Sunday, July 17, 2011

Confuse dem

part 2 is here; MSNBC used to offer embed codes for their online videos, as I recall, but this one didn't have one.

1."Why Obama is winning the debt war"
[MSNBC video link is here] If you want to watch all of the video continuously it's here.

July 12: "MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell explains how President Obama continues to outsmart, out-strategize and out-talk the Republicans, in the debt ceiling standoff."

2.Salon, "Why Mitch McConnell will win the day", Robert Reich

3.Scarecrow(at Firedoglake), "Why Is Larry O’Donnell Implying Obama Lied to the Country and the Tea-GOP?"

The clip of Lawrence O'Donnell has to be seen to be believed. You probably should watch it continuously via the MSNBC link. I'm reminded of the healthcare debate in late 2009 and early 2010, when I got the distinct impression that the administration was trying to confuse people about what exactly was covered by the Democrat's/Obama's healthcare bill and how he regarded the public option McGuffin, as numerous interim versions of the bill were reported on, many released as downloadable PDFs[pdf; pdf2] but even the one that was finally voted upon in March '10 was in fact supposed to get some more fiddling down the road.

Now of course both Obama and the GOP are trying to confuse people, and getting able help from people like O'Donnell. In national polls you often hear about how people have a low opinion of the news media in general, but my impression is that they trust reportage a lot more than a positive or negative response to a poll question may suggest. After all, even though a majority of people polled are against increasing the debt limit, most of these people didn't worry about it one bit prior to 2009, while the federal debt grew like a cancer under George W. Bush, and majorities of republicans, democrats and tv reporters said nothing.

At any rate, FDL's Scarecrow(above) is absolutely correct that bragging about how crafty and dishonest Obama is being in negotiating with the republicans is absurd, even risible. O'Donnell's spin is duplicitous on several levels, apart from the obvious one of pleasing corporate, as BDR might say. He speaks (we assume) to democrats, congratulating them on their presumed worldliness and canniness in being "in on the con," encouraging them to find gamesmanship and opacity laudable, in much the way the grown ups in the story of the Emperor's new clothes thought they were being reasonable and adult by playing along. So a concession is not a concession, and anyone who says otherwise is not cool. Of course even MSNBC has millions of viewers, and one imagines some of them are republican, or at least lean that way. So at another level he's doing his job by annoying those republican viewers with that same schtick; one man's craftiness is another man's flim-flammery. On a third level, perhaps, is contempt for both of them.

Many observers have suggested that it took raving anti-communist Nixon to go to China and so it follows that it takes Obama the purported Muslim-Socialist-Commie to cut(or gut) social security and medicare. It certainly looks like we're headed in that direction, and the dancing around is meant to make sure stupid republicans will blame Obama and stupid democrats will blame the GOP. What if they're both right?

Maybe if Obama does as he's told he'll get to run against wacky Michele Bachmann, and if he doesn't he'll get to run against Mitt I-got-your-healthcare-reform-right-here Romney.(And if he really misbehaves, Rick Perry!) Speaking of polls, many recent ones suggest that even republicans generally worry about preserving these programs. To be mystified by who wants this to happen requires a belief in the 'combat' between the two parties and that the guys on your side are looking out for you, no matter what they may actually say or do. So it helps if you are confused.

see also

Mike Whitney, "Debt Ceiling Kabuki"

Rob Payne, "Balloon payment"

Dennis Perrin, "Obvious Things"

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At July 18, 2011 11:50 AM, Anonymous ms_xeno said...

...Many observers have suggested that it took raving anti-communist Nixon to go to China and so it follows that it takes Obama the purported Muslim-Socialist-Commie to GUT social security and medicare...

Fixed it for ya'. :p

Otherwise, a great post. ;)

At July 18, 2011 1:16 PM, Blogger Mimi said...

" doubt in the near future all babies born in the U.S. will be fingerprinted, their eyes scanned, and their DNA recorded and kept by the emerging police state or perhaps they merely insert a chip into their bodies."
Rob, I wish I could believe this is a hopeless exaggeration on your part, but I don't. It may start with a national identity card. About 18 months ago, Parade magazine reported in a poll that 75% of responders answered "yes" to "Do we need a national ID card?" Now, the circumstances of the poll weren't mentioned; it could have been two pineys in a pickup truck for all I know, but it's a little depressing, don't you think? BTW, did you know that Congress is considering a plan to standardize drivers' licenses for identification purposes? Yep.

At July 18, 2011 6:38 PM, Blogger micah holmquist said...

Is O'Donnell usually this bad? The entire segment comes across as someone trying to convince himself of something he does not believe, which may or may not be the case, but certainly isn't the impression one wants to give.

At July 18, 2011 7:02 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi all,

Ms Xeno,
Thanks and OK. GUT.

Like you I like Rob's post, and like you I am aghast by the Parade poll. Americans scare awfully easy, and the usually get scared by the wrong things, trusting authority figures on the TV who tell them what to be afraid of and not drawing their own conclusions.

For example, it's difficult for me to understand why Americans don't worry more about our country antagonizing Pakistan. Maybe some do, but it's hard to tell.


I don't watch MSNBC that often, so I'm not sure about O'Donnell. I saw a link to the MSNBC video somewhere else and followed it. Still, I tend to think he's smart enough to know better. It's so hard to tell.

At July 18, 2011 9:29 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hi Mimi,

If they do it to the Afghans it seems like it is only a matter of time before they do it here as well. I thought your post on that article was quite good. I had a similar reaction when I saw it, it just infuriated me to see them winning hearts and minds that way.

Yes that poll is depressing and it’s a sign of just how weird our society has become. When you have imperial goals abroad it’s important to keep the rabble in line so as not to disturb our rulers so subduing the masses with a parody of democracy and an intrusive police state is necessary or so it would seem.

Polls seem to have a way of being correct especially when you wish they weren’t but like you said the circumstances and even how questions are asked can affect the outcome I would expect.

But to see people so willingly subservient to this kind of intrusion is a sign of how our society is changing for the worse. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

At July 18, 2011 9:41 PM, Blogger rob payne said...


Hey thanks for the plug. Yeah, people are easilly scared when they are lied to, no doubt there.

Generally if people rely on TV news they aren't informed enough to worry about a nuclear armed Pakistan because they likely aren't even aware of it or what we are really doing, it's not humanitarian that's for sure.

At July 18, 2011 11:07 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi Rob,

I absolutely agree regarding how poll questions are phrased having a substantial impact on the results.

For example I've noted that in many polls you see the question about whether government should redistribute wealth, which generally get anywhere from 55-65% against this.

I also see polls in which people are asked if the rich should have to pay more in taxes, and generally anywhere from 55-70% will agree with that.

I realize that they're not literally calling the same people from one poll to the next, but still...

At July 19, 2011 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guarantee I could word polling questions in a way to get the answers I wanted.


At July 19, 2011 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For example, if you don't want wealth re-distribution,

you would call it "wealth re-distribution,"

but if you wanted it,

you'd talk about fair shares and legitimately earned wealth, productivity from the wealth "earning," utility of the process that generated the "wealth," etc.

It's easy stuff. Polling results are totally worthless because of this glitch, which passes under almost everyone's radar.


At July 20, 2011 11:15 AM, Anonymous No One of Consequence said...


The worthlessness isn't a bug, it's a feature. It allows you to say anything you like. This is why I do my damndest to avoid using polls to back up my positions. I'm willing to get behind really general and easy propositions that polling can back, but on specific issues? Forgettaboutit.

Do recall that pollsters hide, like a drug fiend hiding a stash, the response rate. A pathetic response rate alone would make a given poll garbage, even before your point were to be effective.

At July 20, 2011 4:53 PM, Blogger micah holmquist said...


Actually sometimes they do ask the same people. I was part of Gallup tracking group in 2008 for a couple of months. Each week I'd be asked about 20 questions. There were definitely times when they would ask the same question one week to the next except during the second asking, there would be a preface.

For instance, the first week's question would be "Do you favor mandatory seat belt laws?" The next week I'd be asked, "Many experts believe seat belts drive up the costs of automobiles for middle class families, do you favor mandatory seat belt laws?"

Of course, I went out of my way to be in favor of anything that hurts "middle class families." If I ever run for office, my platform is going to be helping working class and poor people, being neutral on the upper class and middle class singles and punishing middle class families. They get entirely too much attention.

At July 21, 2011 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree: not a bug, a feature. Agree completely! The whole point is the manipulation of "authoritative" information.

Same thing pops up in litigation, where "expert witnesses" can be found to support ANY position you wish to advance. And I mean ANY. I've seen some bizarre "experts" who qualify simply because in the law, the only requirement is knowledge beyond that held by the average layman. Since the average American is assumed to read at a 7th or 8th grade level, it's not tough to show an "expert" deserves to be allowed to testify.

In courtrooms you can try to de-pants the "expert" with solid x-examination, but a lot of fraudulent experts are not just "experts" in their "field," but also are expert at being a courtroom expert. Some of them are wilier and more clever than an adept cross-examiner.

Everything's for sale! Especially the truth.


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