On Politics

Plinky asked, “Where do you fall on the polit­i­cal spec­trum?”

Pro­gres­sive Gifts

That depends on where you’re stand­ing. In Europe, I’d be con­sid­ered con­ser­v­a­tive, appar­ent­ly. In the U.S., I’m pro­gres­sive, so I’m con­sid­ered a flam­ing lib­er­al.

I agree with the lib­er­tar­i­ans on some issues, like gun con­trol (it means hit­ting what you aim at).

I also think that any decent soci­ety takes care of its peo­ple in far more ways than just hav­ing a strong mil­i­tary force. Uni­ver­sal health care (not insur­ance, CARE), strong con­sumer pro­tec­tions and con­sis­tent, fierce envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion are just a few of the things that need to come from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment with­out inter­fer­ence from any oth­er enti­ty — includ­ing state gov­ern­ments.

I live in Geor­gia, where there’s talk of the state gov­ern­ment cre­at­ing a pan­el to review every fed­er­al law and decide whether or not to allow that law to be effec­tive in Geor­gia. That’s a vio­la­tion of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, as I under­stand things, as fed­er­al law is sup­posed to super­sede state law. Georgia’s state gov­ern­ment is pret­ty free and easy about vio­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, as evi­denced by the state house recent­ly pass­ing a bill to post the ten com­mand­ments in every pub­lic build­ing in the state (includ­ing every pub­lic school). There’s an excel­lent chance that the state sen­ate will pass it, too, because any­body who votes against it will be in trou­ble with the con­ser­v­a­tives in their dis­tricts.

Decent edu­ca­tion is impor­tant, too, and it’s too impor­tant to be left up to states like Geor­gia, Alaba­ma, and Mis­sis­sip­pi. It isn’t pos­si­ble to have an insti­tu­tion­al edu­ca­tion that’s as good as a home edu­ca­tion, since most peo­ple leave the edu­ca­tion of their chil­dren up to the gov­ern­ment, it is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for the future of our coun­try that the job be done right.

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The Hateful Tea Party, Its True Origins, and President Obama’s Accomplishments

I was chal­lenged in com­ments on a friend’s Face­book wall yes­ter­day “pro­vide us with a spe­cif­ic exam­ple of Tea Par­ty hate ful (sic) speach and some thing good that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has done for our coun­try.” The com­menters there also claimed that “THE TEA PARTY HAS NO REPRESENTATIVES IN CONGRESS” and seemed to be under the impres­sion that it is a grass roots move­ment, which is a claim friends of mine have also made. Rather than post this infor­ma­tion in more than one place, I decid­ed to make one post in my blog and refer to it in the future.

First, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has accom­plished plen­ty of things dur­ing his term. I start­ed to make my own list, then decid­ed that it’s fool­ish to rein­vent the wheel. The most com­pre­hen­sive list I’ve found is here: Accom­plish­ments of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma. While some peo­ple may not think some of those things are accom­plish­ments, I doubt there’s any­one who can argue with all of them. I’d add to the list the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead. That hap­pened dur­ing Obama’s pres­i­den­cy. His peo­ple were able to keep a lid on the infor­ma­tion about bin Laden’s where­abouts and the oper­a­tion long enough to get that bas­tard. The fact that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell pol­i­cy in the mil­i­tary is over is pret­ty damned impor­tant, too.

Those accom­plish­ments look much bet­ter, too, when you real­ize two things:

  1. The IMF informed Pres­i­dent Bush that they intend­ed to audit the U.S. back in June 2008. Bush just put them off until the end of his term.
  2. While Oba­ma is often blamed for the mas­sive deficit, that’s inac­cu­rate. The 2009 fis­cal year began before Oba­ma even took office, and the bud­get for that year was almost entire­ly deter­mined by the Bush admin­is­tra­tion. There was an 88% increase in spend­ing dur­ing the years of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, com­pared to only a 7.4% increase dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. That’s why Bush inher­it­ed a $128 bil­lion sur­plus from Clinton’s last bud­get, and bequeathed a $1.4 tril­lion deficit to Oba­ma.

I know per­fect­ly well that the tea par­ty (no caps) was orig­i­nal­ly billed as a grass roots move­ment about fis­cal issues and against big gov­ern­ment. Yes, gath­er­ings to sup­port Ron Paul’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign were called “tea par­ties,” and those issues were cen­tral to his cam­paign.

How­ev­er, there was appar­ent­ly no talk of a Tea Par­ty (note the caps) dur­ing those gath­er­ings, and after Oba­ma was elect­ed, the name was co-opt­ed for anti-Oba­ma ral­lies by Repub­li­can oper­a­tives, led by Dick Armey and mouth­piece Rick San­tel­li. Of course, if they’d said, “We’re orga­nized by lob­by­ists for big busi­ness, because guys like Steve Forbes and the Koch broth­ers don’t want mid­dle class peo­ple to have help pay­ing their mort­gages!” then mid­dle class peo­ple wouldn’t have been as like­ly to get involved. So the fic­tion of a “grass­roots move­ment” was care­ful­ly main­tained.

Even for those who might not believe that Free­dom­Works, the Koch broth­ers, etc. have always behind the Tea Par­ty, it must be dif­fi­cult to deny that “grass­roots” cer­tain­ly isn’t what the Tea Par­ty is about now. Any­one who wants to argue about it has only to look at Michelle Bach­mann, Rick Per­ry, and and their Chris­t­ian Domin­ion­ist views to know that. Of course, Per­ry also claimed in his book that Social Secu­ri­ty is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled oth­er­wise in 1936, and Bach­mann signed a pledge that claims that blacks were bet­ter off when they were slaves, so their cred­i­bil­i­ty rat­ings are suf­fer­ing, as far as I’m con­cerned. By the way — that pledge thing is pret­ty darned racist, to me, and the rest of Bachmann’s well-known his­to­ry gaffes aren’t mak­ing things any bet­ter.

Michelle Bach­mann (head of the Con­gres­sion­al Tea Par­ty Cau­cus) worked for the IRS as a tax attor­ney before quit­ting to be a stay-at-home mom. So she’s nev­er had a job that doesn’t come with a gov­ern­ment pay­check, but she’s sup­pos­ed­ly against big gov­ern­ment? How very hyp­o­crit­i­cal. Bachmann’s hus­band runs a clin­ic that takes fed­er­al mon­ey to pro­vide a form of ther­a­py to “cure” homosexuality—therapy that isn’t approved by the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion or the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion or, actu­al­ly, any accred­it­ing board. If any­body wants to tru­ly cut out gov­ern­ment waste, then pay­ing for that sort of thing should be stopped right away, and psy­chol­o­gists who file for reim­burse­ment for it should lose their licens­es and be arrest­ed for fraud. (Homo­sex­u­al­i­ty was ini­tial­ly sug­gest­ed for removal from the Diag­nos­tic and Sta­tis­ti­cal Man­u­al as a dis­or­der in 1973, and com­plete­ly removed by 1986. Dr. Bach­mann, if he actu­al­ly is a psy­chol­o­gist, should know that.) Michelle’s remarks about homo­sex­u­al­i­ty include such love­ly bits as say­ing that it’s “of Satan.” Yes, that’s big­otry.

Steve King (R-Iowa, mem­ber of the Tea Par­ty Cau­cus) has demon­strat­ed big­otry in his attacks against Barack Oba­ma before his elec­tion because of his mid­dle name (Hus­sein) and the fact that his father was Mus­lim. He has also shown him­self to be a racist by mak­ing claims that Oba­ma favors blacks—with­out pro­vid­ing any sub­stan­ti­a­tion, of course. His misog­y­nist vot­ing record speaks for itself.

Louie Gohmert (R-Texas, mem­ber of the Tea Par­ty Cau­cus), is a birther (crazy enough right there), who equat­ed homo­sex­u­al­i­ty with bes­tial­i­ty, necrophil­ia, and pedophil­ia dur­ing a debate on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (video clip). He also made a stu­pid­ly racist remark when com­plain­ing about one par­tic­u­lar bit of fund­ing — the infa­mous “moo goo cat pan” joke that fell flat. (He’s got so much crazy that we could spend a lot of time talk­ing about him. I imag­ine even the Tea Par­ty would be hap­py to lose him alto­geth­er. Search on “ter­ror babies” and you’ll see what I mean.)

One of King’s bud­dies in the Tea Par­ty cau­cus, Phil Gin­grey (R-Geor­gia), went to the Mex­i­can bor­der with King on a fact-find­ing mis­sion, and put his racist foot in his mouth by claim­ing that his desire to end birthright cit­i­zen­ship isn’t moti­vat­ed by xeno­pho­bia because, “if I had to choose from immi­grants across the globe, my favorite alien would be our His­pan­ic and Lati­no res­i­dents com­ing from across the South­ern bor­der. On June 22, 2011, Dr. Gin­grey, an OB-GYN, said: “Democ­rats like to pic­ture us as push­ing grand­moth­er over the cliff or throw­ing some­one under the bus. In either one of those sce­nar­ios, at least the senior has a chance to sur­vive. But under this IPAB [Inde­pen­dent Pay­ment Advi­so­ry Board] we described that the Democ­rats put in ‘Oba­macare,’ where a bunch of bureau­crats decide whether you get care, such as con­tin­u­ing on dial­y­sis or can­cer chemother­a­py, I guar­an­tee you when you with­draw that the patient is going to die. It’s rationing.” He knew per­fect­ly well that he was lying, but Repub­li­cans want to con­trol the way the mon­ey is spent, rather than to per­mit a non-par­ti­san board to con­trol it and achieve any cost sav­ings. You would think a fis­cal con­ser­v­a­tive would be in favor of cost sav­ings, but it doesn’t work that when polit­i­cal pow­er is at stake.!

At the state lev­el, we have Alaba­ma state sen­a­tor Scott Bea­son refer­ring to blacks as “abo­rig­ines.” After open­ing a speech by say­ing that “ille­gal immi­gra­tion will destroy a com­mu­ni­ty” he closed it by advis­ing his lis­ten­ers to “emp­ty the clip, and do what has to be done”.

David Bar­ton hangs out with sev­er­al Tea Par­ty fig­ures—Rick Per­ry is spend­ing Labor Day week­end with the guy. He claims on his tax records that he is an expert on African-Amer­i­can his­to­ry, but when ques­tioned about the fact that he reg­u­lar­ly address­es white suprema­cist groups (who adore him) he tried at one point to claim that he didn’t under­stand their lean­ings. One of his main claims is that Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. made no sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the civ­il rights move­ment and that he and Thur­good Mar­shall should be removed from our his­to­ry books. Newt Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, said, “I think David Bar­ton is one of the most knowl­edge­able teach­ers on Amer­i­can his­to­ry.” (Inter­est­ing, as Gin­grich is a for­mer his­to­ry pro­fes­sor him­self, and Bar­ton is only an “ama­teur his­to­ri­an.”) He’s pop­u­lar with Bach­mann, Beck, and Mike Huck­abee, too.

Then there’s just about every­thing Glenn Beck says — the man is anti-semit­ic, racist, homo­pho­bic, misog­y­nis­tic, you name it. He seems to adore com­par­ing any lit­tle slight against him­self or Fox News to the Holo­caust. If his man­i­curist slips up an caus­es dis­com­fort, she’s prob­a­bly accused of being Men­gele in dis­guise, or at least a descen­dant of his. He has stooped so low as to attack the president’s chil­dren and refer to the First Lady as the president’s “Baby Mama.” Any­one who cares to do so can find plen­ty of videos of him any­where, but I refuse to link to them. I don’t think there are any clips in which he opens his mouth that aren’t offen­sive.

Matthew Vad­um is a colum­nist who is extreme­ly sup­port­ive of the Tea Par­ty. He recent­ly pub­lished an arti­cle claim­ing that “Reg­is­ter­ing the Poor to Vote is Un-Amer­i­can”, equat­ing vot­er reg­is­tra­tion to giv­ing the poor “bur­glary tools.”

By the way, if you haven’t seen all the signs car­ried at Tea Par­ty ral­lies depict­ing the Pres­i­dent as a mon­key, or a witch doc­tor, or Hitler, then you haven’t been pay­ing atten­tion. There are plen­ty of places where I could find more, but I’ve had enough more than enough expo­sure to nas­ti­ness for one day.

Any­one who reads this post can no longer say that they’ve nev­er heard of any­one asso­ci­at­ed with Tea Par­ty say­ing hate­ful things, or that they’re not aware of any­thing that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has accom­plished dur­ing his pres­i­den­cy.

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WTF? Georgia Senate Threatens to Secede!

Geor­gia Sen­ate threat­ens dis­man­tling of USA
They real­ly did, by a vote of 43–1. On April 1, but it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

The res­o­lu­tion goes on to endorse the the­o­ry that states have the right to abridge con­sti­tu­tion­al free­doms of reli­gion, press and speech. Accord­ing to the res­o­lu­tion, it is up to the states to decide “how far the licen­tious­ness of speech and of the press may be abridged.”
(snip)
Final­ly, the res­o­lu­tion states that if Con­gress, the pres­i­dent or fed­er­al courts take any action that exceeds their con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­ers, the Con­sti­tu­tion is ren­dered null and void and the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca is offi­cial­ly dis­band­ed. As an exam­ple, the res­o­lu­tion specif­i­cal­ly states that if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment enacts “prohibitions of type or quan­ti­ty of arms or ammunition,” the coun­try is dis­band­ed.

You bet­ter believe that I’m writ­ing to our state sen­a­tor right away. Yes, this non­sense was slipped in on day 39 of the 40 day leg­isla­tive ses­sion, but that is absolute­ly no excuse. Our rep­re­sen­ta­tives have no busi­ness vot­ing for any­thing they haven’t thor­ough­ly read, under­stood, and debat­ed. That’s their job!

Yet anoth­er rea­son I don’t want to live in Geor­gia any more. I seri­ous­ly think this is a back­lash against our elec­tion of a black Demo­c­rat to the pres­i­den­cy. I’m look­ing at blue states now.

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Another Homegrown Terrorist, This Time in Tennessee

Police: Man Shot Church­go­ers Over Lib­er­al Views

Knoxville, Tennessee—An unem­ployed man accused of open­ing fire with a shot­gun and killing two peo­ple at a Uni­tar­i­an church appar­ent­ly tar­get­ed the con­gre­ga­tion out of hatred for its sup­port of lib­er­al social poli­cies, police said Mon­day.

That makes a lot of sense. This whack­job is unhap­py because he lost his job, gets a let­ter say­ing he’s los­ing his food stamps too, and instead of blam­ing the Repub­li­cans who have been in charge of the coun­try for the past eight years, he trots off to the near­est UUA con­gre­ga­tion and opens fire dur­ing a children’s per­for­mance.

Two peo­ple are dead, one because he gave his life in an attempt to save oth­ers. Five more are injured–no chil­dren, at least.

What did those peo­ple do to upset the home­grown ter­ror­ist?

The Uni­tar­i­an-Uni­ver­sal­ist church pro­motes pro­gres­sive social work, includ­ing advo­ca­cy of women and gay rights. The Knoxville con­gre­ga­tion also has pro­vid­ed sanc­tu­ary for polit­i­cal refugees, fed the home­less and found­ed a chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, accord­ing to its Web site.

Good­ness. How upset­ting. Obvi­ous­ly, they caused him to lose his truck­ing job. Yep. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Sam Har­ris’ views on reli­gion make more sense every day.

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TotD: Controlling the Public

Wag the Dog, any­one?

Wag the DogThere have always exist­ed three ways of keep­ing the peo­ple lov­ing and loy­al. One is to leave them alone, to trust them and not to inter­fere. This plan, how­ev­er, has very sel­dom been prac­tised, because the politi­cians regard the pub­lic as a cow to be milked, and some­thing must be done to make it stand qui­et.

So they try Plan Num­ber Two, which con­sists in hyp­no­tiz­ing the pub­lic by means of shows, fes­ti­vals, parades, prizes and many paid speech­es, ser­mons and edi­to­ri­als, where­in and where­by the pub­lic is told how much is being done for it, and how for­tu­nate it is in being pro­tect­ed and wise­ly cared for by its divine­ly appoint­ed guardians. Then the band strikes up, the flags are waved, three pass­es are made, one to the right and two to the left; and we, being com­plete­ly under the hyp­no­sis, hur­rah our­selves hoarse.

Plan Num­ber Three is a very ancient one and is always held back to be used in case Num­ber Two fails. It is for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple who do not pass read­i­ly under hyp­not­ic con­trol. If there are too many of these, they have been known to pluck up courage and answer back to the speech­es, ser­mons and edi­to­ri­als. Some­times they refuse to hur­rah when the bass-drum plays, in which case they have occa­sion­al­ly been arrest­ed for con­tu­ma­cy and con­tra­ven­tion by stocky men, in wide-awake hats, who lead the stren­u­ous life. This Plan Num­ber Three pro­vides for an armed force that shall over­awe, if nec­es­sary, all who are not hyp­no­tized. The army is used for two purposes—to coerce dis­turbers at home, and to get up a war at a dis­tance, and thus dis­tract atten­tion from the trou­bles near at hand. Napoleon used to say that the only sure cure for inter­nal dis­sen­sion was a for­eign war: this would draw the dis­turbers away, on the plea of patri­o­tism, so they would win enough out­side loot to sat­is­fy them, or else they would all get killed, it real­ly didn’t mat­ter much; and as for loot, if it was tak­en from for­eign­ers, there was no sin.

A care­ful ana­lyst might here say that Plan Num­ber Three is only a vari­a­tion of Plan Num­ber Two—the end being gained by hyp­not­ic effects in either event, for the army is con­script­ed from the peo­ple to use against the peo­ple, just as you turn steam from a boil­er into the fire-box to increase the draft. …

The pas­sage is by Elbert Hub­bard, from Lit­tle Jour­neys to the Homes of the Great, Vol. XIV: Great Musi­cians, Chap­ter 8: “Lud­wig van Beethoven”. I can’t hon­est­ly see what it has to do with Beethoven in par­tic­u­lar, but per­haps that would become clear in con­text.

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They WANT to be repressed!

Some­body help me, please! I’m awash in a sea of stu­pid­i­ty.

My human­i­ties class­mates are full of ideas like:
“it isn’t real­ly that big of a deal unless you have some­thing to hide” — it being gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance.

…they won’t tar­get you or real­ly care about what you are doing unless you are doing some­thing wrong” — tell that to Peter McWilliams. Oh, you can’t, he’s dead!

…the cam­eras don’t lim­it free­dom, you can still do what you want” — as long as “what you want” is with­in the cur­rent cul­tur­al norms, and there isn’t a pow­er-hun­gry fun­da­men­tal­ist decid­ing what to do about what they view.

Those exam­ples are from just ONE post. The class is full of peo­ple who are say­ing, over and over, very explic­it­ly, that they wel­come ANYTHING the gov­ern­ment does to “make us safe from ter­ror­ism.”

I’m scared.

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David Mamet and Political Views

There’s an essay over at The Vil­lage Voice that you want to read before it goes away:
“Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Lib­er­al’” by David Mamet Here’s a brief excerpt.

This is, to me, the syn­the­sis of this world­view with which I now found myself dis­en­chant­ed: that every­thing is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, every­thing was not always wrong, and nei­ther was nor is always wrong in the com­mu­ni­ty in which I live, or in my coun­try. Fur­ther, it was not always wrong in pre­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ties in which I lived, and among the var­i­ous and mobile class­es of which I was at var­i­ous times a part.

And, I won­dered, how could I have spent decades think­ing that I thought every­thing was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that peo­ple were basi­cal­ly good at heart? Which was it? I began to ques­tion what I actu­al­ly thought and found that I do not think that peo­ple are basi­cal­ly good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompt­ed and informed my writ­ing for the last 40 years. I think that peo­ple, in cir­cum­stances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit sub­ject, but the only sub­ject, of dra­ma.

Some thought-pro­vok­ing stuff in there. It’s good to see some­one brave enough to change his views, and talk about it polit­i­cal­ly. Since I con­sid­er the Voice a very lib­er­al pub­li­ca­tion, it’s espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing to see the piece there.

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Red/Blue, Strict/Nurturing Families, and Inherited vs. Negotiated Commitments

I know that I read Red Fam­i­ly, Blue Fam­i­ly: Mak­ing sense of the val­ues issue by Doug Mud­er sev­er­al years ago.1 I clear­ly remem­ber post­ing a link to it in Suzette Haden Elgin’s blog, and hav­ing her pick it up and pass it on enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly.

A friend post­ed a link to it again this week, and I re-read it today. I don’t know why, but it made even more sense this time around. Mud­er uses the work of George Lakoff (Moral Pol­i­tics : How Lib­er­als and Con­ser­v­a­tives Think and Don’t Think of an Ele­phant: Know Your Val­ues and Frame the Debate–The Essen­tial Guide for Pro­gres­sives) and James Ault (Spir­it and Flesh: Life in a Fun­da­men­tal­ist Bap­tist Church) to explain things that have pre­vi­ous­ly seemed inex­plic­a­ble.
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It’s sex ed, really!

Graduate of Bush’s Abstinence-only Sex Education by Ann Telnaes

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