February 27, 2010

This is how evil happens

Beliefs - Marc Thiessen Gets an Earful for Waterboarding Views - NYTimes.com. Glad that Thiessen is getting some criticism, but look at this defense of waterboarding:
"Mr. Thiessen makes two basic arguments. First, he says that waterboarding, the simulated drowning technique used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, and others, is not torture. “I didn’t get into the Catholic theological stuff of it until I sat down to write the book,” Mr. Thiessen said in a phone interview. So when Mr. Bush asked him, in 2006, to write a speech explaining the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, Mr. Thiessen asked himself other kinds of questions.

“There’s a standard of torture in civil law,” he said, “which is severe mental pain and suffering. I also have a common-sense definition, which is, ‘If you’re willing to try it, it’s not torture.’”

Thousands of American soldiers have been willing to undergo waterboarding as part of their resistance training, Mr. Thiessen notes; therefore, it stands to reason that it is not torture."

First, I hate it when people refer to waterboarding as "simulated" drowning. It isn't simulated at all. It is drowning, just in a controlled setting.

Second, the most specious claim is that because people are willing to undergo waterboarding makes it not torture? Seriously? Even though those soldiers are being trained to withstand, wait for it, torture? And the same technique that we executed Japanese officers for, or that appear in Khmer Rouge museums on torture?

Third, all of this ignores that waterboarding is merely the most well known of the torture techniques. As I get older, I have to say that the sleep deprivation part gets me about as much as anything. Having had some bouts of that during illness, I cannot imagine the amount of imposed sleep deprivation on some of these people--all to get bad intelligence, btw.

Or let's consider the stress position. Imagine yourself shackled to a D-ring in the floor with both feet and hands connected. You can't put yourself in an upright position, but also can't lay down. Try that for a few minutes and tell me that would not be horrible--especially when you are in a situation where you are being abused in other ways. And the list goes on. Forced hypothermia, fake burials, etc. Thiessen says that these are not torture because they are not "physical or moral violence" (the Catholic catechism condemns torture which meets that standard), and I am reminded that the sadists and thugs of history have always been good at leaving no visible marks. That doesn't excuse their sadism or their thuggery, or their evil.

Thiessen goes on to say that the church lacks "competence" to judge torture:
“Perhaps,” he added, “they should clarify it. We were in the middle of a war, and there was no teaching on that. But the church only gives general moral guidance, and people of good faith have to interpret that guidance.”
I don't like to use the word "evil." But it is very hard to read this man (as well-intentioned as he genuinely might be) and not think that this is exactly how evil happens.

Interesting counter movement to the Tea Partiers

Coffee Party | Wake Up and Stand Up. I am not sure what power these groups have. I do know that the Tea Party is part grassroots anger and bigger parts corporate sponsorship and right wing institutions. The media CW is that the Tea Partiers are genuine and genuinely angry and a huge movement, even if recent polls suggest otherwise. Oh, and we still have to remember that within this CW of Obama as a failure, he still has a 51% approval rating. If this Coffee Party is actually grassroots and simply gets a little traction to suggest that there is a counter voice out there, then it will be good.

Plus, I like coffee.

February 26, 2010

The man who would have been President

Or, as the WaPo's Chris Cilliza put it, one of the HC summit's losers:
"John McCain: From the start of his remarks around mid-day, McCain seemed on the verge of losing his temper and threw several rhetorical jabs (including one about Obama breaking his campaign promise about holding the health care hearings on C-SPAN) into his speech. ('We're not campaigning anymore,' Obama shot back at McCain. 'The election is over.') Later, McCain hit Obama again for the special carve out for Florida in the health care bill. Obama agreed with the McCain critique, a move that caught the Arizona Republican off guard and left him speechless. In truth, McCain's target audience today was not people in the room or the national media but rather conservative Republicans in his home state -- the people he needs to beat back a challenge from his ideological right from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth."
McCain did a good job of playing that "maverick" thing in 2000, and obscured that he had always been a complete asshole. I remember the story about him upstaging a Democrat from Arizona in a hearing (from his own state, remember), and bragging later that anytime he could embarrass a Democrat he would. Watching him since the election last year--accusing Obama of purposefully trying to bankrupt the country--or even doubling back on his own anti-torture policy to get himself ingratiated with his rabid right in Arizona--all of it reminds me of what a disaster this man would have been as President. Say what you will of Obama, he acts well and he acts Presidential. Imagine a vindictive asshole like McCain as President--especially with that VP?


February 25, 2010

Interesting graph of the day

From Matthew Yglesias and an interesting poll showing how conservative, or very conservative (self-identified) actually have very little interest in cutting or reducing spending by category.

One of my points about the "small government conservative" tending more toward they mythical than the actual. As this graph suggests, they don't really want to reduce government that much. They just (not in this graph) don't want to pay for any of it.

That is not a governing philosophy.

February 24, 2010

Teachable moment with Glenn Beck

Well, not really. Beck appears to be beyond teachable. He appears to be very proud of his self-education (though missed that public libraries--where he checks out his "free" books, are legacies of progressivism). But his rant at CPAC regarding "progressivism" is one area where Mr. Beck (and his followers) could use a little education.

We refer to the period between 1880-1920 (those years are not set in stone, mind you, for reasons I will explain) as the "Progressive Era." Why? Well, for one thing, we like to categorize or periodize parts of history. Perfectly reasonable to break down history into manageable and coherent chunks. But in those textbook chapter-type categorization, we lose (sometimes) the complexity and artificiality of those periods and themes. Late 1929 is miles away from 1924, but they all end up under some umbrella of the "1920s." The 1960s usually refers to social movements, and the Vietnam war, but every major social movement (as well as the war, obviously) existed either predated the 60s or went well into the 70s. Or both. These segments are useful, but limited.

But perhaps none are more limiting in their usage than the term "Progressives" or "Progressivism." As any first-year history grad student will tell you, there is really no such thing as A (as in 1) Progressive. It is almost like the SNL joke, "the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire."

When Beck uses the term, he simply applies it to whoever he dislikes, and assumes that the word means, or meant, one thing. Yet, look into it, and you find Progressives who are interested in helping immigrants in the cities, as well as those interested emphasizing the pseudo-scientific basis for racism. Progressives worked to make the work place safer, but others worked to make it more efficient. Progressives supported World War I as an opportunity to spread democracy, while others opposed it as a threat to reform. Progressives worked to expand rights for women and others worked very hard to deny women access to birth control or even sexual information. Progressives pushed to set aside natural resources and also to dam Hetch Hetchy. The Progressive period includes the creation of the NAACP and the resurgence of the modern Klan.

I still use the term in class, but I always speak of how disconnected and often contradictory these "Progressives" and their movements are. I have usually understated that simply trying to avoid boring students with historiography, but given Beck's assumption that anyone who uses the word Progressive believes in ONE thing, I might have to change that approach.

Beck and his paranoid style

George Packer distills American paranoid politics in one good paragraph
She’s a familiar figure in American life, always latent, but coming to the surface in national emergencies. Richard Hofstadter described her mental world in detail. In the seventeen-eighties she lived in Sheffield, Massachusetts, during a period of tight credit and land foreclosures and was sympathetic to the farmers’ uprising known as Shay’s Rebellion that began there. In the eighteen-fifties she was a non-voting constituent of Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. In the eighteen-nineties she was the wife of a Nebraska farmer who joined the People’s Party and voted for William Jennings Bryan and free silver. In the nineteen-thirties desperate poverty drove her to fall for the simple solutions of Huey Long’s left-wing demagoguery, or Father Coughlin’s right-wing demagoguery, which often sounded similar. In the nineteen-fifties she listened avidly to radio personalities like Fulton Lewis, Jr., and Walter Winchell, thought President Eisenhower was a knowing agent of the Communist Party, and was a passionate supporter of Senator Joe McCarthy. In 2001 she knew that the Bush Administration orchestrated 9/11. In 2008 she showed up at Sarah Palin rallies.

February 21, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Matthew Yglesias:
"To conservatives, America’s moral superiority is so self-[evident] that it doesn’t need to be made real through moral conduct."

The comments were also interesting. From one: "I’d argue that to conservatives, America’s moral superiority is a matter of identity, not conduct, so moral values and actions don’t matter."

CPAC continued

And the stench of fascism that is Glenn Beck. Levinson makes a good point that conservatives pounce when a Democrat errs outside acceptable speech, yet Beck is allowed to call progressivism a "cancer."

I reiterate. This is your GOP.

Either Liz Cheney is not smart or she is not honest

Asked about Obama's anti-terrorism tactics, Liz Cheney says this:
"I worry though when we capture these leaders that we no longer have the option of using any of the enhanced interrogation techniques because the president took those off the table. When you've got people in captivity we'd like our CIA officials in particular to have the capacity to do more than just ask the terrorists to please tell us what they want."
Do right wingers really think that our only options are to torture people or sit and give them coffee and donuts and ask them nicely to please talk to us? Do they think that interrogation techniques that have actually worked over the years and even worked against the Nazi regime are not useful here? Even though they have been documented to work against captured terrorists?

I think she is smarter than that. This is about throwing red meat to the torture loving right.

Terrorism against the IRS is, according to conservatives, understandable

Said Scott Brown when asked about Joe Stack flying a plane into the IRS building in Austin:
“And I don’t know if it’s related, but I can just sense, not only in my election but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated,” he said. “They want transparency.”"
Remember. This guy killed two people. He certainly could have killed more in this act of terrorism. And I agree with those who say this guy seems hard to pin down ideologically. He spouts anti-government sayings that sound Tea Party-like but also rails against the failure to get healthcare reform--which does not.

But the indicator is really how the Right has responded. They wanted the Christmas day bomber waterboarded and are furious that he was Mirandized, but don't even see Stack's actions as terrorism, and even see it with sympathy. Brown followed up that ridiculous line about transparency with an acknowledgement that this was an "extreme" act to fly into a building, but "no one likes paying taxes, obviously."

All you have to do is change Stack's skin color, and his suicide note to mention Islam--and the Right would be calling for Obama to resign for allowing the terrorists to win.


The exception that proves the rule

That Republicans cheer torture.

February 20, 2010

Report: Bush Lawyer Said President Could Order Civilians to Be 'Massacred' - Declassified Blog - Newsweek.com

John Yoo said Bush could order the massacre of a village of civilians,


CPAC cheered loudly the line "God is in charge."

Can anyone make sense of this incredible disconnect?

This Week in Crazy

One of my FB friends said that she wondered if her brain would explode if she thought "like a Republican." In a past life, I would have thought that extreme and ridiculous. But you have to remember where we are--in a state like Oklahoma where Republicans are concerned about the negative impact of having good beer and wine sold in the grocery store (remember we already have cheap beer available in every grocery store and convenience store) but won't ban insurance companies from deciding that a women's domestic violence history constitutes a reason to deny coverage, and having among the weakest gun laws in the country. In other words, you can get a gun very easily here, but have to work to get good quality beer and if your spouse beats you, then you may not be able to purchase insurance. Yeah, we have a church on every corner, and our state GOP is nearly completely dominated by fundamentalists who believe that evolution is a lie. We have a teen birth rate in the top ten of states, but will not require sex ed, and will make contraceptive services hard to find.

Nationally, of course, the GOP cheers torture and accuses Obama of siding with the terrorists and being a socialist. Why am I supposed to respect Republicans again?

Then there is this little story from the Red state of Utah. Turns out a state senator is thinking of combining MLK day with a tribute to a gun manufacturer. I am not anti-gun (though I don't have any), but think this is borderline crazy. The senator sees the two days as "complimentary" and thinks that any critics will be "race-baiters." No recognition, I guess, that MLK was assassinated by a gun toting idiot?

February 19, 2010

Republicans on torture--CPAC version

F-bomb warning, btw. But when I read stories about the Republican activists at CPAC, such as Republican darling Marco Rubio, I get a little annoyed:
"Moments later, he was talking about the need to kill terrorists and capture survivors.

'Waterboard them!' an audience member shouted.

The anti-Crist smiled. 'Remember the Marco Polo thing I told you?' His audience howled. 'We will get useful information from them,' Rubio went on, to more cheers, 'and then we will bring them to justice in front of a military tribunal in Guantanamo!'

The house went wild."
Tim Pawlenty also spoke, urged the crowd to follow Tiger Woods' wife's model take to government with a 9-iron. Oh, and he got his biggest applause line, according to Politico for the vapid line: "God is in charge." I say vapid because that crowd thinks that God approves of their torture.

This is your GOP. 78%, according to another poll, thinks Obama is a socialist. And CPAC's people cheer waterboarding, and dare to invoke the name of God.

What the fuck?

February 18, 2010

Perhaps my evangelical friends will not mind this

Because it is a Catholic defending torture.

I love the second part where Thiessen uses the "we are doing this for the terrorists own good." And the Catholic interviewer cheers him on.

This is how evil happens.

February 17, 2010

Why we are screwed

TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect:
"Not long ago I was debating someone on television. I thought the discussion was going well until the commercial break when a producer said into my earpiece, “Be angrier.”

“Why should I be angrier?” I asked him, irritated that he hadn’t appreciated the thoughtfulness of debate.

“That’s how we get channel surfers to stop and watch the program,” the producer explained. “Eyeballs are attracted to anger.”"

Like I say, the media is attracted to easy. Much easier to sell anger than thoughtfulness. And the American people deserve a lot of the blame. For all their talk about wanting a better political dialogue, they make this shit profitable, both politically and financially.

The significance of an idiot like Glenn Beck

Is that while most of us see him as a babbling idiot, the Tea Party people think he is prophetic:
"That is often the point when Tea Party supporters say they began listening to Glenn Beck. With his guidance, they explored the Federalist Papers, exposés on the Federal Reserve, the work of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Some went to constitutional seminars. Online, they discovered radical critiques of Washington on Web sites like ResistNet.com (“Home of the Patriotic Resistance”) and Infowars.com (“Because there is a war on for your mind.”)."
These people talk often of Obama using healthcare as a ruse to impose martial law, and the Republicans have done nothing to stop such nonsense talk. Why? Because it has helped them on healthcare, and they see this as a political boon.

But this is not responsible leadership. And those who egg Glenn Beck on, and treat him as if he is other than a drooling idiot--they are doing us a disservice and doing so in way that actually endangers our Republic. Yes, it will make them money right now, and possibly political power. But it is not good for us. Any of us.

February 16, 2010

With people this stupid, we don't deserve good healthcare

Matthew Yglesias: Americans Support Health Reform, Reject Policies to Make Health Reform Workable:
"Despite their misgivings about the bills overall, the poll showed the the public is strongly in favor of some of their key components, such as forbiding insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, establishing a health insurance exchange marketplace, prohibiting women from being charged higher premiums and requiring most employers to provide health benefits.

These same respondents, however, demonstrated resistance to making tradeoffs in exchange for these benefits by stating their opposition to paying more taxes, instituting cuts in Medicare spending or being required by law to obtain health coverage."
I blame Republicans for starting this and Democrats for caving. Republicans have sold the lie that all taxes are bad and have made raising taxes a political suicide mission. Democrats have caved and run like little cowards whenever they have been accused of raising taxes and never stopped to explain, in a Jimmy Stewart like fashion, that those taxes went to roads and police and clean water, and all those things that benefit us all.

So now we have a populace that won't tolerate cuts in their government programs as they bash government programs and refuse to pay any more money to keep those programs healthy, or make them better.

Politics v. principle

TNC has a good post exploring the difference and suggesting that many people position themselves, not out of a principled stance, but based on how others position themselves. True, some of their stances may be principled, but many of them appear to be just where they imagine their political position should be.

Republican morality?

It always stuns me as the height of delusion that Republicans and conservatives claim the mantle of "pro-family" or of "moral values" or of being "pro-military." Paul Waldman lists just a few of the things Republicans have done in Washington over the last few months--and continue to do--because the American people are, evidently, too stupid to call them on it. Yes They Can | The American Prospect:
"Maybe it was when they filibustered a defense-appropriations bill (not supporting our troops!). Or maybe it was when, just after the attempted Christmas bombing, they held up confirmation of the man President Barack Obama appointed to head the Transportation Safety Administration, leaving the agency leaderless. Or maybe it was the 'Shelby Shakedown,' when Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby put a 'hold' on 70 administration appointees so he could get some pork for his home state. Or maybe it was the way they argued that trying terrorist suspects in civilian court made Obama soft on evildoers, when the Bush administration did the same thing hundreds of times."
It goes without saying that any of those actions by Democrats would be decried as "unamerican" or just another example of the "blame America first" crowd. Fox would trumpet how Democrats were putting their own political desires above national security, and even that daring to criticize the President during such trying times was unAmerican and unpatriotic. But the Republicans do it because they realize the only people making those ridiculous claims are, well, Republicans.

Closer to home, Blue Oklahoman reports that our own Senate is killing a bill that would ban denying coverage because of domestic violence. Or, in other words, the heavily Christian republican party in Oklahoma prefers to side with insurance companies rather than force them to cover women who are beaten by their husbands or boyfriends. There are your Republican family values.


Ken Starr is back

Got this from Bruce Prescott's blog, but it appears that Baylor has made an odd choice for university President. I am not that interested in Baptist politics any longer. I have not been a member of a Baptist church since we lived in Houston. But I agree with this blogger (and Bruce) that this signals that the Baptist leadership in Texas have decided to further politicize their denomination. You only hire someone like Starr because you think that he will be a good fundraiser and emissary for you. Who likes Starr more than the far right? Clearly not an effort to reach those in the middle.

Also in that blog link was a story about Baptists
losing members in the 20s and 30s. The conclusion is not terribly difficult. They are annoyed with churches that either align with political hatred or those who have nothing to say on the moral issues of the day. Perhaps those people are also stunned with the silence from the churches regarding torture. I hope that is true.

As SOF and I often discuss, the fusing of religious conservatism with the Republican party had consequences. Hiring Ken Starr is perfectly logical when you thought Bush was some kind of fundamentalist savant. But it is hard to see how this merging is good for either church or state. Grownup Baptists should be angered about both. We shall see.

February 15, 2010

Cheney: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding"

What do you say to a man who just, as Sully noted, admitted to a war crime? From an ABC News interview:
"KARL: ... waterboarding, clearly, what was your...

CHENEY: I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques that...

KARL: And you opposed the administration's actions of doing away with waterboarding?


Not that is new for most of us. But a stark reminder of how much this man supported torture. The sadists among us still defend this and claim to not support torture--but they are deluding themselves and us. This is what they did in the Inquisition to suspected heretics. This is what they did to captured US servicemen in Japan, and this is what they did in KGB rooms in the former Soviet Union.

This, the former Vice President proudly supports. Why is he not on trial for war crimes? And why is he interviewed as some reasonable and rational person in polite society? And why is one of his flacks now writing a column in the WaPo?

And just a reminder. I have Republican friends who tell me that the party is not a supporter of torture. I don't see much evidence of that, and Cheney going proudly on ABC to brag about torturing people reinforces that.

February 13, 2010

Don't like history? Just rewrite it.

And this is the man doing just that:
"“I consider myself a Christian fundamentalist,” he announced almost as soon as we sat down. He also identifies himself as a young-earth creationist who believes that the earth was created in six days, as the book of Genesis has it, less than 10,000 years ago. He went on to explain how his Christian perspective both governs his work on the state board and guides him in the current effort to adjust American-history textbooks to highlight the role of Christianity."
He is a dentist, btw.

I have no problem adding the religious history of our nation--as long as that includes the bad with the good. Christians were on both sides of mistreatment of Indians, slavery, segregation, child labor, environmental destruction, etc. These particular Christians in Texas, I think, only want that positive role. I remember a conversation with a conservative in-law. I noted the positive role that liberals played in ending slavery and segregation. He retorted, "liberals didn't end slavery, Christians did." And Christian were involved, I agree, but that view tends to forget the vast numbers of American Christians who saw white supremacy as consistent with their Christian beliefs.

But back to these textbook editors. I have no problem including references to prominent Christians who have, for good or ill, changed America. That is the nature of historical inquiry. When they push, however, some idea that God is behind our country, or that we are on some divine mission, they not only encourage arrogance and intolerance, but they step outside history into something historians do not, and are incapable of addressing. In many ways, this approach does more damage than teaching bad facts, but a bad way of thinking about the past.

February 9, 2010

The man who would have been President

Ta-Nehisi Coates points out how petty McCain has become. He reminds me of his good friend Lieberman in that way. The difference, I think, is that McCain's good guy image is largely a mirage. Reading stuff from his early days in the military and his days in Arizona make me think he has always been a petty ass.

Anyone watch the Super Bowl commercials?

The game was a pretty decent game, but the ads sucked. And even my students agree with Tomasky that they were incredibly misogynistic.

February 8, 2010

GOP the party of Torture

And they have decided to charge back at Obama and call him weak on terror because he isn't torturing enough. Sarah Palin mocks Obama as CinC and belittles his extension of "Constitutional rights" to a terrorist, and she is just one of many who would prefer we just keep torturing. From the Times:
"“The handling of detainee issues is going to be a huge, huge issue in the period ahead,” said Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush.

“For six years,” Mr. Thiessen added, “the left has had a field day with this, running around saying we tortured people and comparing us to the Spanish Inquisition.” Now, he said, the politics have turned. “It’s a huge vulnerability for Obama and the Democrats, and Republicans are starting to gather their courage and talking about this.”"

Yglesias thinks that if Thiessen doesn't want to be compared to the Spanish Inquisition, he should stop championing torture techniques from there
US soldiers taken captive by Chinese forces during the Korean War were often tortured in order to induce false confessions of war crimes and such. Consequently, the American military compiled a manual that detailed the kind of torture techniques the Chinese used and offered training in torture-resistance. The Bush administration decided to turn that around and start applying many of the same methods to terrorism suspects. As a result of convergent evolution of torture practices, it seems that various figures interested in coerced confessions—Spanish Inquisitors, People’s Liberation Army, Khmer Rouge, etc.—all hit upon the basic idea behind waterboarding.

Exactly why the Bush administration thought that an interrogation technique designed to compel people to “admit” to whatever the interrogator wants to hear would be a good idea has to remain something of a matter of speculation.
The blatant immorality of these people sickens me. As a person who remembers the Cold War and remembers the fear of the Soviets, I am more than a little stunned that so many conservatives and conservative Christians now embrace the very tactics of the former USSR.

The next conservative who lectures me on morality may get an earful.

The Tea Party convention

Getting Religion at the Tea Party Convention:
I think the one thing that really did surprise me was the high level of explicitly Christian social conservatism on display here. One of the “breakout sessions” featured a speech from Pastor Rick Scarborough — who is most famous for trying to get America’s preachers more politicized. (“I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m a Christocrat.”) After his speech, a middle-aged female delegate with a twang stood up and said, during the Q&A, “All the media types are asking us why we’re here. Here’s what I say. We’re all here for a little R&R — revival and revolt. If you’re not a Christian, and a person of faith, you just can’t understand what we’re doing!!” She got a standing ovation.

This was followed by a sermon from Roy Moore. These people are scary. I have no problem with Christians engaging in the public square. But let's be honest. These people only want Christians in that public square, and most likely only want white Christians.

But I don't see Christ anywhere near.

February 7, 2010

Blerg--Sarah Palin is back

SOF and I did our ritualistic run to coffee this morning and NPR had several clips of that idiot speaking in front of the Idiot convention. Who else to speak at a convention filled with angry and ignorant people?

The clip I heard had her mocking Obama as weak on terror for extending American legal rights to the Christmas day bomber--oblivious, or I suspect uncaring of the fact that Bush did the same for the shoe bomber. "We need a Commander in Chief, not a Professor of Law," she preened ignorantly. Of course, Sarah, because in your world the last thing we need is someone smart enough to actually READ the constitution you claim to worship.

She makes me just weary. Cynical and caustic and stupid. So stupid that she can brag about distributing oil revenues to Alaskan citizens and then chide Obama for socialism--as if anything we are doing at the federal level is close to that kind of redistribution. The fact that the Republican party sees her as more "qualified" than Obama is enough to make me throw up a little in my mouth.

Of course, it isn't just Palin when it comes to massive stupidity. Jacob Weisberg has a pretty good take-down of the entire American stupidity when it comes to government:
"Sixty percent of Americans want stricter regulations of financial institutions. But nearly the same proportion says we're suffering from too much regulation on business. That kind of illogic—or, if you prefer, susceptibility to rhetorical manipulation—is what locks the status quo in place.

At the root of this kind of self-contradiction is our historical, nationally characterological ambivalence about government. We want Washington and the states to fix all of our problems now. At the same time, we want government to shrink, spend less, and reduce our taxes. We dislike government in the abstract: According to CNN, 67 percent of people favor balancing the budget even when the country is in a recession or a war, which is madness. But we love government in the particular: Even larger majorities oppose the kind of spending cuts that would reduce projected deficits, let alone eliminate them. Nearly half the public wants to cancel the Obama stimulus, and a strong majority doesn't want another round of it. But 80-plus percent of people want to extend unemployment benefits and to spend more money on roads and bridges. There's another term for that stuff: more stimulus spending."
It is in that kind of environment that Sarah Palin is relevant. Facts are not relevant. She (and the rest of Idiot America) can trumpet American values and then defend torture and detention in the same breath. We need to get back to the traditional values--and we will do that first and foremost by denying civil rights to detainees.

Either that makes sense to Palin because she is really that dumb. Or she really doesn't give a shit about the contradiction because all that matters is a good applause line, a job on Fox and incoming cash.

Palin is dangerous for our Republic. Shame on every Republican and conservative Christian who cheers her on.

February 5, 2010

What's Behind The New Populism? : NPR

Interesting discussion of the history of populism in America, and this line about the recent past:
"The last 40 years have been a more conservative era, and liberals have had to fight against what has become a default assumption of politics: that big government is bad, that unions aren't necessary, and that the only part of government that should really be big is the military."

I would suggest that default assumption is that all government is bad (except the military) and that taxes always negative and are not an investment. Those assumptions have, in addition to the anti-union sentiment, helped undermine the strength of the middle class.

Friday Morning roundup

I keep hearing about bi-partisanship, but am increasingly convinced that most Republicans don't want it unless it is a complete capitulation. Any victory for Obama is unwanted, period, even if that means denying good policy or good governance. And this morning, a few examples:

  • Report: Shelby Blocks All Obama Nominations In The Senate Over AL Earmarks | TPMDC. Shelby is using something other say is rarely used this boldly to block Obama nominees. And why? Because he is protesting that some of his earmarked projects have not been authorized. Because I am sure he lambastes Obama on fiscal responsibility, but doesn't want that coming from his own state, and is willing to hold everything up to get what he wants.

  • Michael Tomasky notes that my own senator (Coburn, who is, sadly, the smartest one we have) is planning on sabotaging every spending bill he can.
    Coburn 'believes it's important to stay on offense, so he wants to have a Pattonesque approach to amendments,' a veteran Senate GOP operative said.

    This operative said that in the wake of Sen.-elect Scott Brown's (R-Mass.) win in last month's special election, Republicans believe it is critical that they try to make Democrats appear out of step with the public. They believe amendments on guns and spending in particular will help GOP Senators achieve that goal."
    Not better policy. No, just to achieve political victory. One of those amendments, according to Tomasky?
    spectacle of an education bill including an amendment allowing veterans deemed "mentally defective" to carry firearms, which is among Coburn's proposals.
    The GOP is run by thugs and liars. Sorry, but that is true. The DNC may be run by liberal pansies, hell, I don't care. But we have not declared war on the opposition party. Jesus.

    And while the Republican leadership boasts of defeating Obama and gloats of stopping liberalism, our health crisis continues. This link is to Pelosi's blog, but the documents in it suggest that we are already spending more as a country on healthcare than any other country, and that will continue to go up. This last year's increase was the biggest one year jump since the 60s, and it is projected to account for 20% of every dollar spent in the country by the end of this decade.

    Meanwhile the Republicans say that our healthcare is the best in the world and gloat about killing reform efforts.
  • February 4, 2010

    On Tea Party paranoia

    The first thanks to WIV: a discussion of the history of paranoia in our political landscape.
    Even reasonable Tea Party activists, such as some from the recent Las Vegas event interviewed by the Sun, take it as given that Obama is a socialist. It hardly seems to matter that a significant chunk of the stimulus was a tax cut, or that his chief economist is centrist Larry Summers, or that the bailouts of the auto and banking industries began under President George W. Bush, or that Reagan favored the bailout of Chrysler in 1980, or that Reagan raised taxes to save Social Security.

    Obama is a socialist, if he’s not a fascist, a Nazi, or a totalitarian.

    And the second from Sully about the KOS poll, where he notes that Bruce Bartlett is concluding that if this poll is accurate, "between 20% and 50% of the party is either insane or mind-numbingly stupid." Sullivan, on the other hand, simply sees it as a reflection of this anti-modern tendency of fundamentalism.
    "It has a parallel in the way in which non-violent Islamists have doubled down on medievalism as they feel an overwhelming sense of their own failure to succeed in modernity. There is a profound insecurity and dysfunction in these subcultures which cannot make the transition to modern life and thereby surrender more totally to the ancient past and to hatred of those who succeed. The hatred of Obama - a clearly decent and obviously Christian man - is not about him. It's about them. It's about their resentment of a man who has integrated his own identity and made a place for himself in a pluralist world. They cannot do that - so, like Palin, they invent a world of ancient virtues and moral absolutes that they routinely fail to live up to in reality. I mean: look at Palin's family and Obama's. Whose is the more traditional? And yet Palin is allegedly the avatar of family values - and Obama is a commie subversive."

    Off to mando lessons.

    February 3, 2010

    Republicans attack the judgment of the Military?

    Steve Benen makes a very interesting point that the same party who used to defer completely to the military as a matter of public discourse, is now breaking with the military leadership on the big issues of the day (trials, Gitmo, torture, DADT):
    "Keep in mind, it wasn't too terribly long ago that Democratic politicians simply weren't supposed to say that Petraeus, Gates, and intelligence leaders were wrong about national security matters. Indeed, for Dems to say that they knew better than Petraeus, Gates, and intelligence leaders -- that their judgment was superior to military leaders' -- was grounds for mockery, if not condemnation.

    And yet, Obama has spent a year following the guidance of military leaders, and Republicans have spent a year breaking with the judgment of the military establishment."

    He continues:
    Imagine if the situations were reversed, and Democratic lawmakers were on the opposite side of the Commander in Chief, the Centcom commander, the Republican Defense Secretary, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- in the midst of two wars. Might we hear a little more talk about why Dems were at odds with the U.S. military establishment?

    And if so, why isn't the GOP break with the military a bigger deal?

    We are back in the simple-mindedness of the GOP and their base, I think. Their narrative is that Republicans are more patriotic, and I have had conservatives actually tell me that. They certainly believe that Republicans are more supportive of the military. When you believe something to be so true that you never question it (Republicans are more moral), then you simply never question it when facts intrude. The truth, after all, has a well known liberal bias.

    Conservative CW on Obama and Fox as trusted news

    If you haven't seen this Jon Stewart bit, you should. Interestingly enough, most of the networks covered the Obama Q&A with the Republicans, and even carried it live. Fox, started out doing so and then cut away because, as Jabba the Hut said, "Fox is the most trusted news source in the business" or some such nonsense. But Jon made a great point, that for Fox this video violated the narrative they have about Obama, and it certainly violates the narrative so many conservatives have about him. You know, that he is a teleprompter guy, but really an empty suit? You have heard all of these things, I am sure. I put those in the denial/delusion column, or in that column where one projects onto one's opposition the traits of your own party: ie., Bush was an idiot who could barely speak in short, meaningless phrases off notes and so therefore Obama becomes the empty suit who doesn't know what is going on.

    But watching him command questions from the opposition and manage them--not always perfectly, but certainly with knowledge and understanding--that was impressive. And "impressive" goes against the Fox narrative.

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    Simple and cynical

    Tomasky points to some fairly arcane but very interesting stuff about congressional rules where Republicans are just better at putting Democrats in an embarrassing position such as forcing them to vote in support of flag burners (of the horror). Democrats, he notes, are not less cynical, but our issues are more complex--and the Republican base is crazy.
    Democrats, in contrast, get all hot and bothered by things like the fourth and fifth amendments. Imagine if they forced an up-or-down that amounted to, do you support the fourth and fifth amendments? Republicans would just vote no, and not only would they pay no price, they'd rally their base like crazy.
    And this very good point:
    "No fits on a bumper sticker. So does No Socialism, Kill Terrorists, Protect the Flag and so on. Protect the Flag But Also Protect Freedom of Speech and the Right to Protest doesn't really fit on a bumper sticker."
    Republicans have a responsibility to try to educate their base on the complexity of the issues we face. But they don't want to, and the base agrees. They seem to prefer outright falsehoods about Obama to anything true. Grownup Republicans, this is your job. You won't become Democrats, and that is fine. But you can't stay Republicans if you don't stop the crazies from running it. As a Facebook friend noted, normal Republicans will find their numbers are dwindling.

    February 2, 2010

    Latest KOS poll shows that Republicans are moving farther from reality

    Large Portion Of GOP Thinks Obama Is Racist, Socialist, Non-U.S. Citizen: Poll. 39 percent want to impeach Obama for invisible crimes, 36 percent believe Obama is not an American citizen, and that gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools. Vast majority want Genesis taught in the public schools to explain the origins of the world.

    (There are some interesting odd bits in the poll. Most Republicans (men and women) see men and women as equal in the marriage relationship (as opposed to some male headship) and support women working outside the home.)

    But the highlights of this poll (and many, many others) point to the real inability for Republicans to actually work with Democrats--because they have a base that hates people like me. And Republicans have done nothing to dissuade their base from believing these falsehoods.
    "During his appearance at the House Republican retreat last Friday, Obama explained that it was hard to forge bipartisan consensus when lawmakers were trashing his health care bill as a 'Bolshevik plot'. These poll numbers show that the gulf preventing bipartisan consensus extends well beyond health care. How does a Republican lawmaker explain to his or her die-hard base that it is important to work on legislation with a racist, socialist president who is illegally holding office only because of the help of ACORN?

    'This is why it's becoming impossible for elected Republicans to work with Democrats to improve our country,' said Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos. 'They are a party beholden to conspiracy theorists who don't even believe Obama was born in the United States, and already want to impeach him despite a glaring lack of scandal or wrongdoing. They think Obama is racist against white people and the second coming of Lenin. And if any of them stray and decide to do the right thing and try to work in a bipartisan fashion, they suffer primaries and attacks. Given what their base demands -- and this poll illustrates them perfectly -- it's no wonder the GOP is the party of no.'"

    Just another reason I am skeptical of the GOP

    That a supposed "moderate" like Susan Collins can jump on the bandwagon of "Obama is endangering us in the war on terror by providing the Christmas day bomber with an attorney." Because, of course, following American values is, according to the Republicans--destroying America.


    Glenn Greenwald takes her apart.

    Tax cut fever

    That seems to be all the Republicans have of late. And I understand--to a degree. When your base is uninformed and you make no effort to actually educate them on the complexity of our economy or government or policy--then it is perfectly understandable that your party would be reduced to a simplistic "we will cut your taxes" mantra. Explaining how some taxes are beneficial, or addressing some need for shared sacrifice--those are hard things. But simply telling people that you will give them money back and then vague ideas about cutting spending--or worse, that cutting taxes will increase revenue--well that is just about as simplistic as you can get. And frankly, dishonest.

    Bruce Bartlett takes on the latest from Tim Pawlenty. The GOP gives us this guy and Sarah Palin?

    February 1, 2010

    On the myth of Bi-Partisanship

    Which, I am sure you realize, I no longer believe in. Not that I don't believe that people can work to bridge differences (though Republicans around me are doing their damnedest to prove to me that is impossible), but that in modern parlance it means that Republicans want Democrats to embrace completely Republican legislation or they will cry partisanship.

    Fallows takes it on here starting with this great story told him by a staffer or congressman who witnessed the following exchange:
    "GOP member: 'I'd like this in the bill.'

    "Dem member response: 'If we put it in, will you vote for the bill?'

    "GOP member: 'You know I can't vote for the bill.'

    "Dem member: 'Then why should we put it in the bill?'

    He goes on to point out that bi-partisanship is impossible in the world of minority party discipline, and it is ludicrous to blame Obama for that.

    Wow. Anyone wondering where Jabba the Hut ended up?

    He runs Fox News, and runs it as a Republican talking points machine, btw.

    One of the big lies has been that the media is overly liberal--a lie that is so completely accepted by most people that they don't even question it. What is so interesting about Ailes response is how there is absolutely no attempt at objectivity. That can be said for Krugman, of course, but he is not running a news agency, but is a pundit. A pundit, who, in this case, is absolutely correct.