Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Heather Mizeur is the future of the Democratic Party
One of the first candidates Blue America endorsed in this cycle was Heather Mizeur for Governor of Maryland. We think she's the future of the Democratic Party. Here are a few reasons why:
Her platform ... contains nearly every next-wave energizing idea in liberal politics—the sort of stuff that, she thinks, by 2016 or 2020 will be a necessary on Democratic presidential candidates’ primary platforms.
That's from a story about her race in the Daily Beast. (And yes, she is a pro-pot lesbian, as the headline states, but as you can see that's only one element of her awesomeness.)
The central item is a plan to legalize and tax marijuana and use the receipts to fund a pricey universal pre-kindergarten program. She wants to increase the minimum wage up to a living wage—$16.70/hour and indexed to inflation—gradually by 2022. She’s outspoken on environmental issues and has fought the fracking industry in natural-gas rich Western Maryland. In the criminal justice system, Mizeur wants to eliminate mandatory minimum drug sentences and replace the cash bail system with a risk-assessment program. She would reinstate the state’s lapsed “millionaire’s tax” on upper-income earners and give a modest income tax cut to everyone else; similarly, she’d fund tax rebates for small businesses with the revenue derived from closing the “combined reporting” loophole that allows certain large companies to avoid paying the state’s corporate income tax. On health care, her immediate goals are to put in place a series of measures to make Medicaid enrollment smoother. By 2017, though, she intends to make use of an innovation waiver for which states will be eligible to “look at ways to go above and beyond what was ever laid out as a vision for health reform under the Affordable Care Act”—meaning, perhaps, eliminating the insurance “middleman” altogether.
This is what Blue America is all about. We believe that by helping candidates like Mizeur make this case in races around the country we just might be able to move this country back in a sane direction. It's hard to turn a ship this big, especially one that's been turning hard to starboard for so long. But it can be done. Over time. With patience and persistence.
If you'd like to see more people with Heather Mizeur's platform running for office, supporting Heather Mizeur is a great start! Win or lose this race, she is a very serious politician with a very bright future. She's out there spreading the good word every day, working very hard to win --- and she could do it. The Democratic Lieutenant Governor who is in the lead in this race is also the guy who was in charge of Maryland's disastrous Obamacare roll-out. Heather Mizeur, on the other hand, is a health care policy expert. She wrote John Kerry's health plan in 2004. Just saying. You can donate to her campaign here.
digby 3/11/2014 04:30:00 PM
An update on the billionaire lawsuit to destroy teachers unions
by David Atkins
Regular readers here will remember that I wrote a while back about the Vergara v. California trial, which is essentially an attempt by the billionaire education "reform" crowd to achieve through a ridiculous lawsuit what they have not been able to accomplish by convincing voters. The gist of the suit is that union provisions to protect teachers hurt students, thereby harming their civil rights.
It sounds ridiculous, and it is. The plaintiffs picked a few underperforming students as their "victims" in the case, and have argued that because these particular students were allegedly somehow harmed by protections for teachers, therefore all students in California are hamed and that almost the entirety of public employee union contract law in the teaching profession should be dissolved. Even more ridiculous, right?
The State of California asked the judge to throw out the case on the grounds that even if these few plaintiffs were harmed (and they almost certainly were not), that doesn't create the grounds for destroying union protections across the state.
Unfortunately the judge dismissed that request. Which doesn't seem like such a big deal, until you consider the implications. Even if the plaintiffs lose badly in this case as they should, the precedent set here is that if billionaire "reformers" can find even a single student whose studies were supposedly harmed by poor teaching, then that becomes grounds for challenging the entirety of state law regarding job protections for teachers. Watch for this strategy to be repeated in state after state across the nation.
Karoli at Crooks and Liars has more:
Plaintiffs take that one step further and argue that one student harmed is cause to overturn the statutes on the theory that all students are harmed.This is one of the most consequential legal battles in America right now. The Masters of the Universe aren't content to own almost everything. Education and Social Security are two of the last big pots of money they don't completely control yet, and they can't stand that. These people want to make huge profits off parents by creating a "market" in education, while simultaneously molding young minds into more efficient corporate drones.
The "systemic problem" theory screams for the entire universe of plaintiffs to offer their testimony. After all, it shouldn't simply be the children of cherry-picked underprivileged parents with complaints, but any student in any public school who claims to have had an ineffective teacher.
It concerns me that the judge has allowed this lawsuit to continue after the plaintiffs presented their case, because it suggests that the underlying theory of 'harm one, harm all' may be one that Judge Treu agrees with. If he does, a decision affirming that theory could upend years of employment and education law not only in California, but across the nation.
That outcome would please the self-anointed education-reforming billionaires, who view teachers' unions as the last remaining barrier to a full corporate takeover of public education. If they're able to break teachers, they figure they own the whole "market."
Neither of those things should be allowed to happen.
thereisnospoon 3/11/2014 03:00:00 PM
Fun with taser drones
Spocko wrote up the SXSW taser drone stunt:
What I love about this stunt is that it was designed and developed to be the perfect news story and that William “Whurley” Hurley, chief innovation officer, understood that it would be a conversation starter.
Because military drones are a hot topic and SXSW is a large global event, Hurley said they decided to bring to life the “fantasy of some people and nightmares of others.”
“We wanted to have an educated, well-informed discussion about how people feel about this as a society, or whether you’re a police officer or private citizen,” Hurley said. - ABC News
So, maybe we should have that discussion.
Fat chance. It appears that the company was being facetious in its portrayal of taser drones as "awesome" but I have no doubt that a whole lot of people will find them super awesome. And tasering people is always good for a chuckle.
As Spocko rightly points out in his piece, despite a few local victories in the drone sphere, there are a whole lot of conversations we desperately need to have about drones and tasers. But first we should probably try to stop using torture as entertainment.
digby 3/11/2014 01:30:00 PM
What is this "full employment" you speak of?
Not that very many people seem to give a damn, but we're nowhere near full employment. In January: 10.2 million job seekers were competing for 4 million job openings. 60% of job seekers weren't going to find job no matter what. (But by all means, let's cut benefits for these lazy sods. Don't they have the entrepreneurial energy to become criminals and prostitutes?)
EPI has issued a long report on the flailing job market with accompanying charts. Here's one:
This recovery's really roaring, isn't it? There's a lot of important information in this report, including policy recommendations that everyone should read.
I found these charts about how wrong the CBO projections have been to be particularly interesting:
They made their best guesses at the time. Nobody can accurately tell the future. But it's interesting that the deficit hawks live and die by the projections of debt as far as the eye can see, but are untroubled by the inaccuracy of the growth and unemployment projections.
digby 3/11/2014 12:00:00 PM
Feinstein vs Brennan
Say what you will about Dianne Feinstein's less than stellar oversight performance (and I have said plenty) on torture, at least, she has been better. And she's had it. She made a speech n the floor of the Senate today about the CIA's outrageous spying on Senate staffers and uncooperative behavior with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The speech is long and filled with details. She discusses the torture allegations and the horrific history that led up to this moment:
On March 5, 2009, the committee voted 14-1 to initiate a comprehensive review of the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. Immediately, we sent a request for documents to all relevant executive branch agencies, chiefly among them the CIA.
It has up to this point failed to intervene on behalf of the Senate, however.
The committee’s preference was for the CIA to turn over all responsive documents to the committee’s office, as had been done in previous committee investigations.
Director Panetta proposed an alternative arrangement: to provide literally millions of pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos, and other documents pursuant to the committee’s document requests at a secure location in Northern Virginia. We agreed, but insisted on several conditions and protections to ensure the integrity of this congressional investigation.
Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”
It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA this past January, and once before which I will later describe.
In addition to demanding that the documents produced for the committee be reviewed at a CIA facility, the CIA also insisted on conducting a multi-layered review of every responsive document before providing the document to the committee. This was to ensure the CIA did not mistakenly provide documents unrelated to the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program or provide documents that the president could potentially claim to be covered by executive privilege.
While we viewed this as unnecessary and raised concerns that it would delay our investigation, the CIA hired a team of outside contractors—who otherwise would not have had access to these sensitive documents—to read, multiple times, each of the 6.2 million pages of documents produced, before providing them to fully-cleared committee staff conducting the committee’s oversight work. This proved to be a slow and very expensive process.
The CIA started making documents available electronically to the committee staff at the CIA leased facility in mid-2009. The number of pages ran quickly to the thousands, tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands, and then into the millions. The documents that were provided came without any index, without organizational structure. It was a true “document dump” that our committee staff had to go through and make sense of.
In order to piece together the story of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the committee staff did two things that will be important as I go on:
First, they asked the CIA to provide an electronic search tool so they could locate specific relevant documents for their search among the CIA-produced documents—just like you would use a search tool on the Internet to locate information.
Second, when the staff found a document that was particularly important or that might be referenced in our final report, they would often print it or make a copy of the file on their computer so they could easily find it again. There are thousands of such documents in the committee’s secure spaces at the CIA facility.
Now, prior removal of documents by CIA. In early 2010, the CIA was continuing to provide documents, and the committee staff was gaining familiarity with the information it had already received.
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
Read the whole speech. And then ask yourself why citizens should be so willing to trust these secret agencies with all of our personal information.
Someone should also ask Dianne Feinstein why average citizens who have done nothing wrong shouldn't be as outraged by the government collecting private information about them simply because it might become useful later on as she is about the Senate staffers' computers being monitored by the CIA? It sounds like she's plenty angry. Like many people, even Senators sometimes don't understand the implications of certain government actions until it happens to them personally. Maybe she now has an inkling of how unprincipled this whole regime is.
Update: John Brennan responded at the Council on Foreign Relations
Brennan says the reason the Senate report on CIA torture has not been released is because the committee itself has not submitted the report to CIA for declassification review.
I guess he sees himself as Jesus.
“It’s not as though we’re holding it back... it’s up to them,” Brennan says.
“I think they missed a lot of important points. ... It’s their prerogative. I’m not going to stand in the way. However I am going to protect sources and methods...”
“Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” Brennan says, showing off his knowledge of the gospels and revealing in his tone that the yoke of oversight does chafe a bit.
digby 3/11/2014 10:30:00 AM
Dusting off the old Clinton character assassination manual
Roger Simon has a Politico piece up about the latest Hillary scandal-mongering. As a public service, as these things crop up I'll try to interpret for you what they're really saying (aside from simple character assasination, obviously.)
If you are not familiar with the lurid particulars of the past claims about the Clintons, just wait. As 2016 draws closer, the right wing will provide a refresher course for you.
Interpretation: She looks like a hag and is too old to run for president. Also too, her husband is obviously schtupping a younger woman (and really, can you blame him?) See: hag, old.
In fact, it is starting already. In case you haven’t heard, Hillary Clinton may have a secret, terrible illness that will prevent her from running for president in 2016. Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, Matt Drudge and Roger Stone, often described as a “self-admitted GOP hit man,” have spread the rumor.
On Feb. 24 of this year, Stone, who now says he is a Libertarian, tweeted: “@HillaryClinton not running for health reasons. Remember you heard it first from the #StoneZone.”
Four days later, Rush Limbaugh began a broadcast: “Whispers are persisting, whispers — there’s a whisper campaign, folks — that Mrs. Clinton is sick; that she will not run for the presidency because she is sick.”
Limbaugh went on to speculate that it was Democrats and not Republicans who were behind the “rumor campaign” because Republicans lacked the guts for it.
“Do the Republicans have the gonads to do something like this?” Limbaugh asked. “Do the Republicans have the gonads to start a rumor that Mrs. Clinton is ill? It’s Drudge’s lead story there with a picture of Hillary looking like she’s in great stress and distress. The headline is: ‘Is She Sick?’ That’s all it takes, and people start wondering, ‘What kind of sick?’’’
Limbaugh concluded: “If this, indeed, is established as a rumor campaign, my prediction is that a Democrat is behind it. There will be a lot of Republicans trying to take credit for it if it’s a rumor campaign that ends up being successful in terms of damaging her chances to win the presidency.”
It's just the beginning folks. Whether anybody cares about this crap anymore is another question, but there's no doubt the wingnuts are going to dust off their Clinton character assassination manual. Those were their glory days. And just think, they won't be called racist for doing it. (Sexist yes, but I don't think that carries quite the same punch...)
digby 3/11/2014 09:00:00 AM
Up for Climate: a filibuster worth holding
by David Atkins
Call it an empty gesture if you will, but given the utter callousness and anti-science bent of the Republican House it's the best the Senate can do on climate at the moment:
Democrats took to the Senate floor Monday night to talk about global warming and planned not to let up until morning. By midnight, lawmakers had been talking for nearly six hours.It's up to the voters and activists to roust the GOP out of the House Leadership so that we can take action on climate change.
Leading off the dusk-to-dawn talkathon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called climate change "a question of our own survival" and said the United States and other countries have a responsibility to act "before it is too late."
At least 28 senators were expected to participate. But several Democrats who face tough re-election fights in the fall opted to skip the session. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska were among them.
Democratic leaders have no plans to bring a climate bill to the Senate floor this year, so the speeches were about little more than theatrics. House Democrats pushed through a bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming in 2009, then lost their majority the following election. A climate bill led by then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry collapsed in 2010 without a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, one of the organizers, said the all-night session showed that a growing number of senators are committed to working together to confront climate change.
"Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable," Schatz said.
But Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who has written a book denouncing global warming as "the greatest hoax," said Democrats would not convince anyone with their stunt. "They'll have an audience of themselves, so I hope they enjoy it," Inhofe said. Indeed, he was one of only a few Republicans who engaged in the debate. None sided with Democrats.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., retorted that Democrats had received two separate petitions urging them to act, with a total of about 100,000 signatures.
"The American people are listening," Boxer said. "They care." She added that the event should "wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change."
There are skeptics out there, of course, who believe that Democrats won't do it. But that's hard to know unless we have the chance to act and see who the cowards are.
At any rate, congratulations to Senate Democrats for making a ruckus about climate change. It's about time that the future of the planet came off the backburner and was made a top priority.
thereisnospoon 3/11/2014 07:30:00 AM
Monday, March 10, 2014
A counterintuitive liberal argument for how to save America
Emulate the military. No, not by trying to turn this bunch of TV watching mall shoppers into Spartans:
Do what the military does:
Build socialism. Life in the US military is much like life in Sweden (unless you’re off in Afghanistan spreading democracy). The officers in my seminars spent a quarter of their careers in education, because the US military believes in life-long learning. The military also provides socialised healthcare, subsidised childcare, early pensions etc. I’ve never seen a socialist paradise like it, and I grew up in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Most of the military’s entitlements will survive the budget cuts now being proposed by Chuck Hagel, the defence secretary.
Also, if one were to emulate the military in larger society we'd ban guns (no guns on military bases) believe in science,fight racism, make love not war, ditch macho patriotic posturing. And:
Cut military spending...Admiral Mike Mullen, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was part of a group that in 2012 took out newspaper ads saying that “increased defense spending” was no longer “required to maintain security”. Now Hagel has outraged congressional Republicans with his plan to shrink the army to 440,000-450,000 personnel. That would be its lowest level since 1940 – but exactly the number the army’s chief of staff Ray Odierno described last month as “right”. To save America, shrink the military.
Embrace big government. You get what you pay for. That $646bn in taxpayers’ money created the world’s strongest military. If the US lavished similar sums on trains or schools, they might be pretty good too.
h/t to jbf
digby 3/10/2014 06:00:00 PM
They'd rather die than be wrong about Obamacare
It doesn't matter if they'll save money and get better coverage they just know they're going to die:
A Dexter cancer patient featured in a conservative group’s TV ad campaign denouncing her new health care coverage as “unaffordable” will save more than $1,000 this year under the plan, The Detroit News has learned.
You know, I probably have as much disdain for Republicans as they have for me. But if one of them were to show me irrefutable proof that say, America has fewer gun deaths than other places due to our proliferation of gun ownership, I would have no choice but to believe it. These people simply put their fingers in their ears and sing "lalalalala".
Julie Boonstra, 49, starred last month in an emotional television ad, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, that implied Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ vote for the Affordable Care Act made her medication so “unaffordable” that she could die. Peters of Bloomfield Township is running for an open U.S. Senate seat against Republican Terri Lynn Land.
Boonstra said Monday her new plan she dislikes is the Blue Cross Premier Gold health care plan — which caps patient responsibility for out-of-pocket costs at $5,100 a year, lower than the federal law’s maximum of $6,350 a year. It means the new plan will save her at least $1,200 compared with her former insurance plan she preferred that was ended under Obamacare’s coverage requirements.
A Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan spokesman said the insurer welcomes a chance to help members understand their benefits and alleviate concerns.
“We are here to help people like Ms. Boonstra to work their way through adjusting to the health plans we are now offering them,” the Blue’s Andy Hetzel said. “If there are questions ... they should call.”
Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year, she previously told The Detroit News. It didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses
By contrast, the Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.
When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”
“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.
It reminds me of this moldy trope:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality ...That's not the way the world really works anymore."
It sure doesn't.
digby 3/10/2014 04:30:00 PM
Fracking revolt is the big story coming out of the CA Democratic convention
by David Atkins
The California Democratic Party's convention in Los Angeles just wrapped up. It was a great gathering as usual, with activists up and down the state getting energized to expand and defend the Congressional map, as well as retain and make gains in the statehouse. While all of that is extremely important, of course, it's not exactly newsworthy. Two things of greater interest to the general public did happen, though: first, the state Democratic Party expressly voted to put marijuana legalization into the party platform, validating the forward thinking of activists on that front.
But there was a second, even bigger story of more bleeding edge activism involving fracking. California has a lot of oil deep underground. That oil is hard to reach, dirty, and difficult to refine. In order to get to it, oil companies have to use a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," injecting toxic chemicals deep underground to help reach and extract the oil. That process has terrible environmental impacts, including groundwater pollution and seismic destabilization. But on a larger level, the carbon impact pulling all of the dirty oil out of California's deep reservoirs and burning it would be essentially game over for the climate, pushing CO2 levels into irreversibly destructive territory endangering civilization itself. Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown has been unwilling to sign a fracking moratorium bill into law despite his other excellent, forward-thinking positions on climate change.
In response, activists across the state have become vocal about banning fracking in California--none more so than RL Miller, a Ventura County native, former Ventura County Democratic Party Executive Board member, and good friend who was elected to be Chair of the California Democratic Party's Environmental Caucus two years ago in a contested grassroots surge.
RL Miller took the lead in organizing a silent protest targeting Jerry Brown on his arrival at the Los Angeles Convention Center to speak to the assembled delegates. Protesters carried small anti-fracking signs outside the convention hall, and a large number of delegates also had signs inside the hall.
Hullabaloo vet Dave Dayen was also there and described what happened next:
The activist work on fracking was in evidence in Los Angeles. A packed Environmental caucus on Friday night featured an unlikely set of establishment politicians supporting the moratorium, including Eric Bauman, Vice Chair of the state party, and John Perez, speaker of the Assembly last year when the weaker regulations passed. Perez, now running for state Controller, told the caucus he would push the moratorium through the Assembly this year. Some activists viewed this with skepticism. “When I went to Perez’ office a year ago to ask him to put the moratorium back in the bill, his staff said he had no power to do it,” said Dorothy Reik, a state party delegate and anti-fracking activist. Now when he’s a lame duck, all of a sudden he has the power.”It's doubtful whether the protest will have a direct impact on Governor Brown during the course of this election year, but the tide of Democratic base opinion, including among major party leaders, has definitely turned hard against fracking--thanks in great part to the work of RL Miller and fellow anti-fracking activists.
Miller and her colleagues targeted Governor Brown’s Saturday keynote address, printing up signs that read “Another Democrat Against Fracking” and planning a silent protest, holding up the signs during the speech. Security personnel at the morning session confiscated a number of the signs, but many made their way through to the convention floor. Miller herself was briefly asked to leave the hall but returned without the signs.
Brown, who announced and will likely win a bid for an unprecedented fourth term as governor, began his address amid a smattering of anti-fracking signs in the audience. Still, Brown’s speech was well-received, until he began to discuss the state’s historic drought. Stressing the importance of water conservation, when fracking is incredibly water-intensive, struck some as discordant. “Fracking uses millions of gallons of water and then pollutes that water so it cannot be reused,” Dan Jacobson of Environment California told Salon. “Do we want to start to invest in an industry that uses so much water?”
The expected silent protest suddenly became vocal. Persistent shouts of “No Fracking!” seemed to rattle the normally sure-footed Brown. “All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment,” Brown said, trying to steer the audience back around to his points about fighting climate change with a range of solutions. But he had lost the crowd by then, as the slogans and shouts increased. He concluded by saying, “Thanks a lot, and keep protesting, but add a bunch more stuff.” You can watch video of the speech here.
On a larger level, this is also a testament to the key value of having a progressive inside-outside strategy. When I go to a local protest against fracking, chanting and holding signs, it's more meaningful, impactful and newsworthy if I'm doing so as the leader of the county Democratic Party than as a random citizen. Without becoming delegates to the state Democratic Party, those activists would not have been able to be inside the convention hall, but would have been a wholly ineffective presence outside the hall. RL Miller's activism is far more effective--and newsworthy--because she is not only a fracking and climate activist, but the leader of the California Democratic Party's Environmental Caucus.
A few hundred key people in the inside of the hall can be--and were--far more effective than potential thousands and thousands marching outside of it.
Getting on the inside is a lot of work, and sometimes requires making compromises. But it's worth it. RL Miller did the hard work to organize not just outside of the Party but inside of it, and it paid off by delivering one of the year's most important stories of climate and environmental activism.
thereisnospoon 3/10/2014 03:00:00 PM
Their wisdom makes them weary
There are a whole lot of people to whom we could apply this headline, no?
Leon Wieseltier’s Moral Posturing on Crimea Suggests He Learned Nothing From his Moral Posturing on Iraq
I can think of quite a few right off the top of my head. But this piece by Jim Sleeper is so good, so right, that I won't belabor that point:
...Already I’m swaying gently in anticipation of this week’s rendering of the liturgy. Wieseltier, a celebrant of other people’s courage in Baghdad, Teheran, Hamza, Beijing, and Kiev, rocks himself regularly into supplications for strong American leadership, with rhythmic incantations that aren’t practical or even intellectual but are clearly self-pleasuring. Sometimes they even arouse readers like me:
Read on. You won't regret it. Everything from what I've excerpted to the following conclusion is just great:
“Having deceived the country into believing that almost everything may be accomplished, [Obama] is deceiving it into believing that almost nothing may be accomplished. He is not raising the country up, he is tutoring it in ruefulness and futility. In our foreign policy, we are abandoning the world to its chaos and its cruelty, and disqualifying ourselves from acting on behalf of the largest and the most liberating ideals.”
That was Wieseltier two weeks ago, admonishing the President to respond somehow to Xi Jinping’s vicious crackdown on brave Chinese dissenters such as Xu Zhiyong, who is now a political prisoner following a trial at which he was stopped from reading a statement of liberal-democratic aspirations as eloquent as any that might have come from Wieseltier himself.
But what would Wieseltier have Obama do? “We must mentally arm ourselves against a reality about which we only recently disarmed ourselves: the reality of protracted conflict,” he advises, this time apropos of Russia’s encroachment upon Ukraine. “The lack of preparedness at the White House was not merely a weakness of policy but also a weakness of worldview,” he explains. “The president is too often caught off guard by enmity, and by the nastiness of things. There really is no excuse for being surprised by evil.”
So we must get better at recognizing evil when we see it. Wieseltier anticipated and applauded the preparedness and strong worldview of George W. Bush who, although surprised on 9/11, was never again caught off guard by enmity or evil.
In fact, even as Ground Zero lay smoking only days after 9/11, Wieseltier joined 42 other armchair warriors in delivering prescient strategic and moral advice to Bush in a letter sent Sept. 20, 2001 on the letterhead of William Kristol’s neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC): “[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.”
That’s preparedness for you!
There are indeed times when liberals must fight to defend liberalism, to defeat enemies who’ve arisen, as did fascism and much of Communism, from within the interstices and contradictions of liberal capitalism itself. But Wieseltier lives for those times. Somewhat like Robert Kagan, who exulted, “The world has become normal again” in 2007 when the neoliberal global village started to resemble a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, Wieseltier finds his most reliable coordinates in imagining American face-offs with Iraq, with Iran, with Syria, with Russia — anything to dispel the specters of Munich, 1938 and Yalta, 1945.
They have always been wrong about everything.
Fortunately, not much is at stake in Wieseltier’s contributions to the House of Columns that passes for commentary in Washington. Singing of scars still doing the work of wounds, he might as well be intoning an epitaph for himself:
I am so wise,
That my wisdom makes me weary.
It’s all I can do
To share my wisdom with you.
digby 3/10/2014 01:30:00 PM
Checking out the white Bro Vote
Alex Pareene points out one of the more inconvenient findings in the new Pew Poll about the "liberal" millenials. It depends on which millenials you're talking about:
The Republican Party will need to [become less conservative] to survive. Most of the serious members of the party know that. But they are also asking themselves exactly how long they can hold out. It might be a bit longer than this report suggests.
There is still a strong attitude divide among millenials along racial lines. A majority of white millennials disapprove of Barack Obama, a majority of white millennials think government should be smaller and provide fewer services, a majority of white millennials think the government has no responsibility to provide health insurance for all (white millennials are even a tad more conservative on this one than the oldest, most conservative group in Pew’s report). On most of these issues, the white millennials are more liberal than older whites — and the millennial generation is less white than prior generations — but the racial divide that defines our politics stubbornly remains.
Now the numbers are the number sand the fact remains that there will be fewer of these conservative white people than there has been in the past. But it's still quite a large faction.
Pareene thinks that because many of these conservatives are dovish libertarian types that the GOP just needs to become less hawkish to keep them. I wrote about this yesterday --- I don't actually think the GOP needs to become less hawkish. I think all these white libertarians who hate taxes and love their guns will happily toe the line when their own "enemies" present themselves. Why do I think this? Because it's happened before. There have always been times when foreign affairs were of little concern, even among the hawkish conservatives --- until something happened.
Here's an example from 1998:
Worry about foreign policy, international relations or war is almost totally missing from the forefront of American concerns today. This stands in sharp contrast to many other periods since World War II when foreign policy issues dominated the public's responses to this most important problem question. In the early 1950s, the Korean War was the nation's top problem. The threat of war, nuclear proliferation and communism dominated in the mid to late 1950s, and into the 1960s. The Vietnam War moved to the forefront of the public's concerns in 1965, and remained a dominant problem well into the early 1970s. War and peace issues also were highly likely to be top-of-mind through the mid-Reagan years of the 1980s, and again in 1990 and 1991 at the time of the Gulf War tensions. Today, in an environment in which communism as a threat has essentially evaporated, only 4% of Americans mention international issues or foreign affairs concerns in response to the most important problem question.
I just have a feeling that the libertarian "bros" will fall in line when they're needed by the coalition. They're Republicans, which means that they've knowingly joined the more warmongering, anti-abortion party. And that's because what they really care about is a laissez-faire, low tax agenda which they are required to fatuously proclaim as the ultimate definition of "freedom". After all, if they really cared about staying out of foreign wars, they'd logically join the Party that at least boasts a majority of anti-war elected leaders and has a long-standing faction of committed anti-war activists and voters.
(ICYWW, in the Senate 21 Democrats voted against the resolution. All Republicans voted for it, along with a bunch of cowardly Dems who wanted to run for president.)
I just have a feeling these millenial libertarian Paul followers will be happy to wave the patriot flag when the hawks begin to shriek. Defending your country against the foreign boogeyman is so much more satisfying to a macho believer in "liberty" than impotently shaking your fists at IRS clerks and health care providers.
digby 3/10/2014 12:00:00 PM
QOTD: Sir Tim Berners Lee
As related by Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden's attorney at today's SXSW chat:
Just before this began, I got an email from Sir Tim Berners Lee the creator of the World Wide Web who asked for the privilege of the first question to you... He wanted to thank you and believes your actions were profoundly in the public interest.
For those of you who are upset that Snowden is allowed to speak freely what with being a wanted man and purported Russian spy and all, don't worry. Nobody really gives a shit:
[A]ccording to USA TODAY's Jon Swartz, reporting from SXSW, lines for a competing chat with Girls star Lena Dunham are 10 times longer than the the line for Snowden's talk.
Everybody can relax.
digby 3/10/2014 10:30:00 AM
Sarah Posner has the latest on the new film set to charge up the Christian Right called (naturally) Persecuted.
...[R]eligious liberty is one issue both social conservatives and libertarians can coalesce around. It lets each camp play into the other’s concerns by invoking a fear of government strong-arming its citizens, in this case by violating their religious conscience in making them comply with secular laws. In that sense, Persecuted is perfectly pitched to bring CPAC’s dominant wings together.
Basically, this is a movie in which it's overtly asserted that in order for Christians to be "free" the government cannot endorse the idea of fairness to all religions. Indeed, it seems that liberty has now been interpreted as a requirement to officially acknowledge that America is a Christian Nation and must adhere to Christian precepts.
Daniel Lusko, the movie’s writer and director, told me he was an admirer of Alfred Hitchcock, and aimed to emulate his work. But Persecuted is more like a made-for-TV melodrama than The Man Who Knew Too Much. It is rife with ham-fisted symbolism—Luther’s name is just one example—and plot twists that range from inexplicable to implausible. Imagine House of Cards for the religious set: that’s Persecuted.
The film opens with Luther (James Remar, who played the father of a serial killer on the Showtime drama Dexter) refusing a last-ditch effort of Senate Majority Leader Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison, best known for his role as Sen. Robert Kelly in the X-Men movies) to convince him to endorse the Faith and Fairness Act, a bill that would give “equal time” to all religions. “I cannot water down the gospel to advance anyone’s political agenda,” Luther tells Harrison in one of many robotic pronouncements.
Furious, the senator dispatches what later is revealed to be a Secret Service agent to drug Luther and frame him for the rape and murder of a 16 year-old girl. Emerging from his stupor the next morning on a rural roadside, Luther discovers a massive manhunt for him is underway. He spends the remainder of the film attempting to prove his innocence and evading the government’s efforts to assassinate him.
But it’s precisely the erasure of religious differences that lies at the heart of the diabolical government plot at the center of the story. Luther, the evangelist, runs a ministry called Truth. The government seeks, through the Faith and Fairness Act, to impose “equality for all faiths,” a concept presented darkly as the mysterious acronym SUMAC, with symbols nearly identical to a Unitarian Universalist “co-exist” bumper sticker.
Equality for all faiths? The bastards...
Be sure to read the entire thing. I don't know how many people will watch this thing. But among those who did, the reviews are good!
“Given our current administration,” said Avi Davis, president of the American Freedom Alliance, a Los Angeles think tank that “promotes, defends and upholds Western values and ideals,” the film could depict realistic events, a sentiment echoed by others in the crowd.
“Government has already overtaken freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the Second Amendment,” said Teresa Frerking, a CPAC attendee from Kentucky. “I have lost total faith in the government.”
“It was very credible in this day and age,” Marlene Curry, a CPAC attendee from Virginia, said. “I grew up in a country where government was restrained and represented the people. And of course that’s no longer the case.”
This is especially amusing:
One of the film’s many duff notes involves Fred Thompson, the former senator and presidential candidate, who plays Dr. Charles Luther, John Luther’s father, a Catholic priest. Thompson’s grimly earnest Luther advises his son that he’s “just a pawn in a bigger game” and that he must “stand up against a cabal of phony politicians” who “can’t silence the truth.” How the protagonist, named for the founder of the Protestant Reformation, is the son of a Catholic priest, is never explained in the film. After Father Luther is executed by government agents, his evangelical son goes to his church, takes communion, enlists the help of one of the younger priests in his father’s parish and begins carrying a rosary.
digby 3/10/2014 09:00:00 AM
Sarah Palin rips off an old chain email
by David Atkins
If you followed CPAC, you probably know that Sarah Palin dishonored Thedore Geisel's memory by making up an inane Dr. Seuss rhyme insulting liberals. Except she didn't. She plagiarized it from a chain email?
Many have already pointed out the fact that Dr. Seuss probably wouldn't be too pleased with the idea of his work being used by an ultraconservative nitwit like Palin. But there's another reason I decided to highlight this. It turns out that as "clever" as this little limerick was, it wasn't even original! This was in fact, from a chain e-mail (which Palin modified around the edges) that's been floating around since as far back as 2010:Remember: this is the movement that Michelle Bachmann called "intellectual."
I do not like this Uncle Sam, I do not like his health care scam.
I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books.
I do not like when Congress steals,
I do not like their secret deals.
I do not like this speaker, Nan ,
I do not like this ‘YES WE CAN’.
I do not like this spending spree,
I’m smart, I know that nothing’s free,
I do not like your smug replies, when I complain about your lies.
I do not like this kind of hope.
I do not like it. nope, nope, nope!
Of course, none of this should be surprising in the least when you think about it. After all, Republicans have relied on chain e-mails to formulate policies as far back as the early 90s.
I feel like I shouldn't even waste space on these people, but it's important to remember that Ms. Bachmann once led the GOP field for President, and Sarah Palin could easily have become Vice-President of the United States.
Yes, these people are jokes and buffoons who don't deserve attention. But they're what the Party that controls the House of Representatives is made up. So it's not that much of a joke after all.
thereisnospoon 3/10/2014 07:30:00 AM
Sunday, March 09, 2014
The jawdropping, stunning, breathtaking chutzpah of Michele Bachmann
Via RightWing Watch:
Michele Bachmann told CPAC attendees today that the conservative movement must fight back because it is "at its core is an intellectual movement" based "on the greatest ideas that have ever been conceived in the mind of man."
So true. I think this illustrates the point very well:
Speaking with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann warned that President Obama is “threatening Israel,” and by doing so is fulfilling biblical prophecies and bringing about the End Times. The Minnesota congresswoman told Perkins that Obama is pressuring Israel to “give up its land to terrorists” allied with Al Qaeda, which will lead to a “final war, destroying and reducing to rubble Israel.”
“That’s in the natural, I just believe that as believers in Jesus Christ who see the authority of scripture, I believe that the Lord and his strong right arm will have Israel’s back and will be her protector,” Bachmann said. “The question is, will we as the United States cooperate in standing with Israel and blessing Israel, or will we join those nations that come against her? We are definitely on the wrong side. It is jaw dropping, it is stunning, it’s breathtaking.”
And then she lectured Jews for selling out Israel:
Bachmann also skewered the Jewish community in the US for its wide support for Obama. She said that Obama “was helped enormously by the Jewish community,” who she says care more about supporting Obama than Israel:
The Jewish community gave him their votes, their support, their financial support and as recently as last week, forty-eight Jewish donors who are big contributors to the president wrote a letter to the Democrat [sic] senators in the US Senate to tell them to not advance sanctions against Iran. This is clearly against Israel’s best interest. What has been shocking has been seeing and observing Jewish organizations who it appears have made it their priority to support the political priority and the political ambitions of the president over the best interests of Israel. They sold out Israel.
I'm sure that American Jews are thrilled to be lectured by Michele Bachman about how to properly support Israel.
Oy veh ...
digby 3/09/2014 05:00:00 PM
Handling their "guns"
Nothing new under the sun.
digby 3/09/2014 03:30:00 PM
Very young guys making these decisions ...
Why shouldn't they have to at least pay for the privilege?
The US Army's use of Metallica's oeuvre as a tool in its interrogations in Iraq is well documented, but it opted for something a little more esoteric in Guantanamo Bay, according to one Canadian industrial metal band.
It shouldn't ... (And they're not the first to object.)
"We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people," founder cEvin Key told the Phoenix New Times. "We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions."
While Metallica politely asked the US military to stop using their music for the sleep deprivation of detainees, Skinny Puppy took it one step further.
"So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the US government for musical services," Key added. "Thus the concept of the [band's new] record title, Weapons."
Despite the band's aggressive sound, they said they had never envisioned their music being used in such a way.
Asked how he felt about their songs allegedly being used in the detention camp, Key replied: "Not too good. We never supported those types of scenarios. … Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn’t sit right with us."
But music is used widely in the war zone too --- to pump up the soldiers and demoralize the enemy. And weirdly, it's often the same music they use to torture prisoners. I'm reminded of this article from 2004:
As tanks geared up to trample Fallujah and American troops started circling the city, special operations officers rifled through their CD cases, searching for a sound track to spur the assault.
That's reassuring, don't you think?
What would irk Iraqi insurgents more: Barking dogs or bluegrass? Screaming babies or shrieking feedback?
Heavy metal. The Army's latest weapon.
AC/DC. Loud. Louder!
I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives
Nobody's putting up a fight
I got my bell, I'm gonna take you to hell
I'm gonna get you . . .
While the tanks flattened Fallujah this month, Hell's Bells bombarded the town. Speakers as big as footlockers blared from Humvees' gun turrets. Boom boxes blasted off soldiers' backpacks. As the troops stormed closer, the music got louder. The song changed; the message remained the same.
I'm gonna take you down - down, down, down
So don't you fool around
I'm gonna pull it, pull it, pull the trigger
Shoot to thrill, play to kill . . .
Louder. Turn it up. LOUDER!
Never mind that Iraqis didn't understand the words.
"It's not the music so much as the sound," said Ben Abel, spokesman for the Army's psychological operations command at Fort Bragg, N.C. "It's like throwing a smoke bomb. The aim is to disorient and confuse the enemy to gain a tactical advantage."
I'm like evil, I get under your skin
Just like a bomb that's ready to blow
'Cause I'm illegal, I got everything
That all you women might need to know
Hour after hour. For days on end.
"If you can bother the enemy through the night, it degrades their ability to fight," Abel explained. "Western music is not the Iraqis' thing. So our guys have been getting really creative in finding sounds they think would make the enemy upset.
"These harassment missions work especially well in urban settings like Fallujah," he said. "The sounds just keep reverberating off the walls."
Kuehl teaches information operations at Fort McNair's National Defense University in Washington, D.C. His classes are part of the Army's psychological operations, or PSYOPS, programs. He shows soldiers how to exploit information to gain power, how to get inside the enemy's head, how mental manipulation helps win wars.
"Almost anything you do that demonstrates your omnipotence or lack of fear helps break the enemy down," Kuehl said. "You have to understand your target audience, what makes them tick. You have to know that the same message could be received differently by different audiences."
Sometimes that's good. Heavy metal that tortures Iraqis' ears also can help homesick Americans. For a 19-year-old Marine who has been coiled in a tent for weeks, ready to strike, Metallica's Enter Sandman might be more inspiring than any officer's pep talk.
Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon's fire
and of things that will bite
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight . . .
"Our soldiers like this music," Kuehl said. "So that's what they're going to blast."
Sometimes, though, the songs might have an unintended effect. They might motivate the enemy instead of upsetting him.
You have to be sure, Kuehl said, that you know whose ears you're assaulting.
We are the world
"With the increasing globalization of the world, we know that some Iraqis do listen to American music, even heavy metal, on the Internet, the radio and TV," Kuehl said. "Even during the height of the Taliban, they could get Western music or videos."
Although some insurgents might have been reeling in horror at the Metallica attacks, or abandoning their fortresses to fight the frightful noise, others might have been fist-pumping at the familiar riffs, getting just as revved up as the Americans.
Hush little baby, don't say a word
Never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head . . .
Military experts agree about the historic use of music to pump up the troops. But stories differ about the origins of its use as a weapon.
In December 1989, while Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was holed up in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, U.S. soldiers shot heavy metal music at his compound 'round the clock. Some say the songs were set off to muffle negotiations between the general and his adversaries - a "music barrier" against eavesdropping reporters.
Others say the music was played to perk up the Marines. That it annoyed the general was at first a bonus. Then a breakthrough.
"I always heard that some soldier got tired of listening to the same stuff, so he popped in an AC/DC tape and turned it up loud," said Abel, the Army spokesman at Fort Bragg. "Then Noriega commented that the rock 'n' roll was bothering him. Once the guys found that out, they cranked it up even more."
Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix. "Anything weird or kind of strange," Abel said. "Howling laughter. Cackling cries."
Aaah aaah aaaaah ah! Aaah aaah aaaaah ah!
Come We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands . . .
"Since the Noriega incident, you've been seeing an increased use of loudspeakers," Abel said. "The Army has invested a lot of money into getting speakers that are smaller and more durable, so the men can carry them on their backs."
Under pressure, Abel estimated that 30 loudspeakers swooped into Fallujah this month - bolted to gun turrets, strapped to soldiers. Speakers on the Humvees can pump Metallica's sledgehammer riffs across miles, he said.
Take my hand
We're off to never-never land . . .
The Army doesn't issue an official list of songs to play during an attack, Abel said. "These guys have their own mini disc players, with their own music, plus hundreds of downloaded sounds. It's kind of a personal preference how they choose the songs," he said.
"We've got very young guys making these decisions."
digby 3/09/2014 02:00:00 PM
It's on him
The more Pope Francis strives to seem like a regular guy, the more he is praised and beloved as a revolutionary. But is it dangerous for the church to put so much weight on one man?
The last I heard, the church puts so much weight on the Pope that it even developed a Doctrine of Infallibility. They've been putting a whole lot of weight on the pope for a couple of thousand years:
The doctrine of the Primacy of the Roman Bishops, like other Church teachings and institutions, has gone through a development. Thus the establishment of the Primacy recorded in the Gospels has gradually been more clearly recognised and its implications developed. Clear indications of the consciousness of the Primacy of the Roman bishops, and of the recognition of the Primacy by the other churches appear at the end of the 1st century. L. Ott
Pope St. Clement of Rome, c. 99, stated in a letter to the Corinthians: "Indeed you will give joy and gladness to us, if having become obedient to what we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will cut out the unlawful application of your zeal according to the exhortation which we have made in this epistle concerning peace and union" (Denziger §41, emphasis added).
St. Clement of Alexandria wrote on the primacy of Peter c. 200: "...the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute"... (Jurgens §436).
The existence of an ecclesiastical hierarchy is emphasized by St. Stephan I, 251, in a letter to the bishop of Antioch: "Therefore did not that famous defender of the Gospel [Novatian] know that there ought to be one bishop in the Catholic Church [of the city of Rome]? It did not lie hidden from him"... (Denziger §45).
St. Julius I, in 341 wrote to the Antiochenes: "Or do you not know that it is the custom to write to us first, and that here what is just is decided?" (Denziger §57a, emphasis added).
Catholicism holds that an understanding among the apostles was written down in what became the scriptures, and rapidly became the living custom of the Church, and that from there, a clearer theology could unfold.
St. Siricius wrote to Himerius in 385: "To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle PETER bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs" (Denziger §87, emphasis in original).
I'm pretty sure the church knows what it wants with the whole pope thing. They've been at it for quite a long while.
Many of the Church Fathers spoke of ecumenical councils and the Bishop of Rome as possessing a reliable authority to teach the content of scripture and tradition, albeit without a divine guarantee of protection from error.
digby 3/09/2014 12:30:00 PM
Prosecutors balk at being told they have to be honest
Radley Balko has posted a piece about the courts starting to make note of the fact that many prosecutors are crooked, incompetent, and/or dishonest. He quotes a South Carolina Supreme Court justice:
“The court will no longer overlook unethical conduct, such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence. You better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example. The pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction for too long and now it’s going in the other direction. Your bar licenses will be in jeopardy. We will take your license.”
Apparently, the prosecutors don't care for this sort of talk. Balko writes:
You’d think that there’s little here with which a conscientious prosecutor could quarrel. At most, a prosecutor might argue that Beatty exaggerated the extent of misconduct in South Carolina. (I don’t know if that’s true, only that that’s a conceivable response.) But that prosecutors shouldn’t suborn perjury, shouldn’t retaliate against political opponents, shouldn’t suppress evidence, and that those who do should be disciplined — these don’t seem like controversial things to say. If most prosecutors are following the rules, you’d think they’d have little to fear, and in fact would want their rogue colleagues identified and sanctioned.
No, they didn't.
The state’s prosecutors didn’t see that way.
[The main prosecutor singled out in the judges comments] accused him of bias and sent a letter asking him to recuse himself from criminal cases that come out of her district. In one sense, Wilson is unquestionably correct. Beatty is biased. He’s clearly biased against prosecutors who commit misconduct. But that’s a bias you probably want in a judge, particularly one that sits on a state supreme court. It’s also a bias that isn’t nearly common enough in judges. (Not only do most judges not name misbehaving prosecutors in public, they won’t even name them in court opinions.)
They are saying that if you think prosecutors should be honest you are biased against prosecutors. Which may actually be true, since so many of them are dishonest.
Other prosecutors around the state jumped on, and now at least 13 of the head prosecutors in the state’s 16 judicial districts, along with South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, are asking for Beatty’s to be recused from criminal cases. This would presumably end his career as a state supreme court justice.
This is our justice system in 2014.
Read the whole thing. We have a serious problem with our justice system. And I doubt if anyone cares. After all, in America, honesty is for chumps.
digby 3/09/2014 11:00:00 AM
So much for the GOP's youth outreach
Gollowing up on David's post below, I think this is just fascinating. Dave Weigel reports from the Rand Paul rally --- er, CPAC, on these fault lines in the GOP:
[The]conference also skews libertarian, more and more every year since Ron Paul ran for president (2008) and Rand Paul went to the U.S. Senate (2010). Large-print placards around the conference center warn attendees not to distribute “campaign material.” Stretch your legs and you’ll see a half-dozen students wearing STAND WITH RAND T-shirts, bright red, decorated with silhouettes of the Brillo-haired Kentuckian.
Oh my. What a conundrum. These baby libertarian Republicans who care so much about the freedom to not pay taxes and carry a gun don't seem to have groked what the Republican Party really is. Paul is, literally, a party of one.
In that same 2013 poll, CPAC-ers were asked whether their “most important goal” in politics was to “promote individual freedom” or to “secure and guarantee American safety at home and abroad.” Seventy-seven percent chose liberty. Eight percent, basically a rounding error, pushed the hawk button.
And now, Russia was starting a small war. Conservatives had been hating the Russians long before they had been Standing With Rand. All day Thursday, the thousands who packed into CPAC’s main ballroom heard their movement’s icons cry out against isolationism. They’d known foreign adventurism and intervention as Obama policies, blights on both parties, not part of the Republican Party they were rebuilding. They were being tested, and by people who claimed to know much more about how the party should defend America.
“Can you just imagine Ronald Reagan dealing with Vladimir Putin?” asks onetime UN Ambassador John Bolton, one of the only representatives of the George W. Bush administration to show at CPAC. “Reagan called a strong defense budget the ‘vital margin of safety.’ We are losing that vital margin all around the world. … Putin has a growing defense budget and ours is shrinking.”
If you’re Standing With Rand, that’s never worried you. The senator had supported the forced cuts of sequestration, encouraging his colleagues to “jettison some of the crap” in the defense budget and live with lower spending levels. If you’re, say, a 21-year-old CPAC attendee, you were born after the Soviet Union dissolved. You were 8 years old on Sept. 11, and maybe 10 for the start of the war in Iraq. You’ve never been a hawk.
And at CPAC, you’re seeing the hawks sprint back into the spotlight. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio uses his Thursday speech to rally conservatives in a global fight against “totalitarianism.” Afterward, he tells the New York Times that “there are forces within our party, there have always been in American politics, that basically say, ‘Who cares what happens everywhere else? Just mind our own business.’”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ventures from the main conference to an alternative all-day meeting of hawks—itself, a sign of how much ground has been lost to the libertarians—and explains how he differs with Paul. Sure, the Kentucky senator was right about Syria, but the hawks were right about Iran.
“When Iran describes Israel as the Little Satan,” he says, “and America as the Great Satan, we have every interest to make sure they don’t acquire the weaponry to kill millions of Americans.”
Cruz and 42 other Republican senators had signed on to new sanctions against Iran. Paul had not.
On Friday, Paul arrived at CPAC for a full day of movement building. Around noon, he was scheduled to talk to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, so his advance team encourages Stand With Randers to get Paul in full view of the camera. Hassan Sheikh, 26, a law student who runs Nebraska’s branch of Young Americans for Liberty, talks about Ukraine while the shot is being blocked.
How confusing. Weigel then interviews Rand Paul's former staffer "the Southern Avenger" who explains that conservatives don't understand that it's wrong to be hostile to Russia because they are human beings just like us. (Unlike say, African Americans ...)
“We’ve got to make sure we’re not goading ourselves into yet another expensive adventure in a foreign country,” he says, wearing a Stand With Rand shirt over a white shirt and tie. “Our allies in Europe and Asia don’t need us the way they used to. It’s absolutely preposterous that we have more than 440 military bases all across the world. That’s just an expense that taxpayers don’t need.”
Paul arrives, talks, and leaves, so he can be guided to a crowded book signing in CPAC’s exhibit hall. Aaron and Elizabeth Littlefield, aged 21 and 18 and newly married, come away with valuable copies of Paul’s Government Bullies. They didn’t follow politics when the war in Iraq began; they have only really paid attention to the Obama foreign policy. And they don’t like it.
“Obama’s foreign policy has shown the United States to be weak—that we don’t want to do anything,” says Elizabeth. “Countries don’t take our red lines seriously. We are starting to lose our standing.”
“Ron Paul was a staunch isolationist,” says Aaron, “whereas Rand Paul does believe we live in an international community. That’s one of the big differences between supporters of Ron and Rand.”
Rand's big speech was received with wild applause --- but the only foreign policy question he addresses is the use of drones to kill Americans, which his followers don't like.
Actually they don't know what to think. They have, as Weigel points out, come of age during the Iraq war, which nobody likes now, and the Obama administration which they loathe with every fiber of their being. They are unacquainted with the GOP's traditional love for their own hatred of enemies abroad.
But they're coming around:
“I was in middle school when the Iraq war started,” he says. “I didn’t think much of it. As I got older, I figured going over there wasn’t the best idea.”
It's in the DNA.
“It’s kind of indicative of this entire administration,” he says. “Foreign policy’s been put on the back burner. When Romney got criticized for bringing up Russia, I think that was a key moment.”
I know that people like to think that Rand Paul can bring in a new generation with his libertarian ideas. And maybe a little re-brand will be helpful in getting some of the younger white guys to get ininvolved with a party that is majority geriatric. (They have plenty in common, after all --- mutual loathing of doing anything for people who don't look like them and a belief that the country should be run only by rich white guys.) But a hawkish foreign policy is a major organizing principle on the American right and has been since WWII. I doubt it's going to change. It's certainly possible that it could change. But let's just say that it's a long shot. Young white, conservative guys, as a group, tend to like wars. They just need one of their own.
digby 3/09/2014 09:30:00 AM
A party in tatters
by David Atkins
Let's put three stories side by side.
First, Rand Paul crushed the straw poll at CPAC:
Though hot off the stove from his now-famous 13-hour filibuster, Rand Paul just narrowly edged Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2013. This year, he managed to bring in 31 percent of the 2014 vote, followed distantly by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with 11 percent. Ben Carson clocked in at No. 3 with 9 percent.
It's the makings of a hands-off-government political dynasty: Ron Paul has twice won the CPAC poll in years past. But the younger Paul, who's emerged as a bona fide conservative star in his own right, offers what is potentially a more realistic tie to the party's establishment base.
Second, the more libertarian Paul faction loses control of the Iowa GOP:
The leader of the Republican Party of Iowa announced without explanation today that he will resign later this month.
Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker will step down "effective upon election of a new state chairman" on March 29.
The news comes on the same day that the influence on the Iowa GOP from the "liberty" faction, of which Spiker was a part, was significantly diminished as mainstream Republicans turned out in force to reclaim dominance.
The majority of GOP state convention delegates elected today are pro-Branstad Republicans, who showed up in large numbers to at-times tedious and lengthy county conventions typically frequented by only the most diehard activists.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's re-election campaign led a big push to get more Republicans to turn out to the neighborhood and county meetings where the people who influence party business are elected. It was a reaction to the very well organized takeover by the liberty faction two years ago.
Third, establishment Republicans are even more aggressively trying to destroy embarrassing insurgents in their own base than before:
This election season, Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are taking a much harder line as they sense the majority within reach. Top congressional Republicans and their allies are challenging the advocacy groups head on in an aggressive effort to undermine their credibility. The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.This is not the sign of a party and a movement on the rise. This is rats on a sinking ship.
“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in an interview, referring to the network of activist organizations working against him and two Republican incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi while engaging in a handful of other contests. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
Elevating the nasty intramural brawl to a new level, Mr. McConnell on Friday began airing a radio ad in Kentucky that attacked both Matt Bevin, the businessman challenging him in the Republican primary, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, one of the groups trying to oust Mr. McConnell and a political action committee that has been a particular thorn in his side.
Mr. McConnell’s ad, his first singling out the Senate Conservatives Fund, raises a criticism that Speaker John A. Boehner and other Republicans have leveled at the activists — that they are fund-raising and business enterprises more than political operations. The ad refers to unnamed news media reports that assert that the PAC “solicits money under the guise of advocating for conservative principles but then spends it on a $1.4 million luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.”
I know it may not feel that way at times. But these guys are in trouble and they know it. The only things keeping them afloat are a coalition of aging voters, Koch money, and temporarily gerrymandered districts.
thereisnospoon 3/09/2014 07:30:00 AM
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Saturday Night at the Movies
The 1% rundown: Child's Pose
by Dennis Hartley
I'm sure you recall the “affluenza" case in Texas, in which a 16 year-old from a wealthy family received 10 year's probation and a stint in rehab as "punishment" for killing four people in a drunk driving accident? A psychologist for the defense defined "affluenza" as an affliction unique to children of privilege; claiming that the young man's coddled upbringing led to an inability to connect actions with consequences. We have to assume that he said this with a straight face, because judge and jury bought it. Which begs a question: Does the world have two justice systems...one for the rich and one for the poor?
Child's Pose, a new film from Romanian writer-director Calin Peter Netzer, would seem to reinforce that suspicion. Shooting in a unfussy, Dogme 95-styled manner, and armed with a script (co-written by Razvan Radulescu) that blends droll satire with social realism, Netzer paints a portrait of contemporary Romanian class warfare through the eyes of a haughty bourgeoisie woman named Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu). We are introduced to Cornelia, a middle-aged, well-to-do architect who power-puffs every cigarette like it's her last, as she is lamenting to her sister (Natasa Raab) about her relationship with her adult son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). Why does she always have to initiate contact? He hasn't phoned her for weeks...it must be that controlling wife of his ("That creature...she's got him by his tail, like a little mouse."). "Stop pestering him," her sister says. It quickly becomes apparent that Cornelia is the one who has control issues.
Cornelia's need to know every detail of Barbu's daily life seems to go above and beyond the normal parental concerns for a child's welfare. In a particularly telling scene, she invites her housekeeper (who she has hired to regularly clean her son's home as well) to take a break and join her for a cup of coffee. Cornelia masterfully turns the chit-chat into an intelligence-gathering session. How is their place..."messy as usual"? When she dusted Barbu's nightstand, did she happen to notice which book was there? Is it the one she recently sent, she wonders? Cornelia casually offers the maid a 200 Euro pair of shoes she found whilst cleaning out her closet (a payoff, disguised as an act of noblesse oblige).
One evening, Cornelia is attending an opera recital when she is suddenly torn away by her sister, who has bad news. Barbu is down at the police station; he has been involved in a car accident. He's okay, but he has struck and killed a teenage boy. The look on Cornelia's face speaks volumes. There's none of the expected shock, or sense of panic. Rather, you can see all the gears turning. This is it. This is her "in". Barbu is in trouble. Big trouble. But mama can help. Mama has her connections. She knows what to kiss, and when. She knows how the system works. She's already formulating an action plan...not necessarily out of a maternal drive to "save" her son from jail, but to get him back under her thumb, where he belongs (Gheorghiu telegraphs all of this beautifully, wordlessly).
As you watch Cornelia serpentine her way though Bucharest like a preying viper, playing the cops, witnesses, and the victim's working-class family like violins, it almost becomes a moot point that her spoiled, ne'er do well son is guilty as hell of negligent homicide. That's because you're so gob smacked by Cornelia's gumption that you can't help but develop a morbid fascination with whether or not she is actually going to pull all this off. Of course, there would have to be some enabling factors involving the inherent corruption within "The System" as well, and Netzer doesn't spare any barbs there either.
While some viewers may be put off by the deliberate pacing (I’ll confess it took me about 20 minutes to get in tune with what the film was even going to be about) those with patience will be rewarded. Gheorghiu’s performance is the most compelling reason to stick with it; she’s the most conniving, insufferably narcissistic maternal nightmare you’ll love to hate this side of Livia Drusilla . It would be easy to say that the film’s message is “money talks, justice walks”, but the ambiguous denouement gives me pause. It seems that no victory that’s bought and paid for comes without a hidden cost. I’m not a religious man (had to look this up on Mr. Google) but how does that quote go…“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul”? Erm, amen to that.
Previous posts with related themes:
Dennis Hartley 3/08/2014 05:30:00 PM
All the problems in the world laid at Obamacare's feet
I honestly think that a whole lot of conservatives (and some not-so-bright Indies) will attribute all the existing problems with the health care system to Obamacare --- long waits, insurance beefs, bad diagnoses, malpractice, high costs, all of it. They will easily convince themselves that it was great before and now it's terrible even though it was really terrible before and is slightly less terrible now. After all, everybody said, "we have the best health care in the world!" Now it's flawed. Thanks Obamacare.
I actually had a personal experience that leads me to believe that it might not just be coming from their own prejudice but from people who work in the health care business. I was on a typically long and arduous call the other day with an insurance rep trying to straighten out a billing error and was told right upfront that the whole thing was a mess because of Obamacare. I pointed out that the bill in question was from 2012, but this person insisted that the "changes" to the health care system had messed everything up. I don't know if he was freelancing or if he'd been told that, but he said it. I know he was full of it, but I'd imagine there are others out there who would believe it. And when you combine that with the fact that employers are continuing to do what they've been doing for years --- raising co-pays and reducing benefits -- I suspect that some people are hearing similar tales from their workplace.
So, for a while at least, anyone who has a bad experience with the health care system will probably blame it on Obamacare if they're inclined to think in "government can't do anything right terms." Some will undoubtedly believe it forever. The relevant question will be if the people want it repealed. And they don't:
Even the GOP can only muster 33% to go back to the way it was.
digby 3/08/2014 04:00:00 PM