Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:42 pm

Who really won the Civil War?

It’s a weird question, right? Only not as weird as you might think. I first started thinking about it when I found myself so often having to respond to this or that point on social media with, “We already had that conversation. In 1860-65. Your side lost.” But did it?

Sure, the Confederacy as a military and governmental entity collapsed in 1865. But the ideas that animated it — antidemocratic rule by gentry, brutal suppression of minorities, refusal to recognize federal democratic rule — today animate the Tea Party base of the GOP and have an unhealthy influence on U.S. politics and governance.

Consider this take from Doug Muder at the Weekly Sift:

[Jefferson Davis’s plan to escape to Texas and raise a new army to continue the Civil War after Appomattox] sounded crazy until I read about Reconstruction. Reconstruction was a mysterious blank period between Lincoln’s assassination and Edison’s light bulb. Congress impeached Andrew Johnson for some reason, the transcontinental railroad got built, corruption scandals engulfed the Grant administration, and Custer lost at Little Big Horn. But none of it seemed to have much to do with present-day events.

And oh, those blacks Lincoln emancipated? Except for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, they vanished like the Lost Tribes of Israel. They wouldn’t re-enter history until the 1950s, when for some reason they still weren’t free.

Here’s what my teachers’ should have told me: “Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.” I think that would have gotten my attention.

It wasn’t just that Confederates wanted to continue the war. They did continue it, and they ultimately prevailed. They weren’t crazy, they were just stubborn.

It’s certainly true in the South, where Reconstruction ended prematurely in 1877 as part of a deal that gave Rutherford B. Hayes the White House.

If the Napoleonic Wars were your model, then it was obvious that the Confederacy lost in 1865: Its capital fell, its commander surrendered, its president was jailed, and its territories were occupied by the opposing army. If that’s not defeat, what is?

But now we have a better model than Napoleon: Iraq.

After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877. Before and after 1877, the insurgents usedlynchings and occasionalpitchedbattles to terrorize those portions of the electorate still loyal to the United States. In this way they took charge of the machinery of state government, and then rewrote the state constitutions to reverse the postwar changes and restore the supremacy of the class that led the Confederate states into war in the first place. [2]

By the time it was all over, the planter aristocrats were back in control, and the three constitutional amendments that supposedly had codified the U.S.A’s victory over the C.S.A.– the 13th, 14th, and 15th — had been effectively nullified in every Confederate state. The Civil Rights Acts had been gutted by the Supreme Court, and were all but forgotten by the time similar proposals resurfaced in the 1960s. Blacks were once again forced into hard labor for subsistence wages, denied the right to vote, and denied the equal protection of the laws. Tens of thousands of them were still physically shackled and subject to being whipped, a story historian Douglas Blackmon told in his Pulitzer-winning Slavery By Another Name.

So Lincoln and Grant may have had their mission-accomplished moment, but ultimately the Confederates won. The real Civil War — the one that stretched from 1861 to 1877 — was the first war the United States lost.

That system continues to hold sway over far too much of U.S. politics and governance today, and it is profoundly antidemocratic. Muder writes:

But the enduring Confederate influence on American politics goes far beyond a few rhetorical tropes. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.”

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.

That was the victory plan of Reconstruction. Black equality under the law was guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. But in the Confederate mind, no democratic process could legitimate such a change in the social order. It simply could not be allowed to stand, and it did not stand.

In the 20th century, the Confederate pattern of resistance was repeated against the Civil Rights movement. And though we like to claim that Martin Luther King won, in many ways he did not. School desegregation, for example, was never viewed as legitimate, and was resisted at every level. And it has been overcome. By most measures, schools are as segregated as ever, and the opportunities in white schools still far exceed the opportunities in non-white schools.

Today, ObamaCare cannot be accepted. No matter that it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, found constitutional by the Supreme Court, and ratified by the people when they re-elected President Obama. It cannot be allowed to stand, and so the tactics for destroying it get ever more extreme. The point of violence has not yet been reached, but the resistance is still young.

Violence is a key component of the present-day strategy against abortion rights, as Judge Myron Thompson’s recent ruling makes clear. Legal, political, social, economic, and violent methods of resistance mesh seamlessly. The Alabama legislature cannot ban abortion clinics directly, so it creates reasonable-sounding regulations the clinics cannot satisfy, like the requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Why can’t they fulfill that requirement? Because hospitals impose the reasonable-sounding rule that their doctors live and practice nearby, while many Alabama abortionists live out of state. The clinics can’t replace them with local doctors, because protesters will harass the those doctors’ non-abortion patients and drive the doctors out of any business but abortion. A doctor who chooses that path will face threats to his/her home and family. And doctors who ignore such threats have been murdered.

Legislators, of course, express horror at the murder of doctors, just as the pillars of 1960s Mississippi society expressed horror at the Mississippi Burning murders, and the planter aristocrats shook their heads sadly at the brutality of the KKK and the White Leagues. But the strategy is all of a piece and always has been. Change cannot stand, no matter what documents it is based on or who votes for them. If violence is necessary, so be it.

And if you think for a moment that Muder’s take on the movement’s violent bent is fanciful or exaggerated, consider this.

This mindset has found a focus point, and a path to at least a modicum of power, through the Tea Party, which now effectively holds sway over one of our two major political parties and is directly responsible what much of America — and the world — finds so odious about today’s GOP and our country. (Credit where due, by the way: The blogger Driftglass has written on this theme for years.)

Muder concludes:

Our modern Confederates are quick to tell the rest of us that we don’t understand them because we don’t know our American history. And they’re right. If you knew more American history, you would realize just how dangerous these people are.

 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:22 pm

Remember how the IRS was only targeting conservative groups?

Filed under: More fact-based arguing, please — Lex @ 11:22 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yeah, me neither.

Darrell Issa needs to be impeached, and every screaming RWNJ who was accusing the Obama administration of persecution and yadda yadda yadda needs to sit down and drink an icy cold, 1-liter mug of STFU. I have had it with you people.

Thursday, October 17, 2013 8:14 pm

Quote of the day, Tea Party debt-ceiling edition

“The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.” – Richard Hofstadter, 1954.

Chronicle of a death foretold, debt-ceiling edition

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the Republican now running FreedomWorks and other detriments to American well-being, is an evil little turd, but he correctly called the outcome a week in advance:

I will predict this: When they agree on a spending bill, it will speak not at all to Obamacare and it will be at budgetary numbers higher than the sequestration level. And so in the end, the Republican conference will lose ground on the budget, they will lose ground on health care, they will lose ground politically, and they’ll be in a worse position than where Boehner had them going into this process. And they’ll all blame Boehner, bless his heart.

(h/t: Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice)

 

Friday, October 11, 2013 7:57 pm

Read this and tell me again how the shutdown is the Democrats’ fault

The House GOP’s Little Rule Change:

Late on the night of Sept. 30, with the federal government just hours away from shutting down, House Republicans quietly made a small change to the House rules that blocked a potential avenue for ending the shutdown.

It went largely unnoticed at the time. But with the shutdown more than a week old and House Democrats searching for any legislative wiggle room to end it, the move looms large in retrospect in the minds of the minority party.

“What people don’t know is that they rigged the rules of the House to keep the government shut down,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, told TPM in an interview. “This is a blatant effort to make sure that the Senate bill did not come up for a vote.” …

Here’s the rule in question:

When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.

In other words, if the House and Senate are gridlocked as they were on the eve of the shutdown, any motion from any member to end that gridlock should be allowed to proceed. Like, for example, a motion to vote on the Senate bill. That’s how House Democrats read it.

But the House Rules Committee voted the night of Sept. 30 to change that rule for this specific bill. They added language dictating that any motion “may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”

So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t.

“I’ve never seen this rule used. I’m not even sure they were certain we would have found it,” a House Democratic aide told TPM. “This was an overabundance of caution on their part. ‘We’ve got to find every single crack in the dam that water can get through and plug it.'”

Congressional historians agreed that it was highly unusual for the House to reserve such power solely for the leadership.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.

Sunday, October 6, 2013 1:41 pm

How to restore confidence in the economy

Commenter Christobal Juanes in John Burns’s feed on Facebook:

Man, you know what would really help restore confidence in the economy? Investors not having to worry that the US is going to default on its obligations every couple of months because a political minority that can’t accomplish its myopic, selfish goals through the traditional, constitutionally-designed process holds the economy hostage.

Monday, September 30, 2013 7:46 pm

Oh, yes, he did: Sen. Angus King calls Obamacare opposition “tantamount to murder.”

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Sen. Angus King, the Maine Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. But he has one quality that I do not: He is treated as a Very Serious Person by the mainstream media. And here’s what this Very Serious Person has to say:

Tuesday begins a 6-month race to enroll as many uninsured people as possible in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. For the markets to be effective, they need millions of customers, and for elderly participants not to vastly outnumber younger ones.

It’s in this context that well-heeled conservative groups are appealing to uninsured young people to remain uninsured — part of a backdoor effort to undermine the structural integrity of the health care law.

Their efforts have attracted the attention of one senator who recounts how being insured saved his life when he was a young adult, and who has since then watched others die due to lack of coverage. And he doesn’t mince words with those who’d take risks with other people’s health security.

“That’s a scandal — those people are guilty of murder in my opinion,” Sen. Angus King, a Maine Independent who caucuses with Democrats, told me in a Friday interview. “Some of those people they persuade are going to end up dying because they don’t have health insurance. For people who do that to other people in the name of some obscure political ideology is one of the grossest violations of our humanity I can think of. This absolutely drives me crazy.”

Murder. Yeah, I’ve gone there before, but now a Very Serious Person has gone there, too.

I do not think for one second that this will change the behavior of the Crazy Caucus. But it might change the  worldviews of a few of the reporters in the mainstream media who are so convinced that “both sides do it” and that this fight is merely a “political stalemate.” It is unprecedented in postbellum American history, it is being caused by one faction of one party (and not by both parties equally), and, given what we know about the connection between lack of health insurance and premature death, roughly 10,000 American lives per year hang in the balance. For comparison, King notes, the events of 9/11 killed only 3,000 people but sparked a far more expensive and long-lasting response.

Journalists have let Obamacare opponents off the moral hook as well as the political one (it was approved by Congress, signed by the President, upheld in almost its entirety by the Supreme Court, and effectively ratified in 2012 by the re-election of the president and most of the Democratic congresscritters who supported it). It’s time journalists started asking the hard moral questions, too.

 

Shutdown primer

James Fallows at The Atlantic explains the only parts that really matter:

  • As a matter of substance, constant-shutdown, permanent-emergency governance is so destructive that no other serious country engages in or could tolerate it. The United States can afford it only because we are — still — so rich, with so much margin for waste and error. Details on this and other items below.*
  • As a matter of politics, this is different from anything we learned about in classrooms or expected until the past few years. We’re used to thinking that the most important disagreements are between the major parties, not within one party; and that disagreements over policies, goals, tactics can be addressed by negotiation or compromise.This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.** Outsiders to this struggle — the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or “opinion leaders” outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority — have essentially no leverage over the outcome. I can’t recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable “compromise” the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.
  • As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement,represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. …This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too. …

* The FAA, the FDA, our research organizations, all other public programs from monitoring air quality to modernizing computer systems to staffing the military — they’re all wasting time and money now because of indiscriminate “sequester” cuts and preparations for possible shut-down. For the foreseeable future, the air traffic will keep moving and other functions will go on — just more stupidly and wastefully. We have that much social capital still to burn. …

** The debt-ceiling vote, of course, is not about future spending decisions. It is about whether to cover expenditures the Congress has already authorized. There is no sane reason for subjecting this to a repeated vote. … [And] in case the point is not clear yet: there is no post-Civil War precedent for what the House GOP is doing now. …

*** For examples of coverage that plainly states what is going on, here is a small sampling: Greg SargentDerek ThompsonJohn Gilmour (on why Ronald Reagan believed in compromise), Jonathan RauchBrian BeutlerJonathan ChaitAndrew Sullivan (also here), Ezra Klein and Evan SoltasDan Froomkin.

The failure of mainstream media to report accurately on this subject is perhaps its biggest fail since its coverage of the runup to the Iraq invasion in 2003. And although the number of lives immediately at risk is far lower, the worldwide economic damage that could result is far higher.

As for what actually will happen, I don’t have any insider knowledge. But I do know that the Tea Party wing of the House GOP (egged on by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas) is full-throttle, turn-it-up-to-11 crazy. The reason the GOP is split is because they think House Speaker John Boehner and his allies aren’t being conservative enough. They have learned nothing from their recent failures, and they think the biggest problem with the government shutdown that resulted from disputes between Democratic President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich’s Republicans in Congress was that the Republicans, who finally caved after about three weeks, gave in too soon. So I’m projecting a 95% chance of a government shutdown, an 80% chance that the shutdown will last more than two weeks, and at least a 40% chance that they will force the U.S., for the first time in history, to default on its debt.

They just want to blow government up. They don’t care about collateral damage — the millions, here and abroad, who would be harmed if the full faith and credit of the United States were to be called into question. But the only way for that NOT to happen is for the Crazy Caucus to suddenly start acting less crazy. And there’s nothing in the caucus’s history to suggest the slightest likelihood that that will happen.

Monday, August 29, 2011 8:05 pm

Quote of the day

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:05 pm
Tags: ,

Doghouse Riley edition (via Balloon Juice):

There may be more damning indictments of Republican “intellectualism” than the fact that these guys [“moderate” Republicans such as David Brooks and Mitch Daniels] have spent the last thirty years inventing excuses for utter crackpotism, first with the idea of eternally harvesting its votes, now in the hopes that the ‘conservative’ welfare spigot will stay on, but you have to google “William F. Buckley” and “Civil Rights Movement” to find ’em.

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:06 pm

“On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans.”

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 9:06 pm
Tags: ,

Those pointy-headed academics, always messing the narrative up with their pesky facts:

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right. …

Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant. …

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

Obviously, not every self-identified Tea Partier fits this profile. But this research is long, wide and deep — and it strongly suggests that federal officials without large, self-identified Tea Party segments in their electorate are vulnerable.

Read the whole piece. It also strongly suggests that those of us who have dismissed the Tea Party as an artificial phenomenon, equal parts big-money GOP artifice and stupefying levels of Teh_Stoopid, were correct. Yeah, I’m gloating. Suck it.

 

Monday, August 15, 2011 8:10 pm

Tea Party congresscritter: I can’t repay a loan, but it’s the bank’s fault

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:10 pm
Tags: ,

You can’t make this stuff up:

CALHOUN — While U.S. Rep. Tom Graves was calling for fiscal responsibility in Washington his attorney was arguing in a lawsuit that a North Georgia bank is at fault for issuing Graves a $2.2 million loan the bank knew he could not repay.

Graves was fighting a lawsuit along with business partner Chip Rogers, the state Senate majority leader. The two Republicans, through a limited-liability company, used the loan to purchase and renovate a Calhoun motel that quickly went under.

The bank sued, alleging the two defaulted on the loan. The politicians filed counterclaims against the bank. … Both parties dismissed their claims Wednesday. …

Meanwhile, tens of thousand of dollars in back real estate taxes, penalties and interest are owed on the property. The man Graves and Rogers say they transferred ownership to – John Edens – has closed the motel and moved on. Calhoun officials say the gutted building is now a “nuisance” and a safety concern. They are considering tearing it down at taxpayer expense.

Graves, a tea party favorite who has been outspoken about his vote this month against raising the debt-ceiling, said he had not read his attorney’s court filings claiming the bank is at fault for loaning him money it knew he couldn’t repay.

On the one hand, I don’t doubt for a second that what Graves said happened could have happened. The housing bubble whose collapse has thrown so many Americans out of work was built in significant part on loans that never should have been originated because they had no chance of being repaid.

You’d just like to think that a congresscritter, particularly one who campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility, would have had some notion of how much debt he could repay and wouldn’t have sought out a loan he couldn’t repay. You’d also like to think that a congresscritter above whose name sworn court pleadings are filed would have read those pleadings before filing them.

You’d like to think that. But that would mean, in the 21st century, that you are a rube, a naїf, an idiot.

Which still makes you at least twice as smart as the current holder of the U.S. House seat from Georgia’s 9th Congressional District.

Friday, July 22, 2011 8:31 pm

Parallel universe

Gin and Tacos:

(Let’s) indulge in a fun hypothetical.

Let’s say that through a combination of fund-raising prowess, ideological militancy, and personal charisma, Jesse Jackson Sr. is able to assume a position of considerable behind-the-scenes power in the Democratic Party. His sway over elected Democrats is such that he manages to get 95% of the Democratic Congressional delegation, House and Senate, to sign an oath of personal loyalty to his policy goals. Specifically, they pledge that under no circumstances will they ever support cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other social welfare programs. Jackson believes that any such cuts will affect the poor and people of color disproportionately. Throughout the debate over the budget and debt ceiling, House and Senate Democrats refuse to even consider any proposal that touches any of those programs. It is a non-starter. Full stop. Because they swore an oath to Jesse Jackson that they wouldn’t.

I’m sure you can see through this thin shoe-on-the-other-partisan-foot analogy to Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” that currently holds sway over the GOP. I do think it’s interesting to draw out the hypothetical scenario, though, to underscore a point: Can you even imagine the sheer violence of the [drawers-soiling] that the GOP, Teatards, and Beltway media would be engaged in if the shoe really was on the other foot? If every Democrat had signed a personal oath to an interest group and private citizen that took precedence over their oath to the American people and Constitution?

I’m quite sure someone would have taken a shot — literally — at Jackson by now. But we know, and are more willing by the day to acknowledge publicly, that the congressional GOP and the party base are insane. The more interesting part of this thought experiment to me is what the exercise tells us about the U.S. news media: its political leanings, its philosophical allegiances and its sickening double standards.

Thursday, January 13, 2011 8:09 pm

If you want to know who the real radicals are …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:09 pm
Tags: ,

… just consider this: Kay Bailey Hutchison is now too liberal for Texas.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:05 pm

Blind pig, meet acorn. Whoops. You missed.

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:05 pm
Tags:

Andrew Sullivan has been so wrong about so much for so long that it’s almost tempting to think maybe he was just due to get one right:

If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector’s in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don’t think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.

Only here’s the thing. More than one thing, in fact:

First, the banking industry hasn’t been turned around. Its accounting methods have been turned around, which is the only reason why most of the big banks are still considered solvent. But the industry still has a ton of crap on its books for which it has yet to honestly account, for the simple reason that stockholders, bondholders and execs would take it in the teeth if the industry honestly accounted for that crap, and that simply won’t do.

But the bigger problem is this: The Tea Party’s behavior this year suggests that Sullivan’s overall assertion is flat wrong. Even such conservative Republican stalwarts as Utah Sen. Bob Bennett and South Carolina Rep. Jack Inglis have been sent packing by TPers this year. You can’t just be Republican. You can’t just be conservative. You need more. Exactly what “more” is varies from race to race and state to state, but it looks to me as if you also need a certain nihilist mindset at a time when we need every bit of anti-nihilism we can get to preserve our economy and much of what is best about our society and our country.

So while it would be nice to think that Sullivan’s assertion is correct — that, in other words, much of the criticism directed at Obama is a sort of partisan kabuki independent of the actual facts and issues — the truth is worse than that. The truth is that a significant part of one of the nation’s two major parties is made up of people who actively oppose doing things that will make our national situation better and actively support doing things guaranteed to make things worse.

They’re led by people like South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint who either actually believe that doing the wrong thing is doing the right thing or who know damn well they’re doing the wrong thing but don’t care because they dislike some of the things that are best about this country and/or stand to gain financially from their destruction.

George W. Bush drove this country into a ditch. These guys want to dynamite what’s left. And for at least the next two years, they may well get a chance.

 

Friday, September 17, 2010 6:52 pm

Simple answers to simple questions, Tea Party GOP Primary Hegemony edition

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 6:52 pm
Tags:

Jonathan Martin at Politico extends the microphone to an unnamed, establishment Republican:

That GOP primary voters would go ahead and nominate such a risky candidate [as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware’s U.S. Senate race] has establishment Republicans worrying about who, if anybody, is now in charge of a traditionally top-down party.

If nothing else, the eight primary election defeats suffered by [National Republican Senatorial Committee]-favored candidates this year indicates the lack of a unified command structure within the GOP now. It has, in effect, become an uncontrolled and ungoverned party in which the powers that be in Washington are mere bystanders.

“Where are the adults?” one strategist wondered.

Steve Benen has the answer:

I know this one: they’re gone because you drove them out of the party. The adults were labeled RINO sellouts who compromised instead of fighting. … that’s largely the result of the Republican Party telling its most loyal voters not to care about substance, and to prioritize ideology above all.

Pretty much.

Now, understand, some of these wack jobs are still likely to win in November, so they’ll be inflicting their insanity on all of us. But a GOP takeover of the Senate is looking significantly less likely than before, and the NRSC is going to have to spend serious money in such races as Alaska where it hadn’t figured to need to spend a dime, basically.

And here’s an interesting conundrum for those who win: The Tea Party’s primary campaign plank, such as it is, is the national debt. But giving right-wing Republicans the tax cuts they want would be far more expensive than the total cost of everything Obama has done to date. Will they push for the tax cuts anyway? And if so, will they cut other spending first?

It’ll be interesting to see.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010 11:34 pm

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1859

DennisG at Balloon Juice surveys tonight’s GOP primary carnage results and writes:

In the 1860 Election the Confederates were against:

  • Education. Ditto 2010
  • Federal Spending for infrastructure. Ditto 2010
  • Help for Free Labor and the working man. Ditto 2010
  • Federal efforts to reign in the oligarchs of the day. Ditto 2010
  • The idea that the Constitution guaranteed “personal Liberty.” Ditto 2010

And then as now the Confederate Party uses the memes, rhetoric, scare tactics and talking points of white supremacy and fear of the ‘others’ to bring the low hanging rubes into their movement.And then as now the only compromise the Confederate Party was/is willing to accept was/is complete and total capitulation to whatever crazy idea was/is freshest in their lizard brains.

The Republican Party is dead.

It is the Confederate Party now, bitches. Get used to it.

It’s an entertaining comparison — a reach, but not as much of one as a lot of Republicans think.

Will tonight’s Tea Party triumphs bring the GOP victory? Well, I don’t do predictions. But the polling suggests that in at least one race, that for Joe Biden’s old Senate seat, a seat that was Republicans’ for the picking is now going to go Democratic in November.

But wait, you say. That’s because Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell is batsh*t insane. And that’s true. She is. Reason magazine’s Mike Moynihan strolls through the bill of particulars:

O’Donnell lied about attending a Master’s degree program at Princeton University; claimed that her political enemies are creeping in the bushes outside her house; is opposed to the sinister habit of masturbation; is a supporter of the “ex-gay” movement, despite the inconvenient revelation that her former staffer Wade Richards “returned” to homosexuality and denounced those peddling “cures” for his sexuality; filed a $6 million lawsuit against the conservative group ISI for “gender discrimination”; was denounced by her former campaign manager as a “fraud” who uses campaign donations to pay rent and utility bills; and has implied that her Republican opponent is gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

As the former head of the clumsily named Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT), O’Donnell was the Tipper Gore of the 1990s, attending lewd and lascivious rock concerts just to tell stoned, Satanist teenagers that they were going to hell. “Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks,” she gasped. At a 1997 music festival in Washington, D.C., the Catholic killjoy “distributed thousands of brochures with information on the failure rate of condoms, on AIDS, on sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, pornography and the movement of former homosexuals.”

But here’s the thing, and despite the best efforts of the MSM, more and more Americans are starting to pick up on this: O’Donnell isn’t an outlier. She’s actually more or less representative of the national GOP today.

And here’s the other thing: In a time of crisis in the arenas of the economy, energy, climate, national security, civil liberties and so many other topics, we may well elect a nontrivial number of the batsh*t insane this fall to do the country’s business for the next two years.

Monday, August 23, 2010 10:56 pm

I don’t spend much money on clothes …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:56 pm
Tags:

… but I may have to spring for one of these:

Thursday, June 3, 2010 8:29 pm

Foolish consistency

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , , , ,

With George W. Bush, one of the metanarratives was the number and kind of things he and his administration did, and were criticized for, for which there was no precedent — torture, Fourthbranch, the number and breadth of his signing statements, and on and on.

With Barack Obama, the corresponding metanarrative is the number and kind of things he and his administration have done, and been criticized for, that in fact are far from unique, Steven Benen observes:

for a year and a half, the political world seems to have created whole new rules for Obama, which aren’t applied to others — and haven’t even been applied to other presidents. This week’s flaps over Sestak and Memorial Day plans only reinforce how truly ridiculous the phenomenon has become.

And I would argue that the meta-metanarrative is: He’s illegitimate. He should not be president. Indeed, Michael Tomasky argues that antidemocratic action based on that belief will be the inevitable result if Republicans retake the House this fall:

If the Reps capture the House of Representatives this fall, they will have basically limitless power to keep these things churning forever, turning political horse-trading into potential crimes. They’ll hold hearings, issue subpoenas, you name it. Remember the Clinton days. It will never end.

And they’re even crazier now then they were then, now that they’ve convinced themselves we got us a Mooslum preznit.

This is what’s at stake this fall. Forget policy. It’s this: endless hearings and investigations until they find something that gets the public worked up, or until the public just cries uncle and says oh okay we’re sick of hearing you crazy people, if it’ll shut you up, just impeach the bastard already.

Remember, the effort to impeach Bill Clinton started well before anyone had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky. It was an effort to do nothing less than to overthrow a democratically elected president on the grounds that — well, no one has ever satisfactorily explained on what grounds, perhaps because when you impeach an adulterer but praise a war criminal, your explaining skills by definition are inadequate.

Now, when you call them on this and ask them why they hate democracy, Republicans protest that this isn’t what they’re after at all. They would be substantially more credible if the Tea Partiers, of which Republicans cannot seem to get enough, weren’t out there trying to repeal the 17th Amendment.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:36 am

What if the Tea Party were black?

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 12:36 am
Tags: ,

Tim Wise takes a photographic negative of recent Tea Party-related events. It’s an ugly picture:

… imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 8:23 pm

Why Scott Brown really won …

Filed under: I want my money back.,Voting — Lex @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , ,

… and why Democrats ought not be feeling completely comfortable about November despite their health-care win, from economist and political scientist Thomas Ferguson at UMass Boston:

A major storm is indeed blowing up. Whether this ultimately builds into a Level 5 hurricane like Katrina is not clear. But its winds are already beyond any normal gale.

Quite like a hurricane, this tempest has a clear dual structure. Our study suggests that in the eye of the storm – the old Democratic base – an ominous, unnatural calm is settling in that displaces the near-millenarian enthusiasm of 2008. We have seen how the surge in overall voter turnout in the 2010 Senate race disguised a drop in turnout in lower income towns that previously voted heavily Democratic. Recalling one more time the problems with inferences from aggregate data, we think it is safe to conclude that our data are consistent with the claim put forward by the Democratic campaign’s chief pollster, that Obama administration’s unwillingness to face down the banks and slowness in dealing with the recession have demoralized and outraged the party’s electoral base. The disconnect between these disaffected Democrats and the administration and party leaders looks to be deep.

What’s driving the trend? Not just the economy in general, but something a little more specific — and I haven’t seen this observation anywhere else:

Our statistical tests indicate that declines in housing values operated independently to depress the Democratic vote share. We think it is unlikely that the housing variable is merely a proxy for some other unmeasured factor, such as income. Instead, we suspect that our result drives to the heart of the “Tea Party” phenomenon. Put simply, our data are consistent with the notion that a good part of the swing toward Scott Brown came from voters who were not only frightened by high unemployment – their own, or their neighbors’ – but who also suffered large losses in wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble. For most Americans, their greatest economic asset is their house. We thus suspect that the housing collapse is also likely associated with major declines, or potential declines, in retirement incomes. Particularly for older voters, this has to be very alarming.

And how are people reacting?

But we are dubious that such [racist/anti-Semitic] groups are the heart of the Tea Party phenomenon, at least right now. They have been out in force since at least the waning days of the 2008 campaign, when their apocalyptic rhetoric eventually provoked Senator John McCain to repudiate them in public. That they should exfoliate on the scale of the Tea Party this late strikes us as implausible.

It seems more likely that the citizens rallying under the Tea Party banner are pretty much what they say they are. They are ordinary Americans hammered by the almost Biblical series of economic plagues that for most began in the fall of 2008, when the decision to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt turned a looming economic crisis into a world historical disaster. They have been driven to the breaking point by watching their jobs and retirement savings melt away as banks hit them with steeply rising fees on their credit and debit cards while paying next to nothing on what is left of their cash holdings.

While few likely understand what Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson did with AIG, TARP, the FDIC guarantees, and the other largess they showered on the big banks, these ordinary Americans see clearly that government moved with the speed of light to rescue Wall Street. They also understand the message that the President’s decision to promote Geithner and retain Bernanke sent to Wall Street – and what it heralds for issues important to them, such as consumer finance. Looking at years of sub- or unemployment, their exasperation only increases when they hear the President or his economic advisor Lawrence Summers proclaim that the recession is ending and defend the right of bank managements to pay themselves gigantic bonuses barely a year after their institutions were rescued by taxpayers’
money.

Given the absurdity of the notion that Republicans are going to do anything to hold the banksters accountable — indeed, all available evidence strongly suggests otherwise — why are Democrats in such trouble?

You’ll love this: It’s because of the liberal media:

… democratic enlightenment and exploration of policy alternatives are hardly the principal concern
of contemporary corporate media. But all of them, especially Fox News and the network of right wing talk
radio commentators, trumpet conservative economic appeals.

At a time when real disposable per capita income minus government transfer payments (or “take home pay minus government assistance”) has sunk to its lowest levels since the giant recession of the early 1970s, most major television and radio networks continue to trumpet both efficient markets and the imagined evils of Keynesian, countercyclical programs. With only modest exceptions, so does the money-driven world of think tanks, the rest of the press, and the government itself.

We are thus driven to conclude that the sometimes wild assertions and arguments advanced by Tea Partiers largely reflect the poverty of economic and political analysis in the establishment media. Indeed, the U.S. case bears an unsettling similarity to the situation in many parts of the parts of the Middle East. Political establishments and governments refuse to countenance critical discussion of social and economic problems. They marginalize alternative views, while beating the drums unceasingly for orthodoxy. When a crisis hits, however, no one believes them.

So when the MSM doesn’t do the reporting necessary to reflect reality accurately — for whatever reason — you get the kind of crazy we have in the Tea Party once you filter out the fringe racism and anti-Semitism:

So disaffected citizens set to work with the only tools they have – bits and snatches of traditional economic and political thinking – to analyze their predicament on their own. It should not be surprising that such efforts often end up being hard to tell apart from Alice in Wonderland or even Goya’s Black Paintings.

And that’s what we have today: America is being devoured.

Goya: "Saturn Devouring His Son"

From Goya's "Black Paintings": "Saturn Devouring His Son"

Thursday, April 15, 2010 10:50 pm

A few Tax Day thoughts on the teabaggers

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

No overarching conclusions about the group’s beliefs/motives here, but a few things have emerged from the primordial media ooze to gain purchase on the shifting sands of my awareness:

  • In general, I, too, worry about budget deficits. But, having not slept through Econ 101 (got a B, in fact), I understand that when consumer demand has collapsed and jobs are hemorrhaging, the government has to spend because no one else is going to. And it’s funny how so few of those NOW worried about deficits worried about them between 2001 and 2008.
  • One thing I don’t worry about is the notion that federal income taxes are unacceptably high by any recent historical standard, because they’re just not. On the other hand, a recent CBS/New York Times poll found, teabagger concern about those taxes appears to have been overblown by anecdotal media reports: “Most [Tea Party movement supporters polled] describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as ‘fair.’”
  • And, finally, although I’m willing to give teabaggers in general the benefit of the doubt on race issues, that doubt is significant all the same for this reason: that same poll found that:
  • 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.
  • They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

UPDATE: If the Christian Science Monitor is mocking you, you probably should just give up.

Sunday, March 21, 2010 9:24 pm

Tea and magic mushrooms

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Journalism — Lex @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , ,

Radical liberal socialist Bruce Bartlett — and, by “radical liberal socialist,” I mean, “former official in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations” — takes to the pages of the radical liberal socialist Web site Forbes.com to examine the beliefs of the Tea Party movement. And what does the Tea Party movement believe? Let’s just say Alice and the White Rabbit might recognize their world, but you and I wouldn’t:

Curious about the factual knowledge these people have regarding the issues they are protesting, my friend David Frum enlisted some interns to interview as many Tea Partyers as possible on a couple of basic questions. They got 57 responses — a pretty good-sized sample from a crowd that numbered between 300 and 500 people. (Survey results are here.) …

Tea Partyers were asked how much the federal government gets in taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product. According to Congressional Budget Office data, acceptable answers would be 6.4%, which is the percentage for federal income taxes; 12.7%, which would be for both income taxes and Social Security payroll taxes; or 14.8%, which would represent all federal taxes as a share of GDP in 2009.

Not everyone follows these numbers closely, and Tea Partyers may have been thinking of figures from a few years ago, before the recession when taxes were higher. According to the CBO, the highest figure for all federal taxes since 1970 came in the year 2000, when they reached 20.6% of GDP. As we know, after that George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress cut federal taxes; they fell to 18.5% of GDP in 2007, before the recession hit, and 17.5% in 2008.

Tuesday’s Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.

To follow up, Tea Partyers were asked how much they think a typical family making $50,000 per year pays in federal income taxes. The average response was $12,710, the median $10,000. In percentage terms this means a tax burden of between 20% and 25% of income.

Of course, it’s hard to know what any particular individual or family pays in taxes, but according to IRS tax tables, a single person with $50,000 in taxable income last year would owe $8,694 in federal income taxes, and a married couple filing jointly would owe $6,669.

But these numbers are high because to have a taxable income of $50,000, one’s gross income would be higher by at least the personal exemption, which is $3,650, and the standard deduction, which is $5,700 for single people and $11,400 for married couples. Owning a home or having children would reduce one’s tax burden further.

According to calculations by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional committee, tax filers with adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average federal income tax burden of just 1.7%. Those with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have an average burden of 4.2%. …

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it’s hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama’s stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.

According to the JCT, last year’s $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama’s policies.

It’s hard to explain this divergence between perception and reality. Perhaps these people haven’t calculated their tax returns for 2009 yet and simply don’t know what they owe. Or perhaps they just assume that because a Democrat is president that taxes must have gone up, because that’s what Republicans say that Democrats always do. In fact, there hasn’t been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993.

I wonder if it will concern the mainstream national media at all that they’re paying such attention to a group that, by and large, doesn’t know what in the pluperfect hell it is talking about. I also wonder whether that same media will consider the question of whether their own poor job performance might be contributing to that ignorance.

Actually, no, on second thought, I don’t wonder at all.

UPDATE: They don’t know how to Google or use Thomas.loc.gov, either:

People with ties to Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, Tea Party Boise and other conservative causes plan a protest outside Rep. Walt Minnick’s office this weekend, with the claim that the Idaho Democrat co-sponsored one of the health care bills that Congress is considering.

Their assertion is untrue, however; Minnick never sponsored such legislation…

Props to the RNC, which initially flogged this story, for admitting forthrightly that it had been mistaken. You don’t see the RNC do that every day.

(Full disclosure: The writer, Erika Bolstad, is a friend and former co-worker of mine.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010 2:37 pm

Odds and ends for 2/7

First things first: The Super Bowl: I grew up a Baltimore Colts fan and, in particular, a Johnny Unitas fan. The Saints weren’t even on my radar until the Panthers came into the league and the Saints became one of their divisional rivals. But Johnny U. died a long time ago, the Colts left Baltimore even longer ago than that, and the Colts have a Super Bowl win in their recent past while the Saints have never been until now. Add to that the question of who needs this win worse: Indianapolis, home to some of the worst elements of Big PhrMA that are robbing the country blind, or Nawlins, which the country pretty much allowed to drown and then abandoned after Hurricane Katrina? Go, Saints.

Fox News to the contrary, there’s nothing “new” about the teabagger movement: It is straight-down-the-line GOP, right down to requiring candidates to support the Republican National Committee’s platform. (Interestingly, the party hasn’t got its platform posted at the moment, allowing a much vaguer, less offensive “what we believe” page to suffice.) If people want to support the Republican Party, more power to ’em, but no one should join the Tea Party movement under the mistaken impression that it’s going to lead to reform. It will lead, instead, to more of the same stuff that got us into all this trouble in the first place.

Slapfight! Alien v. Predator! Teh Crazee v. Teh Stoopid! Or, you know,  Joe Farah v. Andrew Breitbart. This is one where you not only don’t want anyone to win, you want them both to leave the game with season-ending injuries.

He said it, I didn’t: The American Enterprise Institute’s Gerard Alexander is on to those of us who happen to think Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a Very Bad Thing: “It follows that the thinkers, politicians and citizens who advance conservative ideas must be dupes, quacks or hired guns selling stories they know to be a sham.” Well, let’s see: Supply-side economics? Sham. Global-warming denialism? Sham. Bankster bailouts? Sham. Post-9/11 air quality in lower Manhattan? Sham. Creationism? Sham. WMDs in Iraq? Sham. I could go on, but these items are only supposed to be a few lines long. Just sayin’.

And because the last thing you want is a poisonous snake in the midst of a nicotine fit, Po the viper gets his daily smokes:

Thursday, November 5, 2009 11:11 pm

Meet the loyal opposition

I hope North Carolina’s Sue Myrick and Virginia Foxx are proud to be associated with this.

UPDATE: What the Rude Pundit said. Not literally, metaphorically, but still. (Note: they call him “Rude” for a reason; NSFW). Also, what Sue said: “They should all be ashamed of themselves. Not “over the top.” That was under the 10th circle.”

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