May 25, 2010

Newt Gingrich is an idiot

And I say that with a certain pain, as he and I share a PhD in history. But then again, I know a lot of idiots with PhDs, and I suspect you all do as well.

Well, this idiot is prepping to run for President and is proof, again, that the right wing is willing to forgive all sorts of idiots. For all the hatred and (deserved) derision toward John Edwards, Newt was the original "cheat on your sick wife," and was forgiven by none other than the evangelical mob boss--James Dobson.

Anyway, the idiot has written a book, and you can read an interview about that book here. Buckle up, you are in for a pretty bad ride. Gingrich, for all his education, and for all his political brilliance, demonstrates that he either doesn't understand logic, or he does and doesn't care how many fallacies he uses.
Speaker Newt Gingrich: The Obama Administration ignored the public’s opposition to the stimulus package. The Administration ignored the fact that a majority of the American people were opposed to Obamacare. And they ignored the loss of the Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat, and ended up ramming through a bill that the country clearly did not want. That’s the behavior of a machine. So I’m first of all prepared to defend the concept that it’s a machine.
But only if you completely rewrite the past. Yeah, there was a lot of resistance to the stimulus and the healthcare bill, but only Newt and his idiots cling to the "majority" opposes. (See here on the stimulus, and we can all remember that a "majority" did oppose the healthcare bill, but some of those who opposed it did so because it was too conservative. Add those to the support, and you have a majority opposed to the status quo.)

I can't stomach to quote more from the idiot's interview. Check it out if you have the guts. He twists the past on socialism, on secularism, and, let's not forget, completely ignores the times that Bush pushed through incredibly divisive legislation in a machine-like way. But these labels are only for the left.

Gingrich is an amoral idiot.

May 24, 2010

Mark Souder and the Christian political right

E.J. Dionne has a very thoughtful and compassionate column on Souder, who he knows and has worked with before. He suggests that one lesson from this mess is for the Christian right to stop pretending they have a corner on family values:
Enough with dividing the world between moral, family-loving Christians and supposedly permissive, corrupt, family-destroying secularists.

Enough with pretending that personal virtue is connected with political creeds. Enough with condemning your adversaries, sometimes viciously, and then insisting upon understanding after the failures of someone on your own side become known to the world. And enough with claiming that support for gay rights and gay marriage is synonymous with opposition to family values and sexual responsibility.

I have a lot of compassion for Souder too. It is the height of arrogance to assume that we are incapable of falling to temptation. But I continue to be amazed at how compassionate and forgiving the Christian right can be for their own, but have none for a liberal who strays. Bill Clinton and John Edwards come to mind, while Newt Gingrich prepares his run for President by comparing Obama to Hitler and Stalin. Or the fact that Hilary Clinton is still demonized by the right for her marriage and family, while Sarah Palin somehow is a model of "family values?"

By all means, extend a measure of grace to Mark Souder and his family. This is a tough time, made the more difficult by having your adultery broadcast on ever channel. But save some of that grace and understanding for those on the left.

May 23, 2010

Stop saying we have high taxes

Yet another damn Republican spouted the same bullshit that every Republican repeats as if it is gospel. This time, the winner was in Hawaii, where a Republican finally won a special election, though clearly because of a split Democratic ticket. Fine. I don't really mind that. It happens. But when he won, he had this to say:
“We have told them that we will not stand idly by as our great nation is overburdened by too much taxes, too much debt and too much wasteful spending.”
We can argue the wasteful spending, and we can certainly agree on the debt, but the "too much taxes" is not only grammatically awkward, but factually incorrect. And I am tired of people just lying about it. Our federal taxes are lower than they have been since the 1950s. We are not overtaxed. Sorry. Stop saying that.

May 22, 2010

The Texas Schoolbook travesty

None of this is surprising, but Texas has effectively nutjobbed its curriculum, diminished the role that any minorities have played in our history, elevated the legitimacy of the Confederacy, undermined separation of church and state, and, of all things, resurrected McCarthy as some kind of American hero. Many conservatives will want to dismiss this as uniquely Texas, just as they wanted to dismiss the Utah Tea Party purge of Senator Bennett. But this represents a much broader conservative trend, the one of simply asserting what you want to be true as truth:
"At its core, this is not just a travesty for academic integrity and students in Texas, but it's also a reminder of what's gone horribly wrong with the twisted right-wing worldview. These state officials have decided they simply don't care for reality, so they've replaced it with a version of events that makes them feel better. The result is an American history in which every era has been distorted to satisfy the far-right ego."
I see it all around me. People who don't want to believe evolution, so they simply do not. People who desire a Christian nation, so they ignore any evidence to the contrary and simply believe it as so. As I have noted, it is disconcerting as a liberal who was told during my 20s that liberals believed in no truth, and so made it up to meet their own needs. Now it is conservatives who are simply creating the truth they desire, and actively ignoring or erasing factual evidence to the contrary. And it isn't just in Texas. It is in the Tea Party people who assert "death panels" and that Obama has raised their taxes--things that, as Casey Stengel noted, "you can look it up."

May 21, 2010

Rand Paul continued

I think Monk had it absolutely right, Rand Paul values property rights over human rights. But it is the main problem with libertarianism. They honestly believe that the market is so magical and so self-correcting that it will find goodness by itself. It is like believing in magical beans. And when he suggests, seemingly without irony, that the answer to discrimination and segregation is to allow those decisions to be handled locally--as if that wasn't the way that race relations were handled for 300 years with very few good outcomes--he shows a proud ignorance of facts and history.

Bruce Bartlett suggests that Paul is a long way from Barry Goldwater on Civil Rights:
"I don't believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only--freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible."
I agree. I think Rand is not an open racist, merely someone so stupid he thinks that desegregation or equality would happen in a libertarian paradise.

Paul, himself, is arguing that this is just the product of liberal criticism and talking points. (Rand Paul Fires Back at Critics of Civil Rights Act Comments - ABC News). I have no doubt that Democratic operatives have rubbed their hands in glee. After all, it is rare that a candidate offers such an opportunity. But this is more in line with the rest of his poorly thought-out policy arguments. The American Prospect blog noted this response to a question about how to help people in poorer districts in Kentucky:
TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect: "Maybe we lift people up in eastern Kentucky by giving them a tax holiday for a year, you know. You have to have jobs coming from businessmen and women. And maybe have no taxes in counties that have fifteen percent unemployment. See if you can get people working again."
As that blogger noted, it might be hard to provide basic public services to those counties. How do they pick up trash, repair roads, provide clean drinking water, staff hospitals and libraries, and pay for police? This is not a coherent philosophy, but one based in some kind of magical fantasy land where market faeries make corrections.

The fact is that we have tried the libertarian approach before. We had unregulated industry that put kids in mines. We had mine owners pouring mine waste into rivers and oceans. We had a clear two-tiered system with poorly paid and exploited workers (with no protections against accident or disability) and those on the top making millions and millions. It is ridiculous to argue for that kind of approach to business, and insane to assume that removing all those external holds will produce a good outcome.

This is not a coherent nor realistic approach to governing. Not even close.

May 19, 2010

Tea Party Idiot wins in Kentucky

Yeah, Rand Paul won his primary last night against the GOP chosen candidate. From what I read, he spoke of "true conservatism" and "taking our country back." Implied, but less clear, of course, is the "who" they are taking the party back from. I am guessing the non-whites or liberal whites who staged the Miss USA contest.

And I am almost not kidding there. I hate to say this, because I am sure I know Tea Party people and believe that some are at least in the in-laws side of the family, but their knowledge of policy and governance is abysmal. As Josh Green notes, many of the Rand Paul supporters clearly have not been paying attention.
In my talks with voters on the campaign trail today and yesterday, the idea that the Republican Party is as complicit as the Democratic Party in what ails the country is something I heard again and again. I made a point of seeking out registered Republican voters, and the frustration with Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's senior senator and the Senate Minority Leader, seemed indistinguishable from--or perhaps better to say, "was a large part of"--the general frustration with Washington. "Republicans in Washington, D.C. are just playing 'follow the leader,' Janice Cox told me at a rally in Paducah earlier today, to which she'd brought her daughter, grandchildren, and a jumbo-sized American flag. "We need a true constitutional conservative."
As many bloggers have noted, McConnell has to be pulling out what is left of his graying hair. If anyone has worked to obstruct and obfuscate and deny and disparage and dissemble about the Democrats, it is McConnell. Imagine his frustration. He spends all this time as an obstructionist asshole and the Tea Party people think he is just a "follow the leader" Republican.

And what exactly do these Tea Partiers want from policy? According to this, Rand Paul, following in the wingnut tradition of his crazy father, wants to balance the budget in one year. One year. Paul is deeply afraid of inflation and promises to his wingnut base that he will fight what he calls the "sneakiest tax of all." Of course, our inflation is not even noticeable right now, and some have worried more about deflation, but why bother with facts?

One of my Texas friends has framed most of this in response to Obama, as if the Tea Party is really Obama's fault. It dawned on me yesterday that this is really a Republican problem, and one that the Republicans created and encouraged. And now, it is coming back to bite them on the ass.

Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP had a chance to stand up to Rush and the Tea Party and the idiots and say, "hey, disagree with the Democrats, but let's not make shit up. There are no death panels and Obama doesn't want to send soldiers to arrest you for not buying health insurance. Oh, and he isn't Muslim, or Hitler, and he IS an American citizen."

Not saying that would have banished the Tea Party, but it would have gone a ways to marginalize them. Those same Republicans should have also called their buddies at Fox and said, hey, don't promote the wingnuts.

But they didn't. And you know why? Because they looked at them as benefitting them in the short run. They thought that the Tea Party idiots shouting at people in Town Halls would allow them to kill healthcare. They thought that the mobs of people brandishing guns and talking about hitler would allow them to gain seats in November.

And now, they are here, and the GOP is the one with the problem. I don't really think the Tea Party is going to do much but push the GOP toward the absolutely idiotic and ridiculous. They are doing more to push the Republicans out of sanity's range than anything. And Fox and talk radio are urging them on. Why would they not? It sells ad space and tin foil and MREs.

No, this is the GOP's fault. You thought you could play with the tiger and it would just be nice and help you defame the evil liberals. But the tiger is not very smart, and really can't tell the difference between that rag doll of Obama and your face.

Good job, GOP. Good job.

May 18, 2010

Sacred victimhood

TNC has a great post on this ridiculous dustup over the Miss USA contest, which, if you didn't know, was won by a Muslim! Oh God, why have you forsaken us?

The runner-up, btw, is from Oklahoma, and many think she lost to the Muslim! because of her answer to a question about Arizona immigration, where she said she was a "fan" of "state's rights" but also opposed to racial profiling. The first part of her answer has made her an instant celebrity of the Carrie Prejean category for being brave enough to "speak her mind." That value, btw, is only valued when it is from people you agree with.

Anyway, Miss Oklahoma actually wanted to be on both sides of the answer and by the way who gives a rat's ass what she says about immigration reform? And why in the holy hell are we talking about a damn beauty pageant?

My only interest is that the far right has lost its collective marbles (those remaining, mind you) over the fact that this gorgeous young Muslim! woman beat out another gorgeous young white woman in a contest that no one gives a flying fuck about. Daniel Pipes, of Bush administration and "Obama is too a Muslim" fame is convinced that the Muslim! woman won because of some conspiracy. And a conspiracy that began with other non-whites.

As TNC notes:
The point is that the narrative of white supremacy holds victimhood sacred. It paints whites as the truly put-upon class and asserts that non-white success--black, brown, red, yellow and now "Muslim" -- is mostly achieved through vile and despicable means. When reality challenges that view, white supremacy simply moves the goal-post. So in the 19th and early 20th century, blacks were thought of as physically inferior to whites. When blacks succeeded in athletics the logic became that blacks "animistic" nature gave them an advantage.

Reminds me of a point that Tom Engelhardt makes in The End of Victory Culture, that throughout our history, our sense of exceptionalism has forced white American to explain losses to the "other" as only possible through some kind of cheating. Custer, the Alamo, and the defenders of Pearl Harbor only lost because the non-whites didn't play by the "civilized" rules of war.

That sense of victimhood is, as he notes, central to the concept of white supremacy, and has, unfortunately, completely embedded itself in the right wing. The fact that they see conspiracy in a damn beauty pageant pretty much proves the point that they have left sanity far behind.

May 16, 2010


It has been a wild and wooly week here in OK. The newsworthy tornados on Monday started the week in motion and then we ended with graduation. I attended the big graduation ceremony because two close friends were there. One, my good friend L, who has house-sat for us numerous times and just been great to us, finished her masters in zoology. The other, now Dr. M, completed his PhD in chemistry.

It was fun to go to the ceremony and very enjoyable to see those friends finish and get their just congratulations. But it was also rather weird. I had a few flashbacks to my own PhD graduation and my buddy's after. Seeing my old dissertation advisor down there didn't exactly bring back great memories.

But that is ok. I am where I am and rather happy with that me (is that a Grosse Point Blank line?). Just has been a weird time. The spring funk continues and will probably continue through my birthday on Monday. I am also worried about my uncle who is not doing well in a hospital in Arizona. I have been thinking of him a lot these last weeks. Family continues to be a rather complicated issue here in the Streak family.


Meanwhile, I note a few news items that caught my eye. One is this from Dana Milbank which is a succinct summary of the GOP's recent craziness. Another great example is the fact that two Iraq war veterans are running for Congress. I am sure there are more, but these two are relevant because of their role in actions the military even didn't like. One shot two unarmed Iraqis and then posted a Marine sign over their bodies, and the other fired a pistol next to the head of a detainee to get him to talk. The first was nearly tried for murder and the latter was forced to retire from the Army. Their significance? Both brag about their acions and both are being cheered by the Republican base. See, committing war crimes makes you more attractive to the Republican right, not less.

Reminds me of some of my more frustrating communications on Facebook. One friend, complete with Master's degree from a seminary, still defends torture as "wrong" but defensible because a) "the government has to do what it has to do to keep us safe" and b) "the terrorists brought it on themselves because if their willingness to do things like behead people." What the hell do they teach in those seminaries now?

Then on Thursday, I received a friend request from a person I barely remember. Her profile lists her politics as "conservative" and her religion as "Baptist" and her groups include the one that jokes about Obama's death. You have probably seen or heard of this one: "Farrah Fawcett was my favorite actress, blah blah, Obama is my favorite President." I sent her an email and pointed out the tasteless quality of that "joke." In her defense she said that she had heard worse about Bush, and it was "just a joke."


I was thinking last night that one of the basic Christian values we are taught in church as youth is the Golden Rule's call to treat people as you would be treated. Not, as it is very clear, treat others as they treat you, but treat them as you yourself would be treated. And of course there are the commandments to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. I admit to being particularly bad at that first one, and often a failure at the second. But it almost seems that in the conservative church, those values have simply been repealed. It as if they have decided that God surely didn't mean it when dealing with terrorists, or when dealing with liberals like Obama (if he actually is a liberal, mind you).


Ok, back to grading. But one last thing. I received my copy of this book and want to recommend it to anyone looking for some summer history reading. We Were All Like Migrants Here.

The author is a friend of mine. And despite his questionable taste in friends, he is a top-notch historian and great writer.

May 12, 2010

This is a disheartening and disturbing allegation

President Obama Must Investigate Reports of Detainee Abuse at Bagram Air Base - Yahoo! News.

I admit it. I want Obama to succeed and have supported him in most areas. I have, however, been discouraged to see him continue some of the bad Bush policies. If he has allowed torture to continue in Afghanistan, that must stop and that must stop now.

May 10, 2010

Tornado Alley, indeed!

Quite a day here in central OK with some major tornados around us. One formed right over the stadium and several residences in eastern Norman were damaged. My friend L posted pictures of softball size hail. We were incredibly lucky and actually received only a small amount of rain and wind.

Hoping that everyone is safe and dry tonight.

May 9, 2010

Spring funk

I seem to be prone to them. I have been fighting one these last few days. Perhaps left over from the dissertation days, I don't know. Or perhaps simply the end of a long semester. In the last year, I have taught 10 classes, and as a result, am only slightly annoyed when someone asks me if I am looking for a job or suggests that not teaching this summer suggests I am somehow lazy.

Anyway. Music has been my approach at climbing out of the funk. When particularly frustrated, I have tried to practice the mandolin more. Last night, SOF and I attended a live concert with Adam Granger performing songs all written by John Hadley. Hadley is a songwriter who spends half his time here in Norman and the rest in Nashville. He has written songs for Tim O'Brien, David Olney, and many others. Hadley also sang last night, and it felt like we were witnesses to something rare and cool. It went a long ways toward de-funking.

Speaking of music, I am loving the new New Pornographer album and especially this song. Enjoy.

May 5, 2010

Hmm, Lieberman wants to revoke citizenship before proven guilty

AFP: US senator: No US citizenship rights for terrorists and it looks like even Chuck Shumer is interested. That means that the government would declare someone like Shahzad as an enemy combatant at the beginning, strip him of his American citizenship, and then not Mirandize or otherwise apply the Constitution.

This seems like a monumental over-reaction and a racist over-reaction. When everyone thought it might be a middle-aged white guy, there was no such talk. Find out the guy emigrated from Pakistan and the crazy starts.

Was there any talk about revoking Scott Roeder's constitutional protections because his murder was overtly political and meant to terrorize abortion providers, to say nothing of George Tiller's church body who had to deal with a maniac coming into their sanctuary and murdering one of their fellow parishioners? You think they were terrorized?

It amazes me how quickly conservatives and even liberals can fall prey to this fear, and in doing so jettison long held principles. We can do better than this. Our system has lasted long enough to have a sense of continuity and stability, but we should trust it. Lieberman and Shumer should be ashamed of doubting it.

May 3, 2010

Does the government have constitutional permission to cap a well?

Asks Mark Kleinman:
"Where in the Constitution does it say that the Federal government has the power to cap runaway oil wells? I hope the proponents of limited government will come forward with free-market plans to do the job. After all, socialism is much more dangerous than crude oil."

Yglesias noted that for many conservatives that limited government disappears and appears on command. Few would question that the government has a role here to protect the coast and certainly intervene. Hell, the right has already tried to suggest that this is Obama's Katrina moment.

But dare to suggest that insurance be extended, and the constitutional hand-wringing begins.


One other note. I am watching with horror as the state of Oklahoma gets more and more ridiculous. The insanity will probably not end, as I read this morning they are considering an anti-immigration bill to compare to the one from Arizona. As my neighbor suggested, the GOP is now in the mode of, "oh now you think you are more conservative than me?"

Meanwhile the budget continues to sink, and the GOP plans on cutting everything, including prison workers and teachers. Who needs teachers? Meanwhile, I heard from a progressive candidate yesterday that Oklahoma leads in the incarceration of women. Woohoo. We are number 1.

May 1, 2010

slactivist on these same conservatives: stupid

slacktivist: Empathy and epistemic closure
Stupidity has become a major, if not wholly acknowledged, theme in recent American politics. From Arizona to Massachusetts, it is a glaringly obvious fact of our political discourse, but one that is rarely spoken of directly.

Let's set such timid delicacy aside and state the obvious: The tea partiers are stupid. Look at them, listen to them -- these are stupid people behaving stupidly. They are hideously ill-informed and monstrously unconcerned with the fact of their being so ill-informed. Their stupidity fuels their anger and their anger fuels their stupidity. Spend five minutes listening to them and the overwhelming impression of resentful stupidity will only be reinforced. Spend hours listening to the speakers receiving the cheers at their rallies and hours more listening to Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or any of the other demagogic leaders of this mob of a movement and the conclusion becomes undeniably confirmed: Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I have felt something similar about the Tea Party madness. One of my friends has expressed sympathy for them, and has chastised me for not taking seriously their anger and sense of rage. I don't because I don't actually believe they are legitimately angry. I think they are angry because they have been told to be angry. And rather than examine their situation and look at the fact that Obama has tried to make life better for those uninsured or underinsured, and isn't, in fact, instituting Hitler's death camps, they choose to be angry and shrill. And in fact, they act like giant asses. I have run into a few online--people I know or kind of know, and their lack of civility has been breath-taking. Over healthcare. Not about torture, or wiretapping, or starting two wars--healthcare.

I am reminded of the brilliant Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing where Springfield passes an anti-immigration bill after the city wasted tax payer money preventing bears from wandering the streets. This is Homer's response and it could easily be in the Tea Party platform:
"Homer: Woo-hoo! A perfect day. Zero bears and one big fat hairy
[opens it up]
Hey! How come my pay is so low? ... Bear patrol tax! This is
an outrage! It's the biggest tax increase in history!
Lisa: Actually, Dad, it's the smallest tax increase in history.
Homer: Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax.
Lisa: That's home-_owner_ tax.
Homer: Well, anyway, I'm still outraged."

As Fred notes in his great post, these people don't have to embrace stupidity. They can, and should, be the smart people they are. Disagree with Obama. Absolutely. Dissent and argue for more fiscal responsibility. But do that as well when your Republican legislatures waste tax payer money suing the government for a bill that helps your neighbor have better healthcare!

You guys are smarter and better than this.

More on jumping shark Republicans

And I am increasingly wondering if the GOP needs to change its icon from the smart elephant to a picture of a shark.

This Kos diarist has an interesting post on the so-called nostalgic past. I think Leighton or one of my other FB friends pointed me to it yesterday. I haven't checked all the facts in the essay, but he points to some of the problems with the libertarian Tea Party "small government" nostalgia for the country they have "lost." Those nostalgic days are ok, but for a much smaller set of the population. White male elites did fine. The rest of us didn't.

I think this is common sense for most of us, but all around me I read people pining for a nostalgic past. Nevada Republican Sue Louden talked about returning to the golden days when you could barter chickens for healthcare, seemingly unaware that both the cost of care and the amount that doctors could do for you was much, much less. About the value of a live chicken, perhaps, depending on your illness.

As everyone knows, Arizona's legislature has doubled down on the immigration issue. As reasonable people have noted, there are problems with the border and there is a need for a national immigration plan. As my recent post noted, however, there was a plan under Bush that many reasonable people liked, but it could not survive those conservative House Republicans. The Shark Jumpers, as it were, who are now in charge of Oklahoma and Arizona's legislatures.

They want "their country back" and will seemingly do anything to retrieve a non-existent Arizona with only white people. They are even now banning ethnic studies, and even teachers of English who have a heavy or "ungrammatical" accent. Given the grammar of some of the white Oklahomans I meet, I have to laugh at that one. Well, I would laugh if the stakes weren't so damn high.

This is pure racism, though I doubt many of the conservatives who support it see that part. The good thing about our country's view on racism is that few openly embrace racism. The bad thing is that it tends to blind us all from our racist beliefs.

One final thing. I am increasingly convinced that small government conservatism is pure fantasy, and is never intended as anything but an excuse to cut taxes and programs for non-whites. It isn't genuine, and we see it come out when "small government" Republicans run into problems. Take the oil spill (anyone heard Sarah Palin do her "drill, baby drill" bullshit lately?) and its possible impact on the economy of the Gulf Coast. Now we see Bobby Jindal, famous for criticizing federal stimulus money now calling for federal aid in both fighting the oil spill, and providing economic assistance to the fisheries industry. As well he should, by the way, as that is the purpose of government, but for shame to those Republicans who try to gut those programs or badmouth the taxes that provide them. And it isn't just Louisiana. We remember Rick Perry calling for federal assistance last year to fight fires, even as he joked about seceeding from the union. Just this week, we see Arizona (again) trying to benefit from healthcare as they waste taxpayer money suing over, yeah, healthcare reform (or see all the taxpayer waste from Oklahoma passing draconian legislation that will most likely cost the state millions in legal fees).

I don't want to hear about small government. I am tired of it. You don't really mean it. You just mean "less government support for non-white people."