Monday, May 04, 2015
Je ne suis pas Geller
Never in a million years. I know there are highly respected Very Serious People who believe things like this:
The Muslim radical argues that the ban on blasphemy is morally right and should be followed; the Western liberal insists it is morally wrong but should be followed. Theoretical distinctions aside, both positions yield an identical outcome.
The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.
(I disagreed with that when it was written about Charlie Hebdo and talked about why, here.)
Yes, you can defend the right without defending the practice. And Pamela Geller should have cleared that up once and for all last night.
Pam Geller only believes in the right to blaspheme one religion. And it isn't hers. I don't think we need to prove our liberal bona fides by bending over backwards for her. I'll defend her right to blaspheme and certainly wouldn't hold her legally liable for inciting violence with this particular "art" exhibit even though it's clearly an act of provocation. I condemn violence across the board. But it would be a moral disgrace to defend Pamela Gellers "practice" of blasphemy. I'll leave that to her fellow fascists.
Update: This piece by Art Goldhammer is well worth a read.
digby 5/04/2015 12:00:00 PM
Welcome to the Clown Bus!
Republicans sure have interesting ideas of what qualifies folks to be president. I suppose if you are beholden to an ideology that government is always awful, why not elect the a truly awful person to head it?
Fiorina drove HP into the ground, and is considered one of the worst tech CEO's ever.
Sonnenfeld labels her "the worst because of her ruthless attack on the essence of this great company," noting that "she destroyed half the wealth of her investors and yet still earned almost $100 million in total payments for this destructive reign of terror."
As governor, Huckabee released a murderer and serial rapist who became a right wing cause celebre, and he raped and murdered again. More here. And more.
Well, one positive way of looking at this is that the GOP believes that anyone can be president. Absolutely anyone.
tristero 5/04/2015 10:30:00 AM
Progressives Are Not Alone — 87% of Republicans Oppose Fast Track
by Gaius Publius
(Updated; see below.)
In covering the TPP battle between President Obama and the CEO class on the one side, and most of the rest of the country on the other, I've noted that the Tea Party right is as opposed to Fast Track as the "professional" left. (My own TPP coverage is collected here.)
Now comes more evidence of that. Let's start with The Hill (h/t Dave Johnson; my emphasis throughout):
Trade vote stirs angst on the right
There are 54 Republican senators, one of whom (Richard Burr, listed above) is likely to vote No on the floor since he voted No in the Finance Committee. If all four Republicans listed above vote No and support the filibuster — where the threshold is 60 votes — the Democrats will need to find ten votes at least to pass Fast Track in the Senate. We already know there are 7 Democratic votes for Fast Track, based on their Yes votes in committee:
Trade legislation is sowing discord among Senate Republicans that
could make it tougher than expected to pass fast-track trade authority
and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
While much of the
attention in the trade fight has focused on the divide between President
Obama and liberal Democrats, Republican leaders are facing dissent
within their own caucus because of currency manipulation and immigration
“The polling is bad, and some people are getting
nervous,” said a GOP senator who requested anonymity to talk about his
conversations with colleagues.
Senate Republicans are looking for
political cover to vote for trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation,
which would empower Obama to negotiate the TPP — a trade pact with 11
nations — that could not be amended or filibustered in Congress.
Republican “no” votes on the bill include Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.),
Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Shelley Moore Capito
The margins are close. The Hill:
- Ron Wyden — Ranking Member and lead perp
- Michael Bennet — Former head of DSCC
- Maria Cantwell
- Ben Cardin
- Tom Carper
- Bill Nelson
- Mark Warner
Ten to 15 Senate Democrats are expected to vote for the fast-track
bill, which means Republican leaders can only afford to lose fewer than
10 caucus members.
Again, if the Republicans are down to 50 Yes votes, they'll need 10 Democrats in order to break the filibuster. If no more than 15 Democrats vote with the CEOs and the multinational corporations, Republicans can only lose another five votes:
“I think it’s going to be tight,” said Sen.
John Boozman (R-Ark.), who is leaning in favor of voting yes because the
farm community supports the legislation.
Republican senators say
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his leadership team
have begun to count votes, a sign that they’re not taking passage of the
measures for granted.
“It could be a problem depending on how few
Democrats vote for it. The president has to step up and work it,” said
another GOP senator, who requested anonymity to discuss his party’s whip
Democratic aides say the final number of Democratic yeses is unlikely to exceed 15.
It's going to be tight, and pressure is building on both parties from their so-called "base":
“It’s possible that more than half of the yes votes already voted for it in committee,” said a senior Democratic aide.
While the trade deals are popular with the business community, they
are controversial among the conservative base in states — such as Ohio,
Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina and South Carolina — where
Republican incumbents are running for reelection next year.
Let's look at the Republican opposition more closely.
would any Republican give President Obama more authority?” said Ed
Martin, president of Eagle Forum, a conservative advocacy group.
87% of Republicans Oppose Fast Track
Dave Johnson, from the piece linked above:
Republicans in Congress can read polls and letters from their
constituents as well as Democrats, and they, as most Democrats already
have done, are starting to realize that it might not be wise to
rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the rigged fast
track trade promotion authority process that will be used to pre-approve
it. The tea party and the right generally are starting to ramp up their
In support, he offers this. First, 87% of Republicans oppose Fast Track:
I noted in the recent post “A Look At The Fast Track Bill Shows It’s The Wrong Thing To Do”
that polls show that many conservatives are opposed to fast track and
the TPP, and that in Congress, “many ‘Constitution-based’ Tea Party
Republicans are opposed to it.” Those polls show
that “Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast-track authority to
the president (8 percent in favor, 87 percent opposed), as do
independents (20 percent-66 percent).”
He notes that Pat Buchanan is strongly opposed, as are Tea Party "patriots." In fact, conservative advocacy groups are already starting to run ads. Huffington Post (h/t Johnson again):
Americans for Limited Government, a conservative group founded by wealthy activist Howard Rich, will begin radio ads in New Hampshire
on Thursday, calling on Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to oppose the fast-track legislation moving
through Congress. All three senators are running for the 2016 Republican
Note that "next president" objection in the last line above. If that "next president" is Hillary Clinton, she'll have Fast Track power as well for any trade deal she wants to gin up. See what I mean by a bipartisan rejection of Fast Track? Only the money-bought want it, and I think I mean that literally.
“Congress is getting ready to give Obama
more power, just when we’re getting ready to choose his replacement,”
the ad says. “If Congress gives Obama fast-track power, he’ll use it to
write more regulations for our economy -- for the entire world. Rules
that the next president won’t be able to change.”
Also, note those names listed above — Republican Sens. Cruz, Paul and Rubio. If all three decide to vote No, the Republican Yes votes fall to 47, and 13 Democratic Yes votes will be needed. Are there 13 Democratic Yes votes for Fast Track? You can help with that.
It's Going to Be Close
It's going to be both close and interesting. I personally think Ron Wyden should lose his job over his role in this, regardless of what happens. But that's for later (though you can always click here, give him a little call, and offer a little piece of your mind, especially if you vote in Oregon).
For now though, lobby your senators hard — both Democrats and Republicans. Senate phone numbers here. Call them both; you will never know until afterward who was about to fold and say No to Fast Track. This can still be won.
UPDATE: The rumors are flying. As of this printing, I'm hearing this: First, that Schumer may indeed vote No on Fast Track, just as he did in the Finance Committee (last page; pdf). If true, that would surprise me — he's been talking about adding provisions against currency manipulation, but he's almost always pro-business and pro–Wall Street. I hear, though, that he's been making group appearances in New York in which he says he's opposed to the bill. I can't verify this, but I can pass it along. (There had earlier been some press indication of that, for example here.)
Second, the Democratic whip operation is rumored (again) to think Fast Track will pass in the Senate. That means either that fewer Republicans will defect (holding the number of No votes to not much more than four), or that the number of Democratic defections (Yes votes) will be closer to 15 than 10. Or both.
Stay tuned. There is still time for changes. Whatever happens in the Senate though, it's in the House where things will get really interesting, for all the reasons noted above. The Republicans are tentatively scheduling a vote on Fast Track for late this month (May) — an indication that they may not have the votes to be more definite. (See here and look for "trade" all the way at the bottom.)
If you want to start lobbying your representative as well, go for it. House phone numbers here. Democracy in action.
(A version of this piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)
Gaius Publius 5/04/2015 09:00:00 AM
I Can't Believe It's Not Freedom
by Tom Sullivan
Privacy advocates on the left and right find common cause in Congress these days as provisions of the PATRIOT Act expire. Politico reports this morning on a bipartisan lunch meeting held last week:
With key provisions of the controversial post-9/11 law set to expire at the end of the month, including authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, critics in both parties are preparing to strike. Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.
“The collection of data is still way too wide and can still be too easily abused,” Pocan said of the NSA program exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.
Along with Pocan and Massie, the Thursday gathering drew Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lawmakers, many of them privacy zealots with libertarian leanings, discussed the USA Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would rein in the bulk collection of telephone records and reauthorize expiring anti-terror surveillance provisions in the PATRIOT Act.
Last week the House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed the bill that that would curtail bulk collection of data by government spies: the USA Freedom Act. (Can we please have an "I Can't Believe It's Not Freedom" bill next?)
In the Senate, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky faces a similar bill poised to pass over his objections with support from his own caucus. McConnell and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) want "a blanket five-year extension of the Patriot Act." As the New York Times reported last week, "The push for reform is the strongest demonstration yet of a decade-long shift from a singular focus on national security at the expense of civil liberties to a new balance in the post-Snowden era."
Edward Snowden again. That freedom-hating scamp.
The civil liberties-minded members want several changes. Pocan said lawmakers are concerned that privacy language in the current legislation is tailored to fit current technologies — potentially putting data at risk of bulk collection if new technologies emerge. Pocan and Massie back a long-shot effort to repeal the PATRIOT Act entirely, while other lawmakers at the meeting have proposed cutting funding for the so-called backdoor searches by the NSA that don’t require warrants.
Other lawmakers who attended the meeting have proposed aggressive reforms to other surveillance authorities, including ones that allow for warrantless online surveillance of U.S. citizens. Members of the group have also called for an end to government-required “backdoors” in companies’ hardware and software products to give intelligence agencies easy access to data.
Outside the Beltway, left and right are also finding common cause in opposing opening the skies to Predators and Reapers, concerned they might be used for warrantless domestic surveillance. Surveillance is a wonky issue not easily explained to people busy just struggling to pay their bills. Perhaps John Oliver got it right in asking Edward Snowden:
"This is the most visible line in the sand for people: Can they see my dick?" Oliver said.
"Well, the good news is there's no program named the 'Dick Pic' program," Snowden explained. "The bad news is that they are still collecting everybody's information—including your dick pics."
Which is why I ask T-partiers whether, when the FAA allows the weapons to fly friendly skies, government drones will be able to look down into people's gun safes and count their AR-15s.
Undercover Blue 5/04/2015 06:00:00 AM
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Teenagers partying in the New Jersey Governor's office
Lot's of people love Chris Christie's sophomoric bullying. They find it refreshing that he tells average citizens to "sit down and shut up" and otherwise acts like a nasty teenage boy. Here's how that immature behavior plays out when it's coupled with political power:
The hinge of the plot Mr. Wildstein has outlined for the authorities was a uniquely New Jersey form of punishment: making suburban drivers sit in traffic.
The first mention of it came in March 2011, as Mr. Christie’s star among national Republicans was first rising.
Mr. Wildstein, then the chief of staff to Mr. Baroni, Mr. Christie’s top staff appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, mentioned to Mr. Baroni that they could use the local access lanes to the bridge from Fort Lee as leverage against the town’s mayor, Mark Sokolich.
Mr. Christie’s strategists were hoping to use his 2013 re-election campaign to build a case for him to run for president. Their goal was to secure endorsements from a broad spectrum of officials, including Democrats such as Mayor Sokolich.
This cultivating fell mostly to young staff members in the wing of Mr. Christie’s front office known as Intergovernmental Affairs. In August 2013, Ms. Kelly, the deputy chief of staff in that office, expressed disappointment to Mr. Wildstein that Mr. Sokolich, who had been the subject of intense wooing by her office and the authority, was not going to endorse Mr. Christie.
Ms. Kelly, like Mr. Baroni and Mr. Wildstein, was a loyal lieutenant, who joined the governor and members of his inner circle at events outside of work.
Mr. Wildstein mentioned the lanes as a source of leverage. Ms. Kelly called a young employee and instructed him to confirm that Mr. Sokolich had refrained from an endorsement, then emailed Mr. Wildstein: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
That was mid-August. In the coming days, she confirmed again that Mr. Sokolich would not endorse.
And she instructed her employees not to “interact” with him.
A week later Mr. Wildstein and Ms. Kelly joked in their text messages about punishing a rabbi who had also fallen into disfavor. “We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Ms. Kelly wrote.
“Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed,” Mr. Wildstein countered.
“Perfect,” she replied.
The three then made up a cover story: They would say that they were doing a traffic study so that unwitting Port Authority staff members would go along with the plan, making it appear to be legitimate. That would require some planning and the involvement of unwitting participants.
Mr. Wildstein had a traffic engineer prepare several configurations; Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly agreed that the one that funneled three access lanes into a single one would inflict the worst punishment on the mayor, by creating the most severe traffic backup on the streets of Fort Lee. They would steer that lane to a tollbooth that accepted cash as well as E-ZPass; there would be no access to the E-ZPass-only lane that offered a faster commute.
They were ready in August, but Mr. Baroni recommended waiting. After all, traffic tended to be lighter in summer; “the punitive impact would be lessened,” the indictment says. They bided their time. They agreed: They would do it the first day of school, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in order to “intensify Mayor Sokolich’s punishment.”
They agreed not to tell him, or any officials in Fort Lee, so that there would be no time to prepare. It would also, the indictment says, “keep Fort Lee residents and G.W.B. commuters from altering their routes.”
And though the three had agreed on the date, they also agreed not to share it with any Port Authority workers involved in the closings until the Friday before, to avoid any leaks.
They understood that closing down lanes to the world’s busiest bridge would not be uncomplicated, or inexpensive.
Mr. Wildstein brought in a backup toll collector who had to be paid overtime, in case the one on duty had to go the bathroom.
He had traffic engineers rush that Friday to collect data for a fake traffic study. The police would have to work through an extended rush hour.
It is this use, or misuse, of government resources that is at the heart of the case against the three.
You can't blame them entirely. Clearly Christie had created a culture of immature bullying behavior and his staff took to it eagerly. But the buck stops with him. And the reason it's destroying his political future regardless of whether or not he's personally implicated in this particular scheme is because it's all to believable that he could have ordered them to do it. In fact, it would be just like him.
I don't think anyone really wants another president who is this petty and vengeful. We already had one of those and he had to resign from office in disgrace.
Update: Recall this creepy quote:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Chriostie (R) reportedly assured a room of GOP activists recently that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn't dare treat him the way Putin treats President Obama.
The New York Times reported on the remarks on Monday, although it was unclear exactly when the meeting took place. The newspaper described it as "a few days after Russian forces invaded Crimea" and said Christie had been asked how he would deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine.
He had trouble selling his audience on a tough stance, the Times reported:
According to an audio recording of the event, he said Mr. Putin had taken the measure of Mr. Obama. “I don’t believe, given who I am, that he would make the same judgment,” Mr. Christie said. “Let’s leave it at that.
One attendee described Mr. Christie’s answer as disturbingly heavy on swagger and light on substance. Another called it “uncomfortable to watch.”
digby 5/03/2015 06:00:00 PM
Sanders on Nordic Nirvana
Just thought I'd share:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator Bernie Sanders joins us now. Welcome to "This Week." Why are you the best choice for president of the United States?
Not a thing as far as I'm concerned.
SANDERS: Because for the last 30 years, I've been standing up for the working families of this country, and I think I'm the only candidate who's prepared to take on the billionaire class, which now controls our economy, and increasingly controls the political life of this country. We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say, enough is enough, and I want to help lead that effort.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So does that mean that Hillary Clinton is part of the billionaire class?
SANDERS: It means that Hillary Clinton has been part of the political establishment for many, many years. I have known Hillary for some 25 years. I respect her and I like her, but I think what the American people are saying, George, is that at a time when 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent, and when the top 0.1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, maybe it's time for a real political shakeup in this country and go beyond establishment politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You are asking for a lot of shakeup. Is it really possible for someone who calls himself a socialist to be elected president of the United States?
SANDERS: Well, so long as we know what democratic socialism is. And if we know that in countries, in Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries, obviously. The voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, health care is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education, graduate school is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, childcare are stronger than in the United States of America. And in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I can hear the Republican attack ad right now. He wants American to look more like Scandinavia.
SANDERS: That's right. That's right. And what's wrong with that? ...
One other thing too about Scandinavia...
Although no country in the world has yet achieved gender equality, the Nordic countries consistently stand out in the World Economic Forum's annual Global Gender Gap Report, which measures how well countries are doing at removing the obstacles that hold women back.
In this year's report, Iceland holds the top spot for the fifth consecutive year with Finland, Norway and Sweden following close behind. With the exception of Denmark, all Nordic countries have closed over 80 percent of the gender gap, making them useful as both role models and benchmarks. So, what is the secret of their success?
While many developed economies have succeeded in closing the gender gap in education, few have succeeded in maximizing the returns on this investment. The Nordic countries are leaders in this area -- all five countries feature in the top 25 of the economic participation and opportunity pillar of the Global Gender Gap Index. This is because of a combination of factors: high female labour force participation; salary gaps between women and men among the lowest in the world, although not non-existent; and abundant opportunities for women to rise to positions of leadership.
While patterns vary across the Nordic countries, on the whole, these economies have made it possible for parents to combine work and family, resulting in more women in the workplace, more shared participation in childcare, more equitable distribution of labour at home, better work-life balance for both women and men and, in some cases, a boost to waning fertility rates.
Policies in these countries include mandatory paternal leave in combination with maternity leave, generous, state-mandated parental leave benefits provided by a combination of social insurance funds and employers, tax incentives and post-maternity re-entry programmes. Together, these policies have lowered the opportunity costs of having children and led to relatively higher and rising birth rates, as compared to other ageing, developed economies.
There has also been success with policies aimed at promoting women's leadership. In Norway, since 2008, publicly listed companies have been required to have 40 percent of each sex on their boards. Other countries are adopting similar measures. Historically, the Nordic countries gained a head start by giving women the right to vote before others (Sweden in 1919, Norway in 1913, Iceland and Denmark in 1915, Finland in 1906). In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, political parties introduced voluntary gender quotas in the 1970s, resulting in high numbers of female political representatives over the years. In Denmark, in fact, this quota has since been abandoned as no further stimulus is required.
Today, Sweden has among the highest percentages of women in parliament in the world (44.7 percent) while the other Nordic countries are almost as successful. Indeed, all the Nordic countries are in the top 10 for the number of women in parliament. These countries have a similarly strong record on the percentage of women in ministerial level positions, with Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland the four best countries in that category out of the 136 countries covered by the report. Finally, Iceland, Finland and Norway are among the top 10 countries in terms of the number of years with a female head of state or government, although the world as a whole does poorly on this indicator.
I'm going to guess that Sanders and Clinton would both be on board with all those policies. Republicans, not so much. Just last week the House voted to allow employers to fire women for having abortions. No seriously, they did.
more from Bernie here
digby 5/03/2015 04:00:00 PM
This is for all the cynics who deride people for trying something and then changing their minds when it turns out they were wrong:
The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking! Oglethorpe University Commencement Address (22 May 1932).
digby 5/03/2015 02:30:00 PM
Teens having sex? Say it ain't so ...
Kaili Joy Gray at Wonkette:
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, for example, just won an award for reducing the state’s teen birth rate by 40 percent, which sounds pretty impressive. More impressive than the states where they only teach kids Just Don’t Do Sex and somehow have the highest teen pregnancy rates, WEIRD.
You shouldn't need to see anything more than that to know that this is about sex. Specifically it's about girls having it without paying "the price" of motherhood.
You’d think any program that can produce those kinds of results would really appeal to conservative family values types who believe only nice white married ladies who live in split-level suburban homes while their husbands are corporate jobbing for The Man should have babies (lots of babies!). But hahahah, you’d be an idiot if you thought that, because the reason the state’s teen birth rates have been cut almost in half is that the program distributes reduced-cost or even free IUDs to low-income teens, so that when they do sex — as teens do, no matter what you tell them at Bible study — they do not get pregnant:
Nonetheless, right-wing Republicans balked at the idea of using public dollars to fund IUDs, suggesting that it amounts to subsidizing teenagers’ sex lives. Some opponents also claimed that IUDs are “abortifacients” that shouldn’t be paid for with government money. On Wednesday, a GOP-controlled Senate committee voted down a bill that would have appropriated $5 million toward the program.
They aren't even persuaded by money on this one. According to the article that 5 million dollars would save the state 49 million over a hundred million in Medicaid costs. But there's no price too high to "send a message" that women should only have sex in order to procreate. (Boys, on the other hand, will be boys, amirite? No stopping that ...)
digby 5/03/2015 01:30:00 PM
Right wing populism in a nutshell
Howie at DWT featured a piece this morning about a fatuous right wing attempt to co-opt the legacy of the great Barbara Jordan in the cause of bigotry. (Don't ask ... ) He quotes a piece from the National Review that spells out their thinking:
On April 15, the editors of the New York Times felt compelled to denounce a Washington Post op-ed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), in which he called for reduced immigration to help raise the wages of American workers. The Times' editors were particularly miffed that “Mr. Sessions accuses the financial and political ‘elite’ of a conspiracy to keep wages down through immigration” (“elite” is put in sneer quotes, as if there were no elite). What is important to note is not the Times’ ad hominem attack on Sessions (“choosing . . . to echo an uglier time in our history”) but the fact that the editors believed that the senator’s populist argument required an official response.
See, they hate the 1% too! Kumbaya, baby.
Almost simultaneously, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker articulated a populist-tinged message, declaring that our legal-immigration system “ultimately has to protect American workers and make sure American wages are going up.” This set off a firestorm of controversy and placed conservative populism directly into the 2016 presidential race.
Since the 2013 debate on the Senate immigration bill, conservative economic populism has been slowly, but steadily, emerging. In a harbinger of the future, in July 2013, Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol, the editors of two leading conservative journals, National Review and the Weekly Standard, added a pro-working-class populist argument to the more common “enforcement first” stance. In a joint op-ed attacking the Senate bill, Lowry and Kristol wrote that “the last thing” low-skilled workers “should have to deal with is wage-depressing competition from newly arriving workers.”
In June 2014, underdog candidate David Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) in a stunning primary upset by running a strong economic-populist campaign that emphasized immigration. Brat attacked Cantor’s close ties to Big Business and charged that the majority leader “works with multinational corporations to boost the inflow of low-wage guest workers to reduce Virginians’ wages and employment opportunities.”
...After Dave Brat’s victory, Tucker Carlson told Sean Hannity: “He [Brat] wasn’t [just] making the case against amnesty-- lots of people do that-- he was making a case for better wages,” arguing that increasing immigration will depress wages “for middle-class workers.” When the Schumer–Rubio bill was being debated, Matthew Continetti, in the Weekly Standard, advocated a “labor Republicanism,” declaring, “A labor Republican opposes the Senate immigration bill not only because it’s a bureaucratic monstrosity, but also because an influx of cheap labor would decrease low-skilled wages.” After Jeff Sessions’s op-ed in the Washington Post, John Hinderaker of Power Line urged “Republican presidential candidates” to “emulate” the senator’s “populist touch.” In the aftermath of the America-first, “wages and workers” controversy stirred up by Scott Walker, Breitbart’s Matt Boyle reported that conservative intellectuals, activists, and media figures (Lowry, Kristol, Coulter, Hannity, Phyllis Schlafly, and Mark Levin) rallied to Walker’s side.
...The immigration narrative articulated by conservative populists is winning more and more adherents. At the most fundamental level, this narrative argues that immigration policy should serve American national interests and the interests of American citizens-- not the special interests of business, union, political, and ethnic elites.
But we really should ask what it is they mean by that before we get all excited about transpartisan kinship between Occupy and the Tea Party. When they talk about populism they mean this: the 1% (which also consists of the unions and the political and "ethnic" elites --- a very interesting term I haven't heard before) wants to let foreigners steal the good jobs from Real Americans.
So it has always been. I wrote this after David Brat when everyone was insisting it had nothing to do with the immigration bashing that surrounded his campaign:
It's interesting that there seems to be emerging a duel interpretation of the reasons for Cantor's loss. On the one side, there is the standard CW that he lost because of his harsh immigration stance, which was blasted out to the true believers through talk radio. And the other is the idea that he lost because he was too close to elites, particularly financial elites. The fact is that Brat ran on both of those issues simultaneously. They are two sides of the same ideological coin. It's called right-wing populism.
I wrote about this a decade or so ago when the Democrats kept whining that the guys with confederate flags on their trucks should be voting for them because they need health care too:
To put together this great new populist revival everybody's talking about, where we get the boys in the pick-up trucks to start voting their "self-interest," we're probably going to need to get up a new nativist movement to go along with it. That's pretty much how populism has always been played in the past, particularly in the south. Certainly, you can rail against the moneyed elites, but there is little evidence that it will work unless you provide somebody on the bottom that the good ole boys can really stomp. As Jack Balkin wrote in this fascinating piece on populism and progressivism:
History teaches us that populism has recurring pathologies; it is especially important to recognize and counteract them. These dangers are particularly obvious to academics and other intellectual elites: They include fascism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, persecution of unpopular minorities, exaltation of the mediocre, and romantic exaggeration of the wisdom and virtue of the masses.
Is it any wonder that the right has been more successful in recently in inflaming the populist impulse in America? They are not squeamish about using just those pathologies --- and only those pathologies -- to gain populist credibility in spite of a blatant lack of populist policy.
That is not to say that populism is evil. It is just another political philosophy that has its bad side, as every philosophy does. Balkin describes it in great depth, but here's a capsulized version:
The dual nature of populism means that political participation is not something to be forced on the citizenry, nor are popular attitudes some sort of impure ore that must be carefully filtered, purified, and managed by a wise and knowing state. From a populist standpoint, such attempts at managerial purification are paternalistic. They typify elite disparagement and disrespect for popular attitudes and popular culture. Government should provide opportunities for popular participation when people seek it, and when they seek it, government should not attempt to divert or debilitate popular will. An energized populace, aroused by injustice and pressing for change, is not something to be feared and constrained; it is the very lifeblood of democracy. Without avenues for popular participation and without means for popular control, governments become the enemy of the people; public and private power become entrenched, self-satisfied, and smug.
Progressivism, or modern liberalism, takes a distinctly different view:
Central to progressivism is a faith that educated and civilized individuals can, through the use of reason, determine what is best for society as a whole. Persuasion, discussion, and rational dialogue can lead individuals of different views to see what is in the public interest. Government and public participation must therefore be structured so as to produce rational deliberation and consensus about important public policy issues. Popular culture and popular will have a role to play in this process, but only after sufficient education and only after their more passionate elements have been diverted and diffused. Popular anger and uneducated public sentiments are more likely to lead to hasty and irrational judgments.
Like populists, progressives believe that governments must be freed of corrupting influences. But these corrupting influences are described quite differently: They include narrowness of vision, ignorance, and parochial self-interest. Government must be freed of corruption so that it can wisely debate what is truly in the public interest. Progressivism is less concerned than populism about centralization and concentration of power. It recognizes that some problems require centralized authority and that some enterprises benefit from economies of scale. Progressivism also has a significantly different attitude towards expertise: Far from being something to be distrusted, it is something to be particularly prized.
What is more difficult for many academics to recognize is that progressivism has its own distinctive dangers and defects. Unfortunately, these tend to be less visible from within a progressivist sensibility. They include elitism, paternalism, authoritarianism, naivete, excessive and misplaced respect for the "best and brightest," isolation from the concerns of ordinary people, an inflated sense of superiority over ordinary people, disdain for popular values, fear of popular rule, confusion of factual and moral expertise, and meritocratic hubris.
And there you see the basis for right wing populist hatred of liberals. And it's not altogether untrue, is it? Certainly, those of us who argue from that perspective should be able to recognise and deal with the fact that this is how we are perceived by many people and try to find ways to allay those concerns. The problem is that it's quite difficult to do.
Richard Hofstadter famously wrote that both populism and early progressivism were heavily fueled by nativism and there is a lot of merit in what he says. Take, for instance, prohibition (one of William Jennigs Bryant's Bryan's major campaign issues.)Most people assume that when it was enacted in 1920, it was the result of do-gooderism, stemming from the tireless work by progressives who saw drink as a scourge for the family, and women in particular. But the truth is that Prohibition was mostly supported by rural southerners and midwesterners who were persuaded that alcohol was the province of immigrants in the big cities who were polluting the culture with their foreign ways. And progressives did nothing to dispel that myth --- indeed they perpetuated it. This was an issue, in its day, that was as important as gay marriage is today. The country divided itself into "wets" and "drys" and many a political alliance was made or broken by taking one side of the issue or another. Bryan, the populist Democrat, deftly exploited this issue to gain his rural coalition --- and later became the poster boy for creationism, as well. (Not that he wasn't a true believer, he was; but his views on evolution were influenced by his horror at the eugenics movement. He was a complicated guy.) And prohibition turned out to be one of the most costly and silly diversions in American history.
It is not a surprise that prohibition was finally enacted in 1920, which is also the time that the Ku Klux Klan reasserted itself and became more than just a southern phenomenon. The Klan's reemergence was the result of the post war clamor against commies and immigrants. The rural areas, feeling besieged by economic pressure (which manifested themselves much earlier there than the rest of the country) and rapid social change could not blame their own beloved America for its problems so they blamed the usual suspects, including their favorite whipping boy, uppity African Americans.
They weren't only nativist, though. In the southwest, and Texas in particular, they were upset by non-Protestant immorality. According to historian Charles C. Alexander:
"There was also in the Klan a definite strain of moral bigotry. Especially in the Southwest this zeal found expression in direct, often violent, attempts to force conformity. Hence the southwestern Klansman's conception of reform encompassed efforts to preserve premarital chastity, marital fidelity, and respect for parental authority; to compel obedience to state and national prohibition laws; to fight the postwar crime wave; and to rid state and local governments of dishonest politicians." Individuals in Texas thus were threatened, beaten, or tarred-and-feathered for practicing the "new morality," cheating on their spouses, beating their spouses or children, looking at women in a lewd manner, imbibing alcohol, etc.
Yeah, I know. The more things change, yadda, yadda, yadda. The interesting thing about all this is that throughout the 20's the south was Democratic as it had always been --- and populist, as it had long been. But when the Dems nominated Al Smith in 1928, many Democrats deserted the party and voted for Hoover. Why? Because Smith was an urban machine politician, a Catholic and anti-prohibition. Texas went for Hoover --- he was from rural Iowa, favored prohibition and was a Protestant. Preachers combed the south decrying the Catholic nominee --- saying the Pope would be running the country. Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia went Republican, too. Now, one can't deny that the boom of the 20's was instrumental in Hoover's victory, but rural America had been undergoing an economic crisis for some time. However, then, like now, rural American populists preferred to blame their problems on racial and ethnic influences than the moneyed elites who actually cause them. It's a psychological thing, I think.
(By 1932, of course, all hell had broken loose. Nobody cared anymore about booze or catholics or rich New Yorkers in the White House. They were desperate for somebody to do something. And Roosevelt promised to do something. Extreme crisis has a way of clarifying what's important.)
Bashing immigrants and elites at the same time has a long pedigree and it is the most efficient way to bag some of those pick-up truck guys who are voting against their economic self-interest. There is little evidence that bashing elites alone actually works. And that's because what you are really doing is playing to their prejudices and validating their tribal instinct that says the reason for their economic problems is really the same reason for the cultural problems they already believe they have --- aliens taking over Real America --- whether liberals, immigrants, blacks, commies, Wall Street whomever.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the fear of ISIS and the Ayatollah and what not coming over the border to behead Christians on the streets of Omaha is part and parcel of that worldview.
digby 5/03/2015 11:30:00 AM
"also :GOP nominee"
digby 5/03/2015 09:30:00 AM
Death and dishonor
by Tom Sullivan
No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
– General George S. Patton
The Patton quote above gained new notoriety after it opened the movie Patton in 1970. For several years, an autograph my father-in-law got from Patton during the war has been in a large envelope on the shelf here. I never looked at it until just now. It's on a program from the Folies Bergère. I looked at it this morning because I'm still processing the week's events in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray homicide in Baltimore. I looked at it because it seems some of our police believe they're fighting a war, a war to be won by ensuring the other poor dumb bastard dies first.
Six Baltimore police officers now face "a litany of charges that include second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, false imprisonment and misconduct in office." Recent killings by police in Ferguson, in New York, and in North Charleston brought to mind another well-known quote, not from war, but policing:
Malone: You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.
– The Untouchables (1987)
Protests turned to riot and looting after Freddie Gray's funeral last week. Whenever that occurs in a black neighborhood, pundits rush to explain it as a symptom of a dysfunctional culture in the black community. Maybe it's time to examine whether "the first rule" hasn't bred a dysfunctional police culture in some departments. Because it's not just a dramatic device from the movies.
Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News has heard that trope too: “The No. 1 duty of a police officer is to go home to his or her family at the end of the shift.” Really? he asked back in March:
If self-preservation is the first and foremost priority of a police officer, then you get what we have seen in recent months and years — a series of unsettling police shootings.
You get what we saw on that video released last week showing Dallas police shooting a mentally ill man nonchalantly holding a screwdriver in his hands.
You get the questions swirling around the shooting death last month of an unarmed man said to be approaching a Grapevine officer with his hands raised.
It would explain other such shootings in situations that seemed to pose no immediate threat to officers.
Maybe it’s time to quit nodding along and question the maxim that going home at the end of the day trumps all other considerations.
Is that how we train firefighters? Not to save people trapped in burning buildings because they might not go home to fight fires another day?
From childhood we are taught that policemen and firefighters (and soldiers) who risk their lives to save their fellow citizens deserve honor and respect. Putting others' lives before their own is how that respect is earned. Yet "the first rule of law enforcement" is in direct conflict with that. Perhaps it is
“better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.” But where is the honor in being paid to put your own safety first?
The "officer survival movement" has made it a key part of the training that officer safety is paramount. And that's fine to a point. But combined with the military surplus gear being handed out like candy by the federal government, the "first rule" has bred an officer survival culture. It trains for a "warrior mentality [that] makes policing less safe for both officers and civilians," writes Seth Stoughton, a former officer and professor of law at the University of South Carolina. Furthermore:
Police training needs to go beyond emphasizing the severity of the risks that officers face by taking into account the likelihood of those risks materializing. Policing has risks—serious ones—that we cannot casually dismiss. Over the last ten years, an annual average of 51 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty according to data collected by the FBI. In the same time period, an average of 57,000 officers were assaulted every year (though only about 25 percent of those assaults result in any physical injuries). But for all of its risks, policing is safer now than it has ever been. Violent attacks on officers, particularly those that involve a serious physical threat, are few and far between when you take into account the fact that police officers interact with civilians about 63 million times every year. In percentage terms, officers were assaulted in about 0.09 percent of all interactions, were injured in some way in 0.02 percent of interactions, and were feloniously killed in 0.00008 percent of interactions. Adapting officer training to these statistics doesn’t minimize the very real risks that officers face, but it does help put those risks in perspective. Officers should be trained to keep that perspective in mind as they go about their jobs.
Here endeth the lesson.
Undercover Blue 5/03/2015 06:00:00 AM
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Saturday Night at the Movies
2015 SIFF Preview
By Dennis Hartley
In case this has been keeping you up nights, I have been accredited for the Seattle International Film Festival (May 14th through June 7th). Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. SIFF is showing 193 feature films, 70 documentaries and 164 shorts this year (ow, my ass). That must be great for independently wealthy slackers, but for those of us who work for a living (*cough*), it’s not easy to find the time and energy to catch 16 films a day (I did the math). The trick is developing a sixth sense for films in your wheelhouse (in my case, embracing my OCD and channeling it like a cinematic dowser.) That in mind, here are some titles on my “to-do” list for 2015:
Of particular interest to Hullabaloo readers, SIFF is featuring a fair number of promising documentaries with a socio-political bent. Marc Silver’s 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets delves into the senseless 2012 murder of Jordan Davis, an African-American teenager shot by a middle-aged white man who became enraged by the loud rap music emanating from the victim’s SUV. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution looks to be a long-overdue retrospective on an impactful, yet curiously under-examined corollary of the American civil rights movement. Best of Enemies recounts the classic “point/counterpoint” political debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal that took place on live TV during the 1968 elections (sharpen your knives!). French director Stephanie Valloatto’s Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy profiles a dozen political cartoonists from around the world, who open up about their craft, and what it’s like to practice it under some of your more oppressive governments…who fail to see the humor.
Speaking of oppression, I’m really intrigued by the premise of The Forecaster, a documentary from Germany regarding Martin Armstrong, who invented the esoteric “Economic Confidence Model” in the early 80s, then proceeded to make gazillions of dollars predicting market crises and global conflicts with uncanny accuracy. This formula not only made the big bankers feel a funny tingle down there, but excited the FBI enough to get Armstrong put away for 12 years in the pen for what they called “a Ponzi scheme” (even though no judgement was passed on him). Now he’s out, making his “scariest prediction yet”. I want to see this one, because I need more things to worry about at night.
More politics: Bonifacio (from the Philippines) is a historical biopic about Filipino nationalist Andres Bonafacio, who led a revolution against his nation’s Spanish rulers in the late 1800s. Another biopic I’d like to check out is The Golden Era, a Hong Kong production that dramatizes a defining period in the life of author/essayist Xio Hang, an influential progressive political voice in China during the 1930s. And sexual politics are spotlighted in the film Challat of Tunis, a Tunisian “mockumentary” (based on actual events) that is described to be “an ironic feminist sendup” of sexism in the Arab World.
And now for something completely different. I always look forward to SIFF’s “Face the Music” showcase. From the UK, the documentary 808 remembers the 80s (is that necessary?) via a compendium of everything you ever wanted to know about the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer drum machine, which played a critical role during the genesis of hip-hop and electronica. Colin Hanks directed All Things Must Pass, a doc about the rise and (*sob*) fall of Tower Records (I anticipate getting all choked up…I used to fucking live in record stores). Beats of the Antonov looks to be a unique documentary from Sudan that profiles how the rich musical culture of that nation’s southern region flourishes, despite the travails of an endless civil war. And I have high expectations (no pun intended) for the Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, which utilizes some interesting stunt-casting: Paul Dano as the “I wonder if this much acid is bad for me?” 60s-era Brian, and John Cusack as the “Yep, ‘spose it was” Dr. Eugene Landy-era Brian.
This year, SIFF spotlights a number of “movies about the movies”. Three documentaries in particular are on my list, and the titles are self-explanatory: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films, Fassbinder: To Love without Demands and Tab Hunter Confidential. And a biopic: Eisenstein in Guanajuato (that’s “special interest”).
I’m always a sucker for a good noir/crime/mystery thriller. From Belgium, Alleluia is a true-crime thriller based on the Lonely Hearts Killers (the case was previously dramatized in Leonard Kastle’s no-budget 1969 cult favorite, The Honeymoon Killers). The Connection is a French crime thriller being billed as “the flipside” of William Friedkin’s The French Connection, and stars Jean Dujardin. Also from France: The Price of Fame, billed as “an upbeat comedy” is based on the true story of a pair of bungling grave robbers who exhume Charlie Chaplin’s remains in hopes of holding “him” for ransom. It wouldn’t be a proper SIFF without at least one worthwhile South Korean “cop on the edge” drama, and I’m placing my bets on A Hard Day, which centers on a homicide detective who tries to cover up his own “hit and run” crime. And Kevin Bacon stars as a rural sheriff in a “lean, mean thriller” called Cop Car, presented as part of a special SIFF “tribute” event celebrating the ubiquitous actor’s career (Bacon will attend).
I always try to leave enough room on my plate to squeeze in some sci-fi and fantasy. This year’s selections include 2045 Carnival Folklore, a Japanese post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller shot in B&W, set to a noise rock soundtrack and looking to be chock-a-block with much “destined for cult status” weirdness (so count me in). From Ethiopia, Beti and Amare is set in the mid-1930s against the backdrop of the Italo-Ethiopian War, and concerns a teenage girl who becomes immersed in a strange dream world while hiding out from Mussolini’s troops (strong echoes of Pan’s Labyrinth). Liza, the Fox Fairy is a Hungarian film (based on Japanese folklore) centering on a young woman who may (or may not) be a “demon who sucks the souls out of the men she meets” (Worst. Date. Ever.). I always get geeky with excitement when I hear about a new film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli: When Marnie Was There is the latest from the world’s top anime studio.
A few more odds and ends…I notice a proliferation of “foodie” documentaries on SIFF’s menu this year. Personally, eating is something I’d rather “do” than “watch”, but if I feel the urge to indulge in food porn, I’m considering The Birth of Sake as a cocktail, Steak (R)evolution as an entrée, with That Sugar Film for dessert. One film that’s sure to generate a lot of interest (for unfortunate reasons) is indie filmmaker Dino Montiel’s drama Boulevard, which features Robin Williams in one of his final performances as a closeted man who abandons his “marriage of convenience” to pursue a relationship with a younger man. Ending on a lighter note...Hedi Schneider is Stuck is a German comedy (is that an oxymoron?) that promises to milk laughs from “the ever-so-serious topics of clinical depression and emergency tranquilizers”. One could argue Woody Allen has already staked that claim, but I’m still intrigued. And even if the “darkly funny” Manson Family Vacation turns out to be a dud…at least the title made me fall out of my chair.
I can’t guarantee that I will catch every film that I’d like to, gentle reader- but you will be the first to receive a full report, beginning with my Saturday, May 16th post. And obviously, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the catalog tonight. So in the meantime, visit the SIFF website for more info about the 2015 films, events and the festival guests.
Dennis Hartley 5/02/2015 05:30:00 PM