one side of the debate gets to make up their own reality and, when the media actually investigates the truth of the matter (which they rarely do), the side that made up its own "facts" is then immunized from criticism for its falsehoods by having its role in the dissemination of these falsehoods completely overlooked. Simply put, when one side is lying, it's not enough to expose the lie; you also have to point out who was lying.

Totally off the topic of NPR, I watched the execrable Chris Matthews very briefly on Rachel Maddow's show last night when Matthews asserted that Obama needed to get his approval ratings up so that he could get support in Congress to pass his legislation. What I cannot figure out is why Matthews thought this would make any difference at all. Republicans have voted against, and threatened filibuster on, virtually every piece of legislation Democrats have proposed no matter what Obama's approval rating. He had no more luck with getting their votes when he had just pasted their candidate in the Presidential election, had the largest majorities in both houses of Congress in 30 years or so, and had a personal approval rating in the 60s (which was higher than Bush had for at least 5 consecutive years). Personal approval ratings mean nothing to the Republican opposition. They might have a minor effect on some recalcitrant Democrats, but passing things in the Senate requires a Republican vote now (for some insane reason), so his approval won't help with that. I think Matthews must have been examining the inside of his own colon, rather than electoral politics, for the last year if he does not know this.

Update: Reading the text of the NPR piece on Liberty Belle suggested to me that she was only arguing against redistributive taxation. Perhaps I was too tough on her, but when I heard it, the emphasis seemed to be on other people deciding how to spend money, not on the redistributive function of that spending. Perhaps that was my imagination or simply something quirky about her speech. I do maintain that it is basically impossible to tax people in such a way that they receive benefits in exact proportion to their tax burden. I suppose it is possible to have a fee-based government, but that also seems unworkable. (I would, of course, refuse to pay fees for my police department since I own lots of big dogs and big guns.) In any event, my criticism may have been slightly over the top.

The link to the first NPR piece is here.