Right-wing media figures are demagoguing an Obama Administration initiative to combat bullying and harassment, likening it to "big brother" and "Facebook stalking" of students. In fact, the initiative is an effort to assist schools and parents in preventing and dealing with bullying and harassment, which is estimated to affect as many as 13 million students each year.
The right-wing media have attacked President Obama for supposedly not focusing on crises in Japan and Libya by instead honoring women's history month, going golfing, and filling out NCAA tournament brackets. Yet, Obama has engaged on both issues by making numerous public addresses and ordering humanitarian relief efforts in Japan and the Middle East.
Right-wing media are shocked by a recent interview in which Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) says he supports single-payer health care and are claiming Conyers's statement "confirms" that the health care bill is "a Trojan horse for an eventual government takeover of health care." But Conyers' support for single-payer health care is not new, and his statement does not change the fact that the Affordable Care Act is still not a "government takeover" of health care.
The right-wing media has consistently portrayed the medical case of Canadian baby Joseph Maraachli as a fight for survival, claiming he was "rescued" from the Canadian hospital treating him, thus "sav[ing]" the child's life. In fact, Maraachli's condition is incurable -- a fact conceded even by the conservative priests who facilitated moving Maraachli to a Catholic hospital in the U.S. -- and the Canadian hospital had agreed to all of his parents' requests to discharge and transfer the child.
The right-wing media have seized on a video of students protesting against Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker as evidence of children being "indoctrinate[d]" to support progressive causes. As Media Matters has noted, right-wing media have repeatedly seized on YouTube videos of children to accuse progressives of "indoctrination" of children.
Conservative media have promoted efforts to repeal provisions of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, claiming that the law banned incandescent light bulbs and that Americans will no longer have choice over their light bulb purchases. In fact, the bill simply restricts the sale of inefficient bulbs and has lead companies to develop numerous alternatives, including energy-efficient incandescents.
Misrepresenting testimony from the CBO director, conservative media claim the health care reform law will eliminate 800,000 jobs. In fact, CBO said the law will "reduc[e] the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, and as health expert Paul Van De Water stated, "If people voluntarily choose to reduce their hours of work ... that's not killing jobs."
The right-wing media have seized on a Wikileaks cable to claim the Obama administration "betrayed" the United Kingdom by revealing data to Russia regarding the sale of nuclear material. In fact, the information was passed in compliance with nuclear arms treaties and "with respect to the longstanding pattern of cooperation," as officials in both the U.S. and U.K. governments have confirmed.
Since the release of a second video from anti-choice group Live Action, which shows a Planned Parenthood worker at a Richmond, Virginia, clinic advising a man and woman posing as a pimp and prostitute, right-wing media have suggested that the video shows Planned Parenthood engaged in wrongdoing. In fact, the Richmond clinic reported the incident to Planned Parenthood's national security team, and legal experts have agreed that the worker's advice in the video is consistent with state law.
For more than a year, Glenn Beck has obsessively highlighted the purported attempts of those on the left, including members of the federal government and the Obama administration, to "collapse the system" through the so-called Cloward and Piven strategy. Beck's attacks on the sociologists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven have run the gamut from connecting them to a nefarious plot to steer college students onto food stamps, to claiming that the two "want to destroy" America.
Frances Fox Piven appeared on today's edition of Democracy Now! to respond to Beck's "nutty" claims and discuss the threats that have been made against her as a result. Watch:
Below are screenshots of the threatening statements mentioned in the Democracy Now! segment that were posted in the comments section of an article on Glenn Beck's The Blaze titled "Frances Fox Piven Rings In The New Year By Calling For Violent Revolution" -- all of which had not been deleted as of 3 p.m. ET:
In the days following the tragic shooting in Arizona, Fox News and other right-wing media have attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for sending out an email mentioning the shootings and also asking for campaign contributions. But all of these reports have ignored that the Tea Party Express-- a group frequently promoted by Fox News--sent out two emails that used the shooting to fundraise.
We've said it before, and we will probably say it again, but you shouldn't blindly believe the stories that come out of the British press. Today's story in the Daily Mail -- promoted by factually challenged conservative blogs like Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit, Weasel Zippers, and Glenn Beck's The Blaze -- claims that President Obama made some sort of insult towards the British when he said, "We don't have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people."
Barack Obama has declared that France is America's greatest ally, undermining Britain's Special Relationship with the U.S.
The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a 'stronger friend' than David Cameron.
The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.
Mr Obama said: 'We don't have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.'
This is a ridiculous assertion to make. Nowhere in Obama's statement does he elevate the French above the British, or vice versa. He is using standard-issue diplomatic speech when addressing an ally during a White House visit.
Former President George W. Bush made similarly diplomatic statements about Japan, praising that nation in 2007 by asserting three times in one speech that there was "no stronger ally" than Japan. Bush again hailed the alliance with Japan in 2008, claiming that there was "no stronger ally in defeating terror" than former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
On May 11, 2010, President Obama said "the United States has no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom, and I reiterated my deep and personal commitment to the special relationship between our two countries" while congratulating David Cameron on becoming the new British Prime Minister.
On July 20, 2010, President Obama said, "the United States has no closer ally and no stronger partner than Great Britain. And I appreciate the opportunity to renew our relationship with my partner, Prime Minister Cameron."
President Obama first addressed this issue in a press conference in March of 2009, after his first meeting with then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
Q Nick Robinson, BBC News. Mr. President, it's often been said that you, unlike many of your predecessors, have not looked toward Europe, let alone Britain. Can you just respond to that comment? And also, the Prime Minister is talking to you about a global new deal today. Will that actually help hard-pressed American consumers?
And if I may briefly put a question to the Prime Minister.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain is one that is not just important to me, it's important to the American people. And it is sustained by a common language, a common culture; our legal system is directly inherited from the English system; our system of government reflects many of these same values. So -- and by the way, that's also where my mother's side of my family came from.
So I think this notion that somehow there is any lessening of that special relationship is misguided. Great Britain is one of our closest, strongest allies and there is a link, a bond there that will not break. And I think that's true not only on the economic front, but also on issues of common security.
And in our conversations here, we talked not only about the need to coordinate around economic policy, but also I expressed to the Prime Minister America's extraordinary gratitude for their support in our efforts in Afghanistan, and the young men and women of Great Britain who have made enormous sacrifices there. Although there was a debate, obviously, around the issue of Iraq, nevertheless, whether you are for or against the war here in the United States, the recognition of Great Britain's friendship and standing tall with us during that period is something that will never be forgotten.
And so rest assured that the relationship is not only special and strong, but will only get stronger as time goes on.
In May of 2006, the New York Times' Mark Glassman reported:
''We have no better friend than Japan,'' Ms. Rice said at the State Department.
It was a familiar refrain. As secretary of state, Ms. Rice has said that the United States had ''no better friend'' than Jordan, Greece, Italy, Australia, Singapore, Britain and, separately, the United Kingdom.
Of course, diplomacy depends upon stylized language, and other administrations have been equally adept at recycling it. But ''no better friend'' seems to imply an intimacy at odds with too frequent use.
Thomas E. Patterson, a political scientist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, notes that the term is semantically clever. ''You could at least argue that there could be more than one in a 'no-better-friend' category,'' he said.
James P. Rubin, assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, said: ''In diplomacy, you want to give everyone the impression that they're at the top of the list and this is a way doing that, a way of leaving room for a lot of people.
In 2002, President Bush told an audience in Alaska that "we've got no better friends than Canada."
In a 2002 news conference, President Bush discussed America's relationship with France and President Jacques Chirac:
My most important job--and I suspect Jacques feels the same way--is to protect our citizens from further attack. And it's--we've got no stronger ally in that task. I mean, he is willing to take steps necessary, obviously within the laws and Constitution of this country, just like I'm within the Constitution of mine, to protect our people. And for that, I'm very grateful, Mr. President.
In his 1990 autobiography An American Life, former President Ronald Reagan wrote the following:
The future of the Phillipines was of great importance to the United States. Our huge military stations there, Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay naval base, were among our largest in the world and the anchor of our defense in the western Pacific; and we had had no stronger ally anywhere than [Ferdinand] Marcos.
When then-Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge 2004 met with the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security website noted:
Secretary Ridge reaffirmed President's Bush statement on Mexican President Vicente Fox's State Visit in September 2001 that "We have no greater friend than Mexico and our commitment never wavered." Secretary Ridge said of his meeting with Secretary Creel, "You can't choose your neighbors but you can choose your friends."
In a February 2008 visit to Australia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "As has been for many years, the United States has no better partner and no stronger ally than Australia."
In 2008, CIA director Michael Hayden said America has "not had a better partner in the war on terrorism than the Pakistanis."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), said in 2006 that "in the war against terror, we have no stronger ally than Israel."
In March of 2010, now-Speaker John Boehner said that "We have no stronger ally anywhere in the world than Israel."
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) said that "Israel is our closest ally."
On the floor of the House, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) referred to Israel as America's "best ally."
On March 23, 2010, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said "The American people consider Israel our most cherished ally."
Media conservatives are condemning President Obama for using the word "hostage" as a metaphor while discussing negotiations. Yet Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush also used the same rhetoric in describing their political opponents.
A December 6 post on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com criticized Obama for saying in a recent speech in Indonesia that "In the United States, our motto is 'E pluribus unum' - out of many, one." The post reported that members of Congress are calling on Obama "to issue a public correction" since "the country's real motto" has been "In God We Trust" since 1956. On his radio show today, Beck himself attacked Obama for "cutting God out of the motto," adding, "If this guy has God, you can count on Barack Obama not mentioning him."
Odd coming from Beck, since he's always worshipping the Founders and complaining that progressives are trying to erase their principles. According to a State Department document, "E Pluribus Unum" was chosen as the motto for the National Seal by a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The seal looks like this:
Glenn Beck's The Blaze has released a video, headlined "OPEN SOCIETY: SOROS EXPLAINS THE ANTI-CAPITALIST, PRO-MARXIST TACTICS HE USES TO FUNDAMENTALLY TRANSFORM COUNTRIES." The site is using the video, which consists of a series of short clips of philanthropist George Soros speaking, as the latest salvo in Beck's crusade against Soros. Beck has promoted the video on his radio and television shows, and it has since been picked up by Breitbart.tv and Fox Nation. In reality, none of the clips featured in the video comes close to proving the conclusion in the post's headline.
The burden of proof for calling someone like George Soros an "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist" is stringently high. Soros is a billionaire who amassed his fortune in hedge fund management, i.e. through capitalist means, and has backed nonviolent groups opposed to communist regimes such as Czechoslovakia. The Blaze doesn't even come close to meeting that standard.
In the first clip, taken from a lecture Soros gave in October 2009, Soros says, "I want to explore the conflict between capitalism and open society." The Blaze tries to hammer this point home with the third clip in the video, taken from the same speech, in which Soros says, "There is a deep seated conflict between capitalism and open society." But Soros is not calling for the overthrow of capitalism in favor of communism, he's explaining that the influence of money in American political system is too great and that capitalist financial systems are "bubble-prone." Soros also states that capitalism is "not directly opposed to open society the way Soviet communism was." From the speech:
Capitalism is not directly opposed to open society the way Soviet communism was. Nevertheless, it poses some serious threats. I have already discussed one of them; financial markets are not equilibrium-bound but bubble-prone. The dismantling of the regulatory mechanism has given rise to a super- bubble whose bursting will negatively influence the American economy for several years to come. This discussion has revealed another threat to open society: the agency problem and the influence of money in politics, which contaminate the political process.
In an open society, the political process is supposed to serve the common interest; in contemporary America, the political process has been captured by special interests. Our elected representatives are beholden to those who finance their election, not to the electorate at large. What is happening to President Obama's healthcare and energy bills provides a vivid illustration. The electorate has been brainwashed to such an extent that a responsible discussion of the public good has become well-nigh impossible. A national health service and a carbon tax are nonstarters. Our choices are confined to solutions that can be gamed by special interests.
Lobbying is at the core of the agency problem. How can it be brought under control?
This is an ethical issue and not a matter of modifying economic incentives. Lobbying is lucrative and it is liable to remain so even if the rules are tightened. In the absence of moral values, regulations can always be circumvented; what is worse, the regulations themselves will be designed to serve special interests, not the common interest. That is the danger facing the United States today when a wounded financial sector is seeking to regain its former pre-eminence.
In The Blaze's second clip, from a 2004 interview, Soros says, "I came to the realization that open society is endangered by our current leadership in this country. And that is when I refocused my attention on the United States." While The Blaze would like us to think this statement insidious, Soros' "attention" to the United States has largely consisted of philanthropic and political giving of the sort common among wealthy benefactors across the political spectrum.
In the fourth clip in the video, also from his October 2009 speech, Soros says, "Karl Marx proposition from everybody according to their ability, and to everybody according to their needs, was a very attractive idea. But the communist rulers put their own interests ahead of the interests of the people." This has nothing to do with "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics" Soros supposedly uses to "fundamentally transform countries"; Soros is giving an example of what he calls "the agency problem," in which "Agents are supposed to represent the interests of their principals, but in fact, they tend to put their own interests ahead of the interests of those whom they are supposed to represent." From the speech:
Once I became aware of the agency problem, I discovered it everywhere.
Communism failed because of the agency problem. Karl Marx's proposition -- from everybody according to their ability and to everybody according to their needs -- was a very attractive idea, but the communist rulers put their own interests ahead of the interests of the people.
The agency problem is also the bane of representative democracy: the elected representatives use their powers for their own interests to the detriment of the common interest.
In the fifth clip, from a question and answer session following the 2009 speech, an interviewer asks Soros, "If what your vision you set out was enacted, would we have as one final result a more equal distribution of wealth?" The Blaze video then abruptly cuts to Soros saying the following:
The success of market fundamentalism in America, which has really kind of skewed a public opinion against their own interests, as I quoted the estate tax, a very good example. Certainly if you eliminated that, then I think the public interest would be better served. And presumably, it would lead to a more equal distribution of wealth.
The Blaze is referencing Soros' comments during the speech about a "well financed propaganda machine which distorts the public's understanding of its own self-interests," to which he attributes the Bush administration's cutting of the estate tax:
By far the most powerful force working in favor of market fundamentalism is that it serves the self-interests of the owners and managers of capital. The distribution of wealth is taken as given and the pursuit of self-interest is found to serve the common interest. What more could those who are in control of capital ask for? They constitute a wealthy and powerful group, well-positioned to promote market fundamentalism not only by cognitive arguments but also by the active manipulation of public opinion. Market fundamentalism endows the market mechanism, which is amoral by nature, with a moral character and turns the pursuit of self-interest into a civic virtue similar to the pursuit of truth. It has prevailed by the force of manipulation, not by the force of reason. It is supported by a powerful and well financed propaganda machine which distorts the public's understanding of its own self-interests. For example, how else could the campaign to repeal the estate tax, which applies only to an elite 1 percent of the population, have been so successful?
There are, of course, competing forces in that arena using similar methods of manipulation but they tend to be less well financed because they cannot draw on the self interest of the wealthiest and most powerful segment of the population. That is how market fundamentalism has emerged triumphant in the last 25 years and even the financial crisis was not sufficient to impair its influence. This was demonstrated by President Obama's decision to avoid recapitalizing the banks in a way that would have given the government majority control.
Again, nothing here about "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics" that Soros "uses to fundamentally transform countries."
The Blaze's next clip makes much of Soros' discussion about his anticipating Britain's withdrawal from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism:
Take the British crisis, when Britain left the exchange rate mechanism. I guessed correctly that it would. And by doing it, I actually precipitated that move. It probably happened a little faster because when Britain, the British Treasury Chancellor of the Exchequer raised the interest rate by two percent, I said this is a counsel of despair, they are on their last legs, therefore one can sell the currency, it cannot be protected. And in fact, at that time, by selling additional - or trying to sell additional amounts, I precipitated the event which occurred I think the next day or within two days. So, in a way, it works as the Marxist way. Marxist theory is that you can accelerate the course of history by anticipating it correctly. And in that particular instance, he is right, it really works that way.
Soros is explaining to a student at Hong Kong University at a January 2010 event that an investor cannot force a market outcome, they can only accelerate an outcome if they predict it correctly, and pointing out that "in that particular instance," events unfolded as Marxist theory would predict. As we noted yesterday, Soros is hardly the first person to ever cite a communist to make a point -- for instance, Beck ally Ralph Reed has cited Mao Tse-Tung.
In the Blaze's last clip, also from the October 2009 speech, Soros says, "The general equilibrium theory takes the initial allocation of resources as given. This rules out any consideration of social justice. Most importantly, the theory assumes that people know what their self interest is and how best to pursue it. In reality, there is a significant gap in what people think and what the facts are." If Beck's larger narrative is any indication, this is meant to vilify Soros for using the phrase "social justice." In full context, Soros was criticizing "market fundamentalism," which he defines as "the undue extension of market values to other spheres of social life, notably politics":
I define market fundamentalism as the undue extension of market values to other spheres of social life, notably politics. Economic theory claims that in conditions of general equilibrium, the invisible hand assures the optimum allocation of resources. This means that people pursuing their self-interest are indirectly also serving the public interest. It gives self-interest and the profit motive a moral imprimatur which allows them to replace virtues like honesty, integrity, and concern for others.
The argument is invalid on several counts. First, financial markets do not tend toward equilibrium. General equilibrium theory reached its conclusions by taking the conditions of supply and demand as independently given. The invisible hand of the market then brings supply and demand into equilibrium. This approach ignores the reflexive feedback loops between market prices and the underlying conditions of supply and demand. It also ignores the visible hand of the political process which lies hidden behind the market mechanism.
Second, general equilibrium theory takes the initial allocation of resources as given. This rules out any consideration of social justice. Most importantly, the theory assumes that people know what their self-interest is and how best to pursue it. In reality, there is a significant gap between what people think and what the facts are. Nevertheless, market fundamentalism has emerged triumphant. How could that happen?
Again, this has nothing to do with "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics" that "fundamentally transform countries." Soros is explaining that, because people do not always actually know what is in their self-interest, he disagrees with the economic theory that "the invisible hand assures the optimum allocation of resources," and thus that "people pursuing their self-interest are indirectly also serving the public interest." Beck inadvertently confirms this every time he shills for gold -- he's explaining to his audience, who presumably were previously unaware, that their self-interest would be best served by buying precious metals.
The Blaze also omits a following statement in which Soros advocates for minimal government intervention in markets. From the lecture, emphasis added: "I want to make myself quite clear: I condemn market fundamentalism as a false and dangerous doctrine but I am in favor of keeping government intervention and regulations to a minimum for other better reasons."