By Liz Peek
How much will President Obama's handshake with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez cost the U.S.? Despite Chavez' bombastic rhetoric about his socialist revolution, the reality is that Venezuela is going broke. While the president's overtures to Chavez at the recent Summit of the Americas have been greeted ecstatically by many in the media, there has been little attention as to why Chavez may so desperately crave rapprochement. (And guess what? It appears to have nothing to do with Obama's politics.)
These days Chavez has a problem. Sinking oil revenues have left him saddled with whopping budget deficit (estimated by the Economist Intelligence Unit at 5.2% of GDP). Denied access to overseas borrowings, Chavez will likely have to increase domestic borrowing by as much as $16 billion, according to The Economist magazine. He may also be forced to cut spending, in real terms, by over one third. Recently, the government has hiked the VAT to 12% - up from 9% - but other revenues will also be needed. Monies that were purportedly saved for a rainy day, some $57 billion in a National Development Fund, appear to have vanished.
Failing economic policies, such as nationalizing industries, subsidizing price controls on gasoline (which costs locally just $0.17 per gallon) and artificially supporting currency levels have led to inflation of better than 30% and declining growth rates. A recent 20% hike in minimum wage will only add to the economic disaster that looms, though it should also protect Chavez' popularity among his loyalists. Desperate measures earlier this year included expropriating food companies to mandate higher levels of (unprofitable, price-controlled production).
Short of a miraculous recovery in oil prices, Chavez is facing a crisis. Without surpluses quieting his opponents and funding his popularity campaign, he may not survive. His out? Befriend the new president of the United States, who is so desperate to distinguish himself from his predecessor that he will doubtless jump at the chance to buy Chavez' friendship. What will be the price of that handshake? $16 billion?
The ABC headline for the Brian Ross piece posted last night declares:
RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as 'Indentured Servant' to Coal Industry
Wow, talk about a smack down. Famous Dem and famous environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. really called out Obama as an "indentured servant"?
Nope. As Josh Nelson at HuffPost points out:
The reader is left with the distinct impression that Robert Kennedy Jr. called President Obama an indentured servant to the coal industry today. RFK has been calling politicians "indentured servants" for years. One problem: he didn't actually say it about President Obama. Essentially, ABC pulled together a collection of old quotes and mashed them together out of context to create tension in their story.
That's just awful journalism by Ross and ABC News.
UPDATE: Right-wing Red State never fails to advertise its ignorance. It jumps on the bogus ABC story and wonders if Kennedy's racist for calling Obama a 'slave' to the coal industry.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air also gets gleefully suckered in by the ABC News report and pretends that Kennedy just called Obama an "indentured servant." (i.e. It's Kennedy's "latest attack.") Morrissey huffs and puffs that if a Republican had called Obama a "slave" there'd be hell to pay.
It's like the blind leading the blind.
That's how bad the conservatives recent Washington Examiner column is. The headline pretty much tells the whole sorry tale:
In time of victory, why is the left so angry?
No joke. It's not not satire. York is (apparently) serious as he puzzles deeply over why Obama supporters are so darn angry. (They "lash out.") Laugh when you read his column in which York completely ignores the fact that the conservative media in America has become completely unhinged since Obama's election and have embraced and broadcast the most paranoid, angry, irresponsible kind of rhetoric perhaps ever recorded in mainstream American politics. Or at least in modern American politics.
Forget that's it's conservatives who have accused the new, wildly popular president of being a socialist and/or a communist and/or a fascist. Forget that it's conservatives who are warning of a looming totalitarian state. And forget that conservatives whipped up crowds last week in frothy anti-Obama anger.
According to York, it's liberals who are angry.
The crying part starts when you realize that in York's entire column about the angry left, the only proof he offers to showcase the apparently out-of-control anger liberals are spouting comes in the form of a single televised interview from a TV actress. Again, no joke. York's ill-conceived notion of the angry left is built entirely around an interview Janeane Garofalo gave last week on MSNBC. That's York's evidence.
From Ann Coulter's column headlined "Obama's Recipe For Change Not My Cup of Tea:
[N]o one is calling the tea parties "tea bagging" -- except Olbermann and Maddow. Republicans call them "tea parties."
But if the Republicans were calling them "tea-bagging parties," the MSNBC hosts would have a fantastically hilarious segment for viewers in San Francisco and the West Village and not anyplace else in the rest of the country. On the other hand, they're not called "tea-bagging parties." (That, of course refers to the cocktail hour at Barney Frank's condo in Georgetown.)
You know what else would be hilarious? It would be hilarious if Hillary Clinton's name were "Ima Douche." Unfortunately, it's not. It was just a dream. Most people would wake up, realize it was just a dream and scrap the joke. Not MSNBC hosts.
I just saw this commercial for Newsmax on MSNBC:
So Newsmax is dressing someone up as a police officer in order to scare people into subscribing to their lie-filled magazine? Classy.
MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell seems to think only the very liberal favor investigations into Bush administration torture:
O'DONNELL: How much of this, do you think, is a way to sort of relieve some pressure from the left, and even from Capitol Hill, and the more liberal Democratic senators who say 'We want an investigation, we've got to be open to prosecuting these people.'? I mean, we heard both Senator Feingold today, very tough on this issue, as well as Senator Feinstein, saying 'Let's hold off,' saying, 'Don't rule out any prosecutions, I want to have my investigation first.'
But Diane Feinstein is not one of the "more liberal Democratic senators." The Lewis-Poole rankings place her as the 31st most liberal member of the the 110th Senate.
Also: If MSNBC is going to suggest that only liberals are interested in investigating potential law-breaking, maybe it's time they start referring to liberalism as the "law and order" ideology, and conservatives as "soft on crime."
UPDATE: Jason Linkins has much more at HuffPo: Chuck Todd Depicts Support For Torture Investigations As Fringe Phenomenon
Over the weekend, Digby highlighted Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank's bewilderment that he continues to get complaints from liberal readers despite the fact that President Bush has been replaced by President Obama.
It shouldn't really be that hard to understand. Dana Milbank is not the personification of the White House. If he was, you might expect him to received fewer complaints from liberals now that Bush is gone. But Dana Milbank is a journalist; the complaints he get are likely in response to his journalism.
As Digby noted:
It doesn't seem to occur to Milbank that "the left" might just not like the snotty, juvenile, shallow kind of journalism he practices, no matter who is in office. If they're mad at his reporting whether it's Bush or Obama, does it not occur to him that it might be him and not them?
Digby's post reminded me of Jake Tapper's defensiveness in response to criticism from liberals that the media was paying too much attention to an iPod given by President Obama to the Queen of England. Tapper posted the following defense on his Twitter page:
for angry libs complaining about the iPod story: who do you think is sharing this info about the iPod? u think we broke into buckingham?
Tapper seemed to be suggesting that Obama aides were the ones "sharing this info about the iPod" with reporters, so liberals shouldn't criticize the media for obsessing over it. Here's what I wrote at the time:
I can't speak for all "angry libs," but what Tapper seems not to understand is that few, if any, liberal media critics think the media should simply report anything handed to them on a presidential spoon - even if the president in question is a Democrat.
This attitude isn't unique to Tapper. I've seen more than a few journalists respond to criticism from progressives by saying something similar - that their report reflects what Democratic sources told them. That's a valid response when the criticism is that the report omitted a Democratic viewpoint. But when the criticism is that the report is false, or flawed in some other way, "hey, we're just reporting what Democrats tell us" isn't a meaningful defense.
What neither Milbank nor Tapper seems to understand is that the criticism they are getting from liberals is a result of liberals not thinking their journalism is any good. Of course, Tapper and Milbank don't have to agree with those assessments of their work product - sometimes, no doubt, the criticism is incorrect. But it would be nice if they (finally) realized that the criticism they've been getting isn't about who is in the White House, it's about their own work.
Greg Sargent is trying to pin down former Vice President Cheney's staff on the details of his claim to have "formally" asked the CIA to release intelligence that he claims proves the efficacy of torture. Several news organizations are uncritically repeating Cheney's claim, but Sargent has a source who says the CIA never received such a request, and a Cheney spokesperson is refusing to explain how the request was made.
Meanwhile, I haven't seen any reporter ask Cheney or his staff what seems like an obvious question: If there exist documents that prove that torture prevented attacks on the US, and those documents can be released without jeopardizing national security, why didn't the Bush administration release them before leaving office?
It isn't like it's a surprise that the Obama administration has made some changes in Bush administration torture policy; Cheney and Bush had to know that was a possibility. So why didn't they release this evidence that supposedly proves that torture is a necessary national security tool? (If the answer is that they feared releasing the documents would jeopardize national security, there's an obvious follow-up: Why does Cheney want them released now?)