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…and if you happen to be Michael Fletcher, writing for the Washington Post, you can’t please anybody. Depending on who you’re reading, Fletcher’s recent post on the newfound GOP majority’s agenda in the North Carolina statehouse is either “shoddy journalism, as likely to obscure as to inform people about the true state of affairs in North Carolina, serving among other things to paper over the excesses of a broadly unpopular agenda,” or it “paint[s] North Carolina as politically extreme” and furthers “the narrative that the liberal media loved to further last year during campaign season to alarm Democratic voters and bash Republicans as racists.”

The first characterization of Fletcher’s post comes from Jonathan Weiler, writing for the Huffington Post, who argues – vehemently – that the post is a travesty that bolsters Republican positions without articulating their true consequences, and belittles Democratic concerns:

The Washington Post this weekend offered a particularly dismaying entry in this regard in an article on the extraordinary developments in North Carolina. The article does note that since Pat McCrory took over the governor’s mansion in January, the state GOP has pushed North Carolina “hard to the right.” The ongoing legislative session in Raleigh has been a master class in venality, spite and contempt, resulting in, among many other things, the rejection of Medicaid expansion — thus denying half a million North Carolinians health insurance; extreme attacks on voting rights; proposals that would result in an historic shift in the tax burden away from the wealthy and toward the middle class and the poor; massive cuts in education to the university system, K-12 education and pre-K; and efforts to gut environmental regulations.

Author Michael Fletcher noted some of these proposed cuts, but repeatedly gave Republicans a platform to justify their proposals, while providing none for their Democratic opponents in state government nor offering any independent scrutiny of their claims.

The latter characterization of Fletcher’s post comes from Jeffrey Meyer, writing for the conservative, media-criticizing site NewsBusters, who argues that the post is a liberal diatribe, skewing the facts in favor of furthering a national liberal agenda, and unfairly criticizing the North Carolina GOP:

The May 26 edition of The Washington Post chose not to describe this as local politics in the Tar Heel State catching up with its federal voting patterns but rather an example of a “hard turn to the right.”

In a 25-paragraph front page article, author Michael Fletcher lamented the state’s changing political dynamic, highlighting the “dozens of liberal demonstrators” who are “subjecting themselves to arrest each Monday at the state legislature” before going into details of how the North Carolina GOP capitalized on the state’s poor economy during Democratic stewardship to capture the legislature and governorship.

After devoting several paragraphs to the legislative ambitions of the newly-minted GOP legislature, Fletcher then returned to hyping opposition to GOP control, including quotes from the liberal group the Advancement Project, which objects to new laws requiring a photo ID to vote.

The Post’s decision to label North Carolina as shifting hard to the right is likely language that was not used to describe states like Maryland who have seen strong shifts to the Left in recent years. Instead, the Post has chosen to paint North Carolina as politically extreme, with liberal groups such as the NAACP using, “some of the tactics of the civil rights movement” to oppose GOP policies in the state.

The dynamic juxtaposition of these two perspectives criticizing the same post for furthering for two diametrically opposed viewpoints was too rhetorically stimulating to pass up. As Matt Alby said, ‘I think it takes a special kind of rhetorical talent to draw an admonition from both of those groups at the same time.” It’s also a pretty good example of the enigmatic media manipulation tactic known as “spin,” and one can’t help but view the takeaway lesson of this as being the cynical reality that content and substance are secondary to agenda, at least for these two institutions. That, and the fact that the political situation in North Carolina is scalding hot to touch on the national stage, with both sides ready to pounce. If Pat McCrory had made the statement ‘I don’t like waffles,’ there would have been accusations of political connotations to it. What is getting lost a little bit here is the increasingly dire situation here in North Carolina, particularly for the poor, the facts of which are not really being argued. The point, of course, has been missed by the national media organizations.

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Last night’s State of the Union was many things to many people – and seemed intended to be all things to all people, indeed there was a little something for everyone, whether you were looking to laugh, cry, or scream – and whatever may come of it in the future, for the time being all things seem to be in their place.

A selection of responses to the SOTU:

From Harry Cheadle, writing for Vice:

Last night, we got to witness one of the least entertaining traditions in American politics: the State of the Union address. This is a speech that the president is (sort of) required by the Constitution to give to Congress every year. Normally, he uses that opportunity to go through a bunch of policies he’d like to enact (lots of paragraphs on jobs, a few on climate change, nothing at all on prisons), and everyone in attendance applauds periodically. Nothing really happens as a result of this speech—it’s mainly just an opportunity for Barack Obama to explain what he would do if he was king and not just president and for the Republicans to issue a response, which in this case consisted of Marco Rubio saying “cut taxes” 1,300 times and amusing the internet by drinking water. (Rand Paul delivered a response on behalf of the Tea Party; if anyone delivered a left-wing rebuttal to Obama’s speech, nobody paid attention, which probably tells you something about America’s politics.)

From Howard Fineman, writing for The Huffington Post:

In an effort organized by five Democrats from New York and New England — the region of Newtown — more than 30 members brought to the Capitol families that had experienced gun-related tragedies. It was powerful theater, especially when Obama himself paid homage to the parents of a victim from Chicago.

Using the call-and-response cadence of a church service, the president demanded that the Congress allow up-or-down votes on several gun measures. The idea was to put Republicans and wavering Democrats from Red States on the spot.

And it felt in the House Chamber Tuesday night that he had done so.

From Charlie Pierce, writing for Esquire magazine:

Some day, when we can look at it from a proper distance, the Obama Presidency is going to strike us all as more than passing odd in what appears to be its reckless, cockeyed optimism. Last night, the president delivered a State Of The Union address that was so wonkishly progressive, and so policy-laden, that he sounded like LBJ under the influence of some truly fine exotic mushrooms. My favorite line came when he was looking at a chamber full of climate-change denialists and half-baked creationists, and he started telling them all about the wonders of science.

Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy.

OK, so Mitt Romney got a better return on his genome just by being born, it was still a very compelling case for the economic benefits of science, with just a touch of Isaac Asimov to dazzle (or terrify) the rubes. And there was more. Universal pre-K! Rebuild all our crumbling bridges! Control our nation’s love of its shootin’arn’s! Confront climate change the way Joe Lieberman and John McCain once did! Vote on stuff! Be a Congress again!

And from Dana Milbank, writing for the Washington Post:

There is something entirely appropriate about holding the State of the Union address on the same day as Mardi Gras.

One is a display of wretched excess, when giddy and rowdy participants give in to reckless and irresponsible behavior.

The other is a street festival in New Orleans.

There is, thankfully, less nudity in the House chamber for the president’s annual address, and (slightly) less inebriation. But what occurs beneath the Capitol Dome is as debauched as anything on Bourbon Street.

The State of the Union ritual is by now familiar to most Americans. President Obama leads the Democratic side of the chamber to a series of standing ovations for proposals that everybody knows won’t become law. Republicans show their seriousness of purpose by smirking or making stony faces — and by inviting as guests to the speech people such as rocker Ted Nugent, who has called the president a “piece of [excrement]” who should “suck on my machine gun.”

But this spectacle, unlike the one in Louisiana, is not all harmless fun. Obama made clear that he is not entertaining serious spending cuts or major entitlement reforms. Republicans, in their responses, repeated that they are not budging on taxes. The hard choices will have to wait for another day.

More coming later.

There are not many ways in which I agree with Michelle Bachmann, in much the same way that there are not many ways in which I could relate to a giant squid. This stems mostly from Bachmann’s predictably tenuous grip on reality, as well as her propensity to lunge to the far right at the sight of any issue and the collection of historically extremist positions that she totes around in a big ol’ grab-bag of crazy. But – and this is a sentence I never thought I’d write – she has had a good idea.

In response to Obama’s preposterous and horribly-timed decision to issue Congress a pay raise through executive order at the very end of December, Bachmann proposed legislation to rescind the pay increase. As reported by the Huffington Post, she said:

And it would be this: When there is massive uncertainty, unfinished business, he would decide, that he would unilaterally give a pay increase to the United States Congress, exactly when the public is uncertain and doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Will their taxes go up? Will they no longer be recipients of a spending program? And so now Congress is going to get a spending increase?

This was a cynical, planned move, Mr. Speaker, on the part of our president. He brought great drama to this effort. Unnecessary drama. Because you see this House of Representatives already did the job to avert the fiscal cliff. We did this work. It was completed last August. We said that no one’s taxes need to go up. And we were able to offset any spending cuts. The work was done.

I cannot know or understand – or, really, fathom – the intricacies of the inside baseball involved in stipulating a Congressional pay raise, or the circumstances that would necessitate one. So I took this news the way any layman would: at face value, and thus badly. Very badly. Seeing as how Obama neglected to divulge the “merit” on which the raise was based – which would have surely been laughable – it stands as a despicable aberration in, and revolt against, the universally-accepted laws of common sense, decency, prudence, physics, karma, and space-time. The aforementioned laws, which almost everyone is genetically predisposed to understand innately, stipulate, among other things, a few natural, iron-clad truths. One of them, near the top, says very clearly that ridiculously poor job performance should never be rewarded. Common sense, right? Everyone knows this without thinking about it. Average job performance should be rewarded with an average salary, while excellent performance should be rewarded with a raise. Poor performance should be given time to improve, and if it does not, should be rewarded with a demotion, a pay cut, or a dismissal of the employee. The despicable, disgusting, infuriating, reprehensible, continuous, and worsening job performance we’ve seen from the 112th Congress – which is in the process of slithering into the ether of history as the least productive session in more than six decades, and has attained a deserved 18 percent approval rating – and by which it has been judged almost as useful to the American people as a lifetime supply of ear candles, should be rewarded with, if anything, definitely nothing more than a lifetime supply of ear candles. They should certainly not be receiving a pay raise for, at best, a nearly unprecedented dereliction of duty. Just common sense.

And the worst thing about it is, this situation has forced me to write the following sentence: Michelle Bachmann – along with a growing number of Congresspeople – is right, and I support her idea.

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