Carson, Carson, Carson. What are you thinking?

Please make sense once. Just once.

ICMYI: Mint Press News (9/28/2015) – Ben Carson Considers Religion As Probable Cause For Searches

And if you can’t make sense, would you at least leave our 4th amendment rights alone?

Seriously, the irony is rich with this one.

““What we should be talking about is Islam and the tenets of Islam and where do they come from? They come from Sharia. They come from the Koran,” he told host Martha Raddatz. Continue reading

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina’s lie that wouldn’t die

Carly either can’t distinguish between evidence or doesn’t know what it is

Last Saturday I posted this on social media with my own comment:

If anyone has the footage she describes, please post. Otherwise, I’ll go with the existing evidence and conclude that this is just another pernicious lie.

Continue reading

Half-measures won’t fix Social Security

The GOP just isn’t trying hard enough

Today, Robert Reich had this to say on Facebook:

“Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and other Republican hopefuls are already pushing to raise the eligibility age for Social Security to 69 – which their big-business Republican donors have been urging for years.”

This is the kind of tepid thinking that lets those lazy olds off the hook way too easily. Continue reading


Facebook, the NFL and the GOP: #WTF

What a fucking day.

Item: Congress has tentatively agreed on a bill that will keep the government from shutting down. Now, there’s a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that the Republicans are insisting on a huge payoff to Wall Street, basically holding the best interests of the people hostage to the best interests of the insanely rich. The smart money says the Democrats will:

a) raise holy hell, then
b) fold like the Vichy little bitches they are.

In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.

None of this is the fun part, though. First, the GOP plan would … well, just read it. Continue reading

Politics: Democrats vs Republicans

Howard Baker dead: a former Republican remembers the last GOP statesman

Baker was the man who set me on the path to progressivism.

Former Tennessee Senator and Reagan White House Chief of Staff is dead at 88. Baker was, in many ways, one of the last of his kind: to wit, a coherent Republican. I have noted before that in my youth I was a conservative – by the standards of that era, anyway. I voted for Reagan twice – I’m not proud of it, but I won’t hide from the facts – even though I can’t say I was ever a true blue Reaganite. No, my ideals ran more toward the old school conservatism of men like Baker. Smart, reasonable, diplomatic. He was, I have argued, the last Republican statesman. Continue reading

Bold prediction: outraged conservatives will not insist that Ann Coulter apologize to Melissa Harris-Perry

Did you see this?

Ann Coulter Calls Melissa Harris-Perry a ‘Token’ Black

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter insinuated on Monday that MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry was a token African American on the cable network. Coulter was on Fox New’s Hannity show discussing Harris-Perry’s apology over comments made on her show about Mitt Romney’s black grandchild. Continue reading

CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

Bobby Jindal doesn’t understand the First Amendment

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

Cthulhu Republicans

Club for Growth: meet the Cthulhu wing of the GOP

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:

Does the Tea Party have a right “edge”?

Is there any such thing as “too conservative” for Teabaggers?

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

Politics: Don't Tread on Me

The GOP’s highly entertaining civil war

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

Arts and Literature

Our psychopath Congress

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


I hate to say it, but the GOP is right

I hope you didn’t sprain anything or break anything irreplaceable.  For what it’s worth, you people have no idea how hard it is to resist the trite “wipe coffee off monitor” quip at this juncture.

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

CATEGORY: Taxation

Aren’t crippling sanctions and regime change what we seek against enemies?

A wild GOP appears!

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.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Simplified rendering of the latest GOP legislative tactic: Repeal Obamacare (political goal) or we will shut down the government.

See what you made us do?

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

What a government shutdown would look like in Nevada

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:

I’ve got your number, and it’s sweet and gooey!

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.


Image credits:

Al Nusra Front Executions. Image, as released by Al Nusra Front, posted at Threat Matrix.

Dice. Photo by John Morgan @  Licensed under Creative Commons.

Scary Clown Face by Spider.Dog @ Licensed under Creative Commons.

Taxation is Force. Posted at thinksquad, unattributed.


Predicting North Carolina’s future: if GOP wins again in 2014, expect a severe case of brain drain

North-CarolinaVia 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.



Republicans are the New Coke of politics

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.

Translating Newt Gingrich’s CPAC comments into plain English

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….

CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

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.

As our old friend Greg Mitchell notes, “It was a little more than a week before their fellow Texan launched a war based on lies.”

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.

Now, how you feel about President Obama?

In April, 2009, S&R honored The Dixie Chicks as the 25th addition to our masthead hall of fame. I wrote, at the time (and while I was extremely angry):

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.”