Did you see this?
2016 presidential hopeful’s defense of Duck Dynasty star’s homophobic comments suggests a deep misunderstanding of what the Constitution says.
Here we go again.
The great thing about Duck Dynasty-style blowups is that they provide dumbasses a chance to trot their dumbassery out for public display. Take Louisiana governor (and prospective 2016 presidential candidate) Bobby Jindal, whose comments this morning suggest that he doesn’t understand Constitution even a little bit. Continue reading
Here’s wishing the Tea Party luck in its efforts to destroy the GOP. One down, one to go.
A few days ago I wondered if, for the Tea Party, there’s any such thing as “too conservative.” After all:
- Orrin Hatch isn’t conservative enough.
- Thad Cochrane isn’t conservative enough.
- Mitch McConnell and Mike Enzi aren’t conservative enough.
- Justin Amash, Kerry Bentivolio and Mike Simpson aren’t conservative enough.
- John Cornyn isn’t conservative or confrontational enough.
- John Boehner is a “tax and spend liberal.” No, I didn’t make that up. They actually said it. Continue reading
I shall be with you on your wedding-night. – Frankenstein’s Monster
You may have noticed that a new “bipartisan budget compromise” has emerged on Capitol Hill, largely brokered by conservative darling Paul Ryan and “pragmatic liberal” Patty Murray. The howls of outrage from the Tea Party wing commenced on cue. Which is why, earlier this morning, I found myself joking that I was looking forward to seeing Ryan primaried from the right. Continue reading
Embarrassing defeat in government shutdown and debt ceiling face-off reveals cracks in GOP coalition.
While I have retired from political blogging, there is some value in pausing, from time to time, to remind our readers about past discussions of particular relevance to the events of the moment. One such opportunity presented itself this morning, as John “The Straight Talkin’ Mavericky Maverick” McCain and Mitch “The Voice of Reason” McConnell bubbled up on the old white guy/talking head circuit. Continue reading
Government shutdown, debt crisis reveal how much GOP has in common with other sociopaths…
Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris?
I believe Philip K. Dick had it right in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Technology had, in that not-so-distant future, created androids that were nearly indistinguishable from humans. The one thing people had that the Nexus 6s didn’t, the quality that made them essentially human, was empathy. Continue reading
Bear with me.
Time and again we hear the GOP, establishment and fringe alike, tell us that we’ve got too much government. Never mind the irony of a party that practices medicine without a license by way of routinely mandating transvaginal ultrasounds telling us what too much government is. Just, um, never mind. Never mind a lot of horribly invasive “small” government ironies.
Damn, it’s hard to do this with a straight face.
Let me try again. Continue reading
Seriously. If one searches on the terms effect of crippling sanctions, one finds over 800,000 results at Google. A quick review of the first great many confirms, at the very least, that Iran, an enemy (so-called), is the primary subject. Debate rages as to whether sanctions are effective for accomplishing their intended goals, but there seems to be a fair amount of detailed information that they are certainly effective at damaging the enemy’s middle class.
This just in! Partisan radicals have stormed buildings nationwide and are holding hostages at gunpoint. If their demands are not met, they will kill as many hostages as they need to until the Obama administration backs down on the Affordable Care Act.
Here we are, the 21st Century barely warming up, and a select band of partisan radicals famous for co-opting an unholy trinity of political party, fake philosophy, and extremist religion are proposing just such crippling sanctions that would certainly do more to harm the middle class than they would to meet stated objectives. The problem is, those partisans are right here in America, the regime they seek to change is our own, and the net result is that they are treating America as the enemy.
Terrorism is the application of violence or threat of violence to attain political goals. Repeal of the ACA is the obstructionist GOP contingent’s stated political goal. That the threat of government shutdown almost certainly results in the death of greater than 0% of those affected is, of necessity, a threat of violence in the same way that this particular politically partisan contingent construes taxation to be violence. Ergo, GOP obstructionist radicals are, like Al Nusra Front, terrorists actively engaged not only in threats of violence against the American people for their political goals, but in the undermining of national security. Adding insult to injury, their assault on the American people won’t even accomplish their goal if they start executing hostages.
Taxation as theft
Mr. Boehner said the dispute with Democrats amounted to a question of “how much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government.”
Clearly, we are dealing with folks that believe that the apparently non-violent is, by extension, actually violence. For them, the abstract is concrete. I believe I fairly make their case when I put it thusly:
The government sends you a polite letter notifying you that taxes are due and payable. You send a polite letter back indicating that you will not relinquish your funds upon their polite request. The government proceeds to shuffle about other seemingly polite pieces of paper such that you are required to appear in court. Not wishing to appear ungracious, you make your appearance. The judge informs you, ever so politely, that payment is not optional. It is mandatory. You politely decline. The government proceeds to shuffle about more seemingly polite pieces of paper. At some point, gentlemen armed with guns and authority arrive at your home or place of employment, presenting polite pieces of paper indicating seizure of a variety of your assets. Followed through to its logical fruition, the peaceful and noncompliant citizen is eventually faced with drawn weapons. Violence!
The use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political goals.
Simplified rendering of the latest GOP legislative tactic: Repeal Obamacare (political goal) or we will shut down the government.
Fox News: Capitol Hill report warns shutdown could pose risks to national security
“We had victory today,” House Speaker John Boehner said after the vote. “The House has listened to the American people. Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to listen.”
Yes, because taking America hostage and issuing a credible threat of indiscrimate death to achieve your political goals is a victory. Added bonus, you actually jeopardize American national security. We see what you did there.
With that bit of preamble out of the way, let’s take a look at a slice of America as an example of the potential effects of a government shutdown, shall we?
America Under Siege
The current threats, however, may be more plausible than earlier occasions when Congress sounded an alarm. For the first time, there’s a solid faction of the Republican Party openly angling for a shutdown and for lawmakers to vote to prove how much they really hate Obamacare.
And it’s not like Democrats are about to wave a white flag in surrender just days before the health care exchanges are scheduled for their national debut.
So if a government shutdown is on the horizon, what would it look like for Nevada? Here’s a list of what and where to expect the local effects.
For the sake of simplicity, however illusory, let’s assume that while the numbers presented in the Sun’s article will differ from region to region, the effect of a government shutdown as experienced elsewhere in the country will essentially mirror the effect in Nevada.
Number, numbers everywhere, and not a drop of blood to drink. Pity that, because we only seem to understand blood. Allow me to reframe issue a touch. We’re not just dealing with clowns in clown cars here. We’re dealing with clowns like this:
Hold on, what? Blood? Clowns? Bloodthirsty clowns? What the hell?
Simple. Numbers are the crunchy outside. Blood is what makes numbers gooey in the middle. These clownish bloodthirsty freaks holding America hostage talk numbers, numbers without calling attention to the fact that it’s actual American blood they’ll gladly spill in pursuit of their agenda. Hell, even if they actually believe that they’re preventing a greater harm, Obamacare, with its fictitious death panels, that’s just not going to wash. Destroying the village to save it wasn’t good enough for My Lai. It’s not good enough for us here. And it doesn’t change the fact that threatening violence in pursuit of a political goal is a form of terrorism.
This is one arena where GOP & Co. have Team Blue at a severe disadvantage. These clown-headed redshirts (therein lies our sole cause for optimism where they are concerned) are content to use their croupier’s rakes to push little plastic political soldiers around on maps and to hell with the short-term consequences, except when that means they get to gorge on blood-filled numbers that fall out of their cracked and broken toys. It makes great political theater, after all. Pass the popcorn!
Team Blue, on the other hand (provided I leave my cynicism at the door for a moment), positions itself as those who see those little plastic figures as representing very real people, so short-term consequences are as important as the long ones. If the Blues can’t outnumber these Clown Patrol at the polls in deep red territory, at some point Team Blue needs to be willing to make the painful sacrifices necessary to meet bloodthirsty clowns in the abstract.
“Hyperbole!” you say. “Hogwash,” I reply.
For that matter, at the end of this post, I suggest how to concretely drub them about the head and shoulders with their own abstractions. Far be if from me to show up with a bucket of bitching and not have a solution to offer.
A Dash of Legalese
“But for” – In the law, a proximate cause is an event sufficiently related to a legally recognizable injury to be held to be the cause of that injury. There are two types of causation in the law: cause-in-fact, and proximate (or legal) cause. Cause-in-fact is determined by the “but for” test: But for the action, the result would not have happened. For example, but for running the red light, the collision would not have occurred. For an act to cause a harm, both tests must be met; proximate cause is a legal limitation on cause-in-fact.
Proximate Cause @ Wikipedia
A Look at Those Tasty, Crunchy Numbers and Their Gooey, Bloody Filling
God always punishes us for what we can’t imagine.
Stephen King, Duma Key
The article at the Las Vegas Sun highlights a great many consequences that, but for GOP terrorist hostage-taking, would not occur.
Approximately 11,000 civilian federal workers in Nevada may be furloughed or asked to work, temporarily, without pay. Does this mean their bills stop? That a bank will kindly waive mortgage payments? That they cease needing food, clothing, healthcare, fuel, automotive insurance, or a host of other necessities? Of course not. Is it really that much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that at least one of these workers or their family members may actually die as a result of such deprivations as may be caused by the GOP’s act of terror? To wit, I posit that some percentage greater than 0% of affected workers and/or their family members face a threat of death that, but for GOP hostage-taking, they would not face.
Active duty service members should not expect to be paid until after the shutdown is ended. I posit that some percentage greater than 0% of active duty service members, distracted by a financial crisis imposed on them by GOP terrorists, and perhaps other service members and/or civilians that rely upon the effective discharge of their duties, will die. Is it really too much to imagine that an interruption of soldiers’ allotments to their families back home be would weigh heavily and distractingly on their hearts? That worries about keeping the lights on and mortgages paid back home would add to the already inordinate burdens they bear in the name of patriotism and service to country? Do we not have enough active duty military suicides already? But for GOP terrorism, this additional risk would not exist.
What about the risk of death faced by military contractors and their families? Is it too much to think that even one might die for no other reason than hardships caused by GOP terrorism?
Some in the country, depending on the ability of their state to bridge the gap between unemployment benefits due and funds available from the federal government, might suddenly find themselves even farther up shit creek without a paddle. Again, I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to suggest that greater than 0% of the people already struggling to survive will experience the slashing of their unemployment benefits in the form of death that, but for GOP terrorism, would not occur.
Social Security benefits for existing recipients may be safe, for some value of the word “safe,” but new applicants and those awaiting adjudication won’t be so lucky. Will every single one of those unfortunates be able to bridge the gap between existing resources and the start of their benefits? That’s yet another risk the GOP is willing to take with American lives.
The same goes for new applicants for VA benefits. Once again, when it comes to fully supporting our troops, the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way for the good of our nation, the GOP sees no problem with putting this incredibly at-risk population under the gun. Think that active duty suicide rate was jaw dropping? Can anyone believe that a government shutdown will do anything to improve on the suicide rate among veterans? Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of veterans will likely die.
Surely none of this affects civilians who work in the home construction market, right? Wrong. FHA won’t be processing loans under a shutdown. No loans, no purchases. No purchases, less work for contractors, less sales for home improvement businesses and suppliers. Take everything you know about trickle-down economics and apply it to loss instead. If someone, due to a political hit on an already struggling recovery, should lose their job, how much luck are they going to have, as a new applicant, in getting unemployment benefits from strapped state coffers? Don’t get weary of my repetition just yet. Death is death, after all, each one a tragedy, each one a mere speck of collateral damage the GOP is willing to embrace as part of its political machinations. But for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of workers in the construction and allied trades will die.
Are the good folks in the private sector working to address our renewable energy issues immune? Nope. As indicated in the article, programs expecting payments at the beginning of the fiscal year might just have to wait. Sometimes waiting is not an option. If those concerns cannot find a way to stay operational while funds are pending, doors get closed, sometimes permanently. Not only is that bad for our energy independence and bad for the environment, that’s bad for workers who, like construction industry workers, could end up competing for limited assistance resources. Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of workers in the renewable energy industry will die.
Think the latest attempt at slashing $40 billion from food stamps was extreme? Heaven help you if you rely on that or similar public assistance if your state draws the short straw when it comes to timing. Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of public assistance recipients will die.
Even vacationers, but more importantly, those who depend upon them, would feel the bite. With visa and passport processing being delayed, a great many, tens of thousands if history is a sufficient guide, will have to cancel plans. Those counting on tourism revenue will surely be adversely affected. Remember, all it takes is one layoff, one desperate soul pushed beyond despair. That’s a life and death risk the GOP is willing to take. Yet again, but for GOP terrorism, some percentage greater than 0% of tourism and hospitality workers will die.
All of that, all of those possible indiscriminate deaths that, but for GOP terrorism wouldn’t even be up for discussion, and their hostage-taking goal won’t even stop Obamacare thanks to the fact that the money that needs to be spent for the next stage in the rollout has already been spent. As pointed out in the article, at least this time we don’t have to worry about critical emergency services. We’ll just have to wait for America’s own Al Nusra Front as embodied in the current obstructionist GOP contingent to pull out their guns again when the next debt ceiling debacle comes into play.
Now, I realize that the temptation will be great to rebut with the claim that death is an unfortunate possible unintended consequence of even the most well-intended policies. I submit that the difference here is quite stark and simple. Faced with a failure to prevail in the election booth, terrorists hiding behind the GOP front are overtly threatening to harm our nation if their demands are not met. As for my seemingly strident cry, again and again, that greater than 0% of affected populations will die, let me as you this. What is more likely to be true, an absolute assertion that nobody will die as a result of this GOP threat (100% will survive), or that even one will will perish? How does this differ from a madman pointing a scary rifle into a crowd and letting off ten rounds if he doesn’t get his way? Would it even matter if all ten rounds miss? The threat is all too horribly real.
To recapitulate, nearly verbatim, from the beginning of this post, terrorism is the application of violence or threat of violence to attain political goals. Repeal of the ACA is the obstructionist GOP contingent’s stated political goal. The threat of government shutdown which, as suggested above, almost certainly results in the death of greater than 0% of those affected, is, of necessity, a threat of violence in at least the same way that this particular politically partisan contingent construes taxation to be violence, although I contend that my claim is far more grounded in reality. GOP obstructionist radicals are, like Al Nusra Front, terrorists actively engaged, not only in threats of indiscriminate violence, in this case directly against the American people, for the attainment of political goals, but also in compromising America’s national security. Perhaps its time we start treating them as terrorists.
To the extent that their efforts undermine national security, I would also argue that the GOP terrorist contingent lends aid and support to the enemy and should, as such, be charged and tried for treason.
Al Nusra Front Executions. Image, as released by Al Nusra Front, posted at Threat Matrix.
Taxation is Force. Posted at thinksquad, unattributed.
Via our boy Dr. Jim Booth: BuzzFeed last week presented “11 Things The North Carolina Legislature Gave Us This Session.” The list isn’t pretty. It includes:
- Moral Mondays
- Harsh abortion restrictions hidden in a motorcycle bill
- The most restrictive Voter ID laws in the country
- The decimation of public education as North Carolinians know it
- The assumption that all those on government assistance are drug addicts
- The expansion of where you can carry your concealed weapon
- The repeal of the Racial Justice Act
- The end of federal unemployment benefits
- A ban on Sharia Law (because if there’s anything that plagues The Old North State these days, it’s Sharia Law running amok)
And of course,
- Turning the state into a national laughingstock
I don’t know how exactly to describe my feelings about what’s happened to my native state. Heartbreak at the neo-feudal paradise a once-vibrant place is becoming. Terror at what this means for my family and friends who are still there. Transcendent white-hot rage at the corrupt oligarchs who financed the coup. All that and then some.
A few days ago I posed a question via Facebook to my friends back in NC asking, essentially, how they viewed it all. Were any of them contemplating leaving? The results were about what I expected, I guess. A couple are pretty much stranded by commitments (family, etc.) that they can’t escape. A couple believe things will turn around. At least one is already planning on leaving and is researching options in another part of the country.
The ones who are staying are the sorts who are willing to fight for justice, and there are enough good people in the Tarheel State for me to know that the Art Popes and Pat McCrorys have a fight on their hands.
Next year’s mid-term elections are going to be a massive moment in the state’s history – perhaps the biggest watershed in my lifetime. It’s my suspicion that the conservative tide swept into office in large part because the “moderate” independent center of the electorate didn’t fully understand what the GOP represented. They thought they were voting for “fiscal restraint” and budget “responsibility” and “getting their house in order.” What they were actually doing was summoning demons, and I find myself at this point wondering how many folks voted Republican and now regret it.
We’ll find out next November, as
Mephistopheles Art Pope puts his wallet behind a critical effort to consolidate the gains from the last election. He’ll be opposed by an aggressive alliance of progressives and moderates that won’t have the cash he does, but they’ll be battling tooth-and-nail, as only people fighting for their lives can do.
If the GOP is evicted, the new legislature will have its hands full repairing the damage. But with luck, the 2013 experience will have taught North Carolinians a valuable, if painful lesson and they will be inoculated against further nonsense from the far right.
If, on the other hand, the Republicans maintain control and continue their reign of terror, expect the brain drain to begin in earnest. The I-85 corridor – Charlotte, the Triad and the Research Triangle – votes dead-blue. These areas are also the state’s economic center. Business leaders won’t be bothered by a garden variety conservative climate, but the new order in the state capital will generate social and economic stresses that intelligent CEOs and shareholders are smart enough to grasp.
Companies trying to decide where to open new operations are going to steer clear of a state in rapid decline, and I’d begin watching the Triangle closely for companies packing up and moving out. A lot of the state’s brightest and best are not natives and they have no deep ties to the region that would keep them there. They’re imports from around the country (and abroad) and they’re going to have no interest in living in a hybrid antebellum South/feudal Europe.
That’s my prediction. We’ll find out if I’m right over the next couple of years.
Yesterday, the Republican National Committee released its Growth & Opportunity Report, a compendium of all of the lessons the party learned from the 2012 elections, and what the Washington Post calls an “autopsy” of what went wrong.
If you break it down, the report focuses most on demographics and branding. The RNC rightly recognizes how associated the GOP has become with rich, white men – and draws the conclusion that the party must attract more minorities, more young people, and more women to the party, and take a different approach to marketing the party in pop culture. The report says this:
“On messaging, we must change our tone — especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.”
Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress already did a great job of analyzing the pop culture goals of the GOP, and I agree with her: most of the celebrities associated with the GOP are either crazy (Ted Nugent), racist (Hank Williams Jr.), creepy (Jon Voight), or Chuck Norris. I wanted to focus more on the report’s suggestions, and the new branding of the GOP.
The report makes great points – it says the Republican Party must appeal to people outside the Republican Party, which can’t even agree with itself right now (I’ll get to that). It advises the party to adopt a better regional primary system so that fringe candidates like Christine O’Donnell don’t beat established moderates like Mike Castle. It suggests that the Republican Party starts an opposition research and tracking operation, in the same vein as left-leaning powerhouse (and my former employer) American Bridge.
But the suggestions of the report are purely surface suggestions – they’re about messaging, not about policy. House Republican leadership and CPAC participants don’t seem ready to follow that report. These two groups within the GOP are proof the Party can’t get their ducks in a row, and shows how far the once fiscally responsible and socially conservative party has skewed to the Right.
With regards to messaging, there have been some great examples of moderate Republicans supporting social issues like LGBT marriage equality and women’s reproductive rights, but they’re progressive exceptions to a stagnant Republican rule. The same week that Senator Rob Portman endorsed LGBT marriage rights, tanning enthusiast and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he would continue to oppose LGBT marriage even if his child were LGBT. And if you read further into the report, it says that the party should continue to stick to its outdated and discriminatory principles – they just should do so more quietly.
“For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view. Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.
If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out. The Party should be proud of its conservative principles, but just because someone disagrees with us on 20 percent of the issues, that does not mean we cannot come together on the rest of the issues where we do agree.”
(I’m not even discussing the War on Women. Deny it all they want, the GOP has rolled back reproductive rights and blocked equal pay for women across the country for no reason. The party has serious work to do if they want to cozy up to the lady voters, and it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than messaging to do it)
So the report is saying that the GOP can stay as conservative as they want, they just have to sound less awful. The baffling part is, the party can’t even agree on this plan – right now, the split is between more open-minded moderates who want to appeal to a wider base, and more conservative Tea Partiers who believe that lambasting their moderate colleagues and going after the “Guns and God” vote will endear them to everyone.
The RNC was trying to tell its party members how they need to rebrand themselves as more diverse and open minded, and willing to compromise with outsiders. But you would never be able to tell by watching the CPAC conference – a conference that left supposedly moderate Republicans like Chris Christie off the roster in favor of reality TV has-been Sarah Palin, pretend businessman Donald Trump, and McCarthy-lite Senator Ted Cruz.
The party got too caught up trying out a shiny new rebranding strategy without trying to modernize their tired, anti-minority, anti-women and anti-poor product to match. Instead of evolving, they point fingers at each other – they blame someone else for their troubles rather than turning inward and realizing that their branding isn’t the problem, as Meghan McCain’s “I Hate Karl Rove” rant shows.
The GOP lost the last few elections because they had awful ideas behind their ad campaigns. They are the New Coke of party politics – and like the soda, they’re not selling. Not because of the ad campaign, but because they’re gross.
The RNC’s report has great intentions, trying to liven up the party a bit and make them look more like the cool, progressive rainbow coalition that voted for Obama and less like the corporation-backed, wealthy old white men that everyone (accurately) perceives them to be. The problem is, the party leadership doesn’t want to change its outdated ways and attitudes towards minorities, LGBT people and women, or try to appeal to working class Americans. They just want to look good while they continue to discriminate, and to keep public embarrassments like Rape Gate and “I’m Not A Witch” from reaching the masses.
They want to win again. But until they stop arguing with each other and stop legislating like they have, it’s not going to happen that easily.
Newt Gingrich addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference today and, as is his habit, had some interesting things to say. This session doesn’t seem to have been as much fun as the 500 Racist Hillbilly Over the Top Rope Battle Royale we had yesterday, but credit the far right with understanding the value of offering up a diversity in its entertainment, if not in its actual politics.
For instance, Newt said this:
“The Republican establishment is just plain wrong about how it approaches politics,” Gingrich said.
For once, he and I agree on something, although we disagree for vastly different reasons. He also said that GOP leadership is ”mired in stupidity.” Again, couldn’t agree more. Again, really different reasons.
He said this, which is certainly true:
“It is virtually impossible to get people in Washington, D.C., to actually learn how to think about a new world.”
Of course, he also said this, which is utter silliness:
“We are not the anti-Obama movement; we are for a better American future.”
I mean, it’s been pretty well documented that the GOP’s prime (and sole) directive since early 2009 has been to obstruct anything and everything the Dems propose, even if it means they wind up filibustering themselves.
Then we got to the money shot. Here’s what Newt said:
“You’re going to hear a false attack that we don’t need new ideas,” he continued. “Let me draw a distinction: we don’t need new principles, but we need lots of new ideas about how to implement those principles in the 21st century.”
Since I speak Republican, let me translate for you.
The problem isn’t our sexism, racism, and neo-feudalist economic principles. It’s that we have to find a way of convincing minorities, women, the middle class and the working classes that racism, sexism and neo-feudalism are good for them.”
I guess my take is that the GOP has plenty of ideas. The problem is that the demographics have turned on them and many of the people dumb enough to believe those ideas are dying out.
If I worked for Mr. Gingrich, I might pull him aside and say “sir, with all due respect, I think maybe your principles are the problem. It’s easier to sell the public a bag of apples than it is to convince them that a bag of road apples are really tasty.”
Just thinkin’ out loud here….
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. ― Theodore Roosevelt
On March 10, 2003, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre in London, Natalie Maines stepped to the microphone and said this:
Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.
When word of Maines’s comment made it back to the US, what ensued was…well, what ensued was an infuriating look at the festering soul of Bush-era America and an illustration of the good, bad and ugly of how free speech works. Predictably, the hillbilly right closed ranks around the president and his WMDs-are-real cronies. Country & Western stations purged their playlists of Dixie Chicks music, records were burned, fatwas were issued, and the Chicks’ career Mark 1 was effectively destroyed. The message – for the Dixie Chicks and anybody else out there with a brain and a conscience – was more than clear: if you value your career, shut up and sing.
In some respects, the controversy was really useful. For instance, the president responded by saying:
The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say.… they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out.… Freedom is a two-way street ….
The remarkable thing about this is that Bush, a man renowned for being wrong on just about everything, was actually right for once. Free speech does not imply a freedom from backlash, and if you’re an entertainer people who disagree with you are perfectly within their rights to boycott. What’s good for Hank Williams, Jr. and Mel Gibson is good for The Dixie Chicks.
Granted, you also have the right to be hateful and ignorant, and it’s certainly true that the Dixie Chicks backlash had more to do with the gleeful exercise of these rights than it did any informed understanding of how free speech was intended to work by the Framers. But that’s another argument for another day.
History will validate, with a minimum of controversy, the sentiments Natalie Maines expressed at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre on March 10, 2003. Hopefully the record will point to our present moment and note that already the momentum had shifted and that within a generation people would have an impossible time imagining how such an affront to freedom was ever possible. Hopefully.
For the time being, “mad as hell” doesn’t begin to describe the indignation that those of us working to move this culture forward by promoting genuinely intelligent and pro-human values ought to feel, even now. I won’t tell you how to think and act, of course – you have a conscience and a brain, and you can be trusted to take in the information and perspectives around you and form an opinion that you can live by.
But for my part, I have a message for the “shut up and sing” crowd: I’m not ready to back down and I never will be. Your values are at odds with the principles upon which this nation was founded and true liberty cannot survive if your brand of flag-waving ignorance is allowed to thrive. You will not be allowed to use the freedoms that our founders fought for as weapons to stifle freedom for others.
You have declared a culture war, so here’s where the lines are drawn: I’m on the side of enlightenment, free and informed expression and the power of pro-humanist pursuits to produce a better society where we all enjoy the fruits of our shared accomplishments.
What side are you on?
Natalie and her bandmates lost tons of money over the past decade, but they’ll get by. In the end, it seems like they got a pretty good deal. In exchange for all those millions, they earned the right to a special place in the American soul. Justice matters. Facts matter. Humanity and compassion and freedom matter. Integrity matters more than money.
Looking back, I think the lesson to take away is a simple one. Our freedoms are important, but they’re empty and sterile and prone to corruption in the absence of an enlightened, intelligent embrace of the responsibilities that come with living in a democracy.
In the words of another of our musical heroes, George Clinton, “Think. It ain’t illegal yet.”
This is hardly the first time pro wrestling has come at the audience with a blatantly racist angle, and WWE has, through the years, perfected the arts of cheap stereotyping and jingoism. So their latest gimmick – the anti-immigration “real American” Jack Swagger and his mentor, thinly veiled Tea Partier Zeb Colter – are hardly news. Except for one thing – this time, the WWE is portraying the All-American white folks as the heels.
Here’s a sample.
At WrestleMania in April, Swagger will challenge for the World Heavyweight Title, currently held by … wait for it … Mexican superstar Alberto Del Rio (Jose Alberto Rodríguez, nephew of wrestling legend Mil Mascaras). The promos cut by Swagger (former U of Oklahoma wrestler and football player Jake Hager) and Colter (portrayed by Dirty Dutch Mantell – real name, Wayne Keown) have relied on a lot of code and dog-whistling (in other words, about what you get at your average Tea Partier campaign appearance). The language isn’t explicitly racist – the official stance is that all foreigners need to go home, including Brit Wade Barrett, who holds the Intercontinental Championship) although a couple of times in recent weeks it felt like they’d gone about as far as you could go without whipping out a “spic” or “wetback.” This comes hot on the heels of a recent “you people”-style promo cut by the Big Show (Paul Wight) against Latino fans supporting Del Rio.
The whole affair has been uncomfortable, even if you know it’s scripted. Since the pro wrestling conceit is that it’s a real, live sporting event, when its characters slip over into this kind of behavior we perhaps feel a little more violated than we might when presented with a racist character in a TV show or film. Credit where due: the WWE creative team, headed by Stephanie McMahon, and all the performers involved, have done a great job of selling the controversial angle.
It gets weird, though. Now the WWE and its bad guy/racist characters find themselves in a shoot (real-life) face-off with Glenn Beck. No, seriously.
On a recent radio show, Glenn Beck blasted the WWE for mocking him and claiming the WWE is entertainment for “stupid people.” Beck continued his rant, accusing the WWE of degrading tea party advocates as racist, unrealistic caricatures.
“Everything we do with our characters is designed to tell stories,” Keown said. “Right now the story we are telling is that Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger are using the current, relevant, and topical story of immigration to target the WWE World Champion Alberto Del Rio, also a character played by my friend Jose Rodriguez. In our story, we are the antagonist and Alberto is the protagonist…
“Glen Beck, you recently referred to WWE as stupid wrestling people. Really, Glenn? Seriously, really? By implication, you are referring to the 14 million stupid wrestling fans who are watching our shows every week in America and our global audience in over 145 countries. 20 percent of our audience is Hispanic. 22 percent is African American. 35 percent is female. And we equally reach all major age groups including 25 percent over 50.
“We have about 60 characters on our show, a lot more than say NCIS or Glee, but we’re not that much different. Some of our characters are really likable and some are detestable, good guys and bad guys. We don’t use guns and we don’t depict murder or rape, typically seen on prime time dramas. Our program is PG. We look forward to continuing to tell provocative, funny, dramatic, and sometimes controversial stories with characters of all backgrounds and beliefs.
Many of your followers are WWE fans and they understand the difference between reality and entertainment. Are you out of touch with your audience, Glenn? Or are you just a stupid political commentator. Mr. Beck, we cordially invite you to Monday Night Raw in Dallas at the American Airlines Center where you can deliver a five-minute, unedited rebuttal to our global TV audience and a sold out crowd of over 12,000 stupid wrestling fans. So now let’s get back in character…”
You need to watch this. It’s wonderful.
But, but … that isn’t even the weird part. If WWE were run by, say, Rachel Maddow and her family, there wouldn’t be anything remotely odd about a Tea Party bad guy character. But it isn’t. It’s run by the McMahon family. As in Vince and Linda and their daughter, the aforementioned Stephanie. (Shane, their son, left the company in 2010.)
And the McMahons aren’t known for their liberal leanings. Mom Linda has run for office as a Republican and is decidedly conservative (although a member of the country club wing, not the social conservative wing). Viewed from this perspective, then, the Colter/Swagger “We the People” angle is throwing important electoral allies under the bus, and it isn’t hard to see why the likes of Glenn Beck might get his shorts in a twist.
So I find myself wondering, well, what the fuck? Where is this GOP-on-GOP intramural action coming from? A few possibilities:
- The McMahons are providing moral support to Karl Rove in his recently declared war on the Teabaggers.
- Linda is thinking about running again and has decided that a hard tack to the social left will do her campaign good.
- Stephanie is actually a progressive and we’re seeing evidence of internal disagreement in the family.
- Stephanie doesn’t do all the writing. Maybe there are progressive writers on the staff and they’re being given some freedom.
- While it hasn’t been evident before, the McMahons believe that immigration reform is essential to the health of American business.
- There’s nothing to it at all – creative just saw an opportunity for a ratings-grabbing storyline.
Which of these explanations is accurate? No idea. If WWE officials have addressed this in print I can’t find it. The third one – Stephanie is a liberal – seems the least plausible to me, but she has stated that she has no interest in pursuing politics like her mother. No telling what that means.
In any case, it’s a fascinating angle, and I now find myself wondering if the whole Glenn Beck thing is actually a work. A public controversy pitting him against the WWE might be good for everybody’s ratings, and the pro wrestling industry has a history of loving a good put-up job. Remember the whole Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler feud?
I don’t know how long this storyline will run. My gut tells me that the Swagger/Del Rio narrative will work better with Swagger as the evil champion and Del Rio as the white hat in hot pursuit, and if I’m right we can expect Del Rio to drop the strap at Wrestlemania. There are enough foreign stars in the organization at present that the creative team can probably get a lot of mileage out of Swagger and Colter, True American Patriots.
I … I … ummm. This is a joke, right?
Marriage should be limited to unions of a man and a woman because they alone can “produce unplanned and unintended offspring,” opponents of gay marriage have told the Supreme Court.
By contrast, when same-sex couples decide to have children, “substantial advance planning is required,” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for House Republicans.
Apparently no, no it is not.
Used to be teh queers couldn’t be trusted because they’d hump anything they could catch. Now they have to be restricted because … they’re responsible.
2016 is going to be a banner year for Dem candidates if the GOP keeps this up….
Mitch McConnell is having quite a week.
Earlier this week, Senate Majority leader and sad turtle McConnell led Senate Republicans in boldly not voting for a UN treaty to protect disabled people. And then yesterday, he had to filibuster his own bill when Senate Democrats called his bluff.
The bill in question would turn the power of raising the debt ceiling over to the executive branch and leave the legislative branch out of it. The President would ask to raise the debt limit, and if Congress wanted to stop him from doing so, they would have 15 days to pass a joint resolution of disapproval. The President could veto that resolution, and then Congress could override the veto with a 60 percent majority in each the Senate and the House of Representatives.
McConnell brought the bill forward claiming that the Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass it. And, well…this happened.
Ever since FOX called Ohio for Obama last Tuesday night (touching off a near-hysterical conniption from Karl Rove), talk of secession has been rampant. Groups in all 50 states have started petitions aimed at leaving the Union, with Texas (predictably) reaching the minimum threshold of signatures first.
We’ve written about secession here at S&R a good bit, with Frank Balsinger’s piece the other day (“Want to secede? Are you really sure about that?“) being the most recent. I think the general sentiment among the staff is that the people carping the loudest about leaving really haven’t thought things all the way through: the states where we find the most anti-Union sentiment tend to be the states that receive more in Federal outlays than they contribute in tax revenues (“taker” states), and they’re also home to some of the most irrationally rabid anti-taxation sentiment in the nation. It’s easy to envision how a new country built around these dynamics might find itself in dire economic straits rather quickly. Some of us have also admitted that we think we’d be okay with a partition, and I went so far as to write a three-part series hypothetically considering some of the logistical challenges surrounding the proposed divorce.
Normally, it would be easy enough to dismiss petitioning as the work of fringe cranks, because in nearly all cases that’s precisely what’s going on. Now, though, there’s a new factor to ponder. In short, the secessionists have caught the fancy of the media. Google “secession.” It’s a little mind-boggling, to be honest. And if the last decade has taught us anything, it should be that no idea, no ideology, no delusion is so extreme that the mainstream press cannot haul it ranting and lathering into the Overton Window. Obama is a Kenyan, after all. And a Muslim. And despite being objectively to the right of Richard Nixon, a socialist. Climate disruption is a liberal plot. Now, as Dave Johnson explains, we have the tried-and-true Shock Doctrine approach being employed to create a fiscal cliff “crisis” that is pure manufactroversy. The terror is being aided and abetted by a corporate media that either a) doesn’t understand how it’s being played, b) is actively complicit in the disinformation campaign, or c) doesn’t care one way or another, so long as it’s good for ratings.
When ridiculous ideas are presented to normal people, those people tend to laugh, shake their heads and ease away, careful not to make any sudden moves. But the repetition of ridiculous ideas over an extended period of time, especially by large media agencies with a measure of presumed credibility (and the “experts” they invite on to discuss “serious” issues), though, exerts a corrosive effect on rationality. I wonder if, given enough time and cash, you could create a “public debate” over whether gravity is a fact or merely a “theory.”
The sheer volume of noise we’re hearing right now about secession perhaps makes you wonder: is it possible that the cranks and their corporate enablers could turn this into a real concern?
The coherent answer (for the moment, at least) is no. The media thrives on decibel level, and a few overstimulated wack jobs can make a great deal of noise. But actual secession isn’t about how loud the screaming is, it’s about how many voting adults are screaming. I have no problem believing that a statewide referendum on whether or not to secede could garner 27% of the vote; as noted recently, any analysis of the US population is safe enough assuming that percentage of the population is certifiably insane. Deep in Takerstatestan, you might nudge that number up above 30%. 50%, though, is hard to imagine, even in places like Texas or South Carolina.
A woman I know, a Texan with more than her share of well-placed friends and acquaintances, once laughed at the idea that Texas would ever secede. There’ll be plenty of bluster amongst certain testosterone-soaked segments of the population, but the ladies who run the moneyed homes will put a quick and certain stop to it as soon as it threatens cotillion season. (If this strikes you as a tad sexist, bear in mind that I’m just paraphrasing the words of a thoroughly progressive woman.)
It’s also worth noting that the howling secessionist contingent so far contains no real established leaders (that I’m aware of). Prominent GOP governors are having none of it (including Rick Perry, who not all that long ago certainly seemed willing to entertain the idea). Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who’s been acting remarkably lucid of late, called the whole thing “silly.”
Even Justice Anotnin Scalia, who’s as wide-right as they come, says it’s a non-starter:
“I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court,” Scalia wrote. “To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”
In other words, if you want to secede, it looks like your options are limited to either moving to another country or taking the somewhat more permanent route opted for by Key West resident Henry Hamilton, may he rest in peace. History tells us that all great empires fracture in the end, and I’d be surprised to see the US still in one piece in, say, 50 years. But for now, as badly as the Deep South and I would love to be rid of each other, it looks like we’re stuck in the same boat.
None of this should keep you from enjoying the political media theater, though.
“You idiot! Get back in there at once and sell, sell!”
As we set about the process of compiling and canonizing the 2012 election post-mortem, one thing we keep hearing over and over is how utterly stunned the Romney camp was at their loss. Republicans across the board apparently expected victory – the conservative punditry seemed certain of it – and now we’re hearing that Romney himself was “shellshocked” by the result.
Mitt Romney went into Election Night expecting a victory and was “shellshocked” when he finally realized he had lost, CBS News reported.
Despite early signs of a stronger-than-expected turnout for President Obama, it wasn’t until the crucial state of Ohio was called for the president that Romney began to face the likelihood of defeat.
Even then, he and his team had trouble processing the news, senior advisers told CBS News.
“We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory,” one adviser said. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.”
Silver’s final 2008 presidential election forecast accurately predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia (missing only the prediction for Indiana). As his model predicted, the races in Missouri and North Carolina were particularly close. He also correctly predicted the winners of every U.S. Senate race.
It wasn’t just Silver. Almost all the polls showed Obama with at least a slight lead in the battleground states, and if we can believe CNN’s election night insiders, Mitt’s own tracking showed him five points adrift in Ohio as late as Sunday (which explains why he set up camp there when many expected him to focus his energies elsewhere).
In other words, all the data, all the nonpartisan analysis, all the evidence, made clear that Romney’s chances were slim. It’s understandable that he and his people would be disappointed, and mightily so. But surprised? How does that happen?
In a nutshell, the GOP blindsided themselves. The reason should be obvious to anyone who has paid any attention at all to American politics in recent years: an overabundance of blind faith. I don’t mean this in a religious sense (although the political and socio-scientific manifestations of the phenomenon issue from strong religious antecedents). Instead, I’m referring to the broad, swelling inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between belief and knowledge.
As noted, nearly all the polls showed Romney in trouble. Most broke out their results in ways that clearly suggested why he was in trouble. The rational response to such information is to take it onboard, adapt and adjust. But that’s not what the GOP did. Instead, they dismissed the data that didn’t align with their beliefs. They went so far as to “unskew” the polls because they were clearly biased in favor of Mr. Obama. How do we know they were biased? Because they favored Mr. Obama. UnskewedPolls.com performed some ideological/mathematical hijinks and produced “corrected” polls that demonstrated how Mr. Romney was actually leading. By a lot.
The resulting projected electoral map was positively Reaganesque.
You might argue that the rational response isn’t to adapt and adjust if there is actually reason to believe that all the polls are, in fact, skewed. This objection is fair, so long as your reasons for doing so are driven by factual concerns instead of ideological ones. I think it’s more than clear, by now, that GOP faith in a Romney win was driven by belief instead of knowledge isn’t it?
The upshot is what we saw Tuesday night and in the days following: shock, dismay, confusion. Romney and his people (here I’ll include the GOP’s media relations arm, FOX News) didn’t see the obvious coming and some were melting down as reality began to assert its ugly presence in ways that even Megyn Kelly couldn’t ignore. Sure, Karl Rove had an excuse for going all Randolph Duke on the set. He’d just spent $600M of rich folks’ money and had a pack of nabs to show for it, an outcome with dire implications for his future career prospects. Of course he was losing it – he was seeing his political life pass before his eyes as the Ohio totals ticked in. Again, though, this was a live, nationally televised case study in self-delusion: it isn’t true because sweet Jesus it just can’t be.
I keep using these terms “knowledge” and “belief.” I suspect that many people across the country might initially grapple with the difference (in fact, I know this to be the case). So let me define these terms, at least operationally, for the benefit of those who don’t understand the distinction.
- Knowledge is a process whereby conclusions derive from information and reasoning.
- Belief is a process whereby preconceptions govern the pursuit of information.
In other words, with knowledge, you learn all you can in as rigorous and intellectually honest a fashion as possible, then you figure out what it means. With belief, the conclusions are given from the outset and data is selected and discarded according to whether or not it supports the point you’re trying to make.
Accepting facts that run counter to what we believe, and what we want to believe, and even what we desperately need to believe, can be hard. I understand the difficulty as well as anyone. I personally now believe pretty much the opposite of nearly every important thing I believed as a young man, and I have frequently noted how many times my beliefs changed because I was proven wrong by the very smart people with whom I insisted on surrounding myself. I’ve always been a fan of the famous John Maynard Keynes quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
As hard as it is to investigate contrary information and opinions, though, it’s imperative that we do so. With gusto. The Republican Party had all the evidence there before them throughout the entire campaign. There is precious little that we know now that we didn’t know a month ago. Their decision to pretend it was all skewed led to what? They lost the White House (in a race that was surely theirs for the taking). They lost ground in the Senate. Thanks to gerrymandering they still control the House, but their candidates nationwide received fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. Gay marriage initiatives passed in a couple of states. Gays and lesbians were elected to Congress.
All because the Republican Party privileged belief over knowledge.
Plenty of debate is already under way within the Republican Party as to what the results means and what might be done about it. Some conservative analysts are paying heed to the knowledge they have gained. Others, not so much.
- In the view of some, the GOP failed because – get this – they’re not being conservative enough.
- Fringe elements in 20 states have filed petitions seeking to secede from the Union.
- Todd Aiken and Paul Broun may be out the door, but a new round of anti-science candidates are jockeying for position in the race to head up the House Science Committee.
And over at UnskewedPolls, well, see for yourself:
The GOP 2012 experience holds important lessons for us all as we move forward. The world in which we live, the nation in which we live, the neighborhoods and communities and cities in which we live are what they are, not what we wish them to be. For instance:
- Some among us might wish that we lived in a uniformly white, Christian, heterosexual, nuclear family culture. We don’t. Whatever policies we seek to implement are doomed to failure unless we acknowledge our new multicultural reality.
- Some of us believe that there is no such thing as climate disruption. There are Nate Silvers and Karl Roves in the natural science world, too. Our future and the future of generations not yet born depend on whether we’re smart enough to know to which of them we need to listen.
- Many of us believe that cutting taxes on our wealthiest citizens creates opportunity and shared prosperity for everyone. All data on the subject shows this to be pure ideology – the precise opposite is true and the refusal to pay attention to the basic facts of economic history have grave implications for us all.
- Dollar for dollar, the US pays three times more for health care than any other industrialized nation and by any measure we generate significantly worse outcomes. You might believe that only those who can pay outrageous prices deserve to be healthy, but the actual number of people who agree with you is diminishing rapidly.
- The president was born in Hawai’i. If you insist that all proof is forged (it has to be, because it doesn’t conform with your beliefs), you will find that you’re damaging the credibility of other positions you hold. Also, people won’t sit next to you on the bus.
- We are not a theocracy. A growing majority of voters are rejecting candidates whose views on how America should be governed more resemble the 1st century than the 21st. The coalition includes every facet of the electorate, but is especially pronounced among segments that are increasing in numbers.
The things are not beliefs, they are facts supported by every scrap of credible evidence that we have. The existence of facts doesn’t automatically suggest what the best policies might look like, but the refusal to acknowledge them assures disaster.
All of us – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green and none of the above – would do well to learn from the GOP’s hard 2012 lesson.
If you read Wufnik’s secession piece yesterday, you may have noticed that the inevitable cropped up in the comments: racism. You can’t talk about secessionist impulses anywhere – Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Quebec – without the subject of the US intruding, and that tends to mean the South. As in, the South in which I grew up (as did some of my fellow scrogues).
As Wufnik notes, there are all kinds of reasons why a group of people might want out of the nation they’re in, whether it’s language or historical culture or religion or resources or economics or whatever. But in the US South, it’s about one issue and one issue only: racism. If you want to argue that racism is not rampant in the South, either you’re trolling or you’re willfully self-deluding because you hate facing the bald facts or maybe you’re just not bright enough to be in a conversation with educated people.
No, racism doesn’t exist only in the South. No, not everyone who votes for Mitt Romney does so because they’re racist. And no, not all Southerners are racists. But the phenomenon is unarguably more ubiquitous there, especially once you get beyond the boundaries of larger cities. It doesn’t really matter, though: if you’re paying attention, you can’t help noticing a powerful correlation between racism and the relative redness of the electorate in a given state, can you?
Wufnik allows that if Obama wins re-election the right is going to pitch a full-on nukular galloping hissy fit (as opposed to the more reasoned, respectful, collaborative approach we’ve seen since 2008). (Despite the fact that some polls are calling it neck and neck, I do expect the president to pull it out. I’m not a hardcore quant demographer, but Nate Silver’s analysis seems coherent enough, and he’s saying it’s about a 73% chance of an Obama win). He’s probably right. I’m having a hard time imagining how much worse the racist right can get without actually donning white hoods and burning a cross on the White House lawn, but we’ll see, won’t we?
In any event, this all got me to thinking about a basic question. Consider the GOP approach, from their positively Byzantine assault on women to their willingness to openly lie about anything and everything to their reactionary theocratic rhetoric to … well, you’ve been watching, so you’ve heard the same barking asshaberdashery that the rest of us have. In a remotely sane world – that is, one in which candidates and ideas were intelligently evaluated on their merits alone – this batshit brigade couldn’t pull more than 15% of the popular vote if they were running uncontested. And yet, here they are, poised to score nearly half the popular vote for president and probably maintain control of the House. Why is that, I wonder?
So here’s the question: what would the polls look like if Barack Obama were white. (100% white, I mean.)
Instead of letting that hang there like a rhetorical question, let’s actually do a poll.
Feel free to add comments, if you like.