Why The Republican Party Is What It Is

“A reactionary is a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society.”

Wikipedia

I often use the term “reactionaries” to describe those folks on the right who have a problem living in the 21st century, a problem coming to grips with present reality. I sometimes differentiate between reactionaries and conservatives because conservatism doesn’t necessarily involve reactionary politics, though it often does, especially as we watch conservative behavior today. Most of the conservatives we see dominating the Republican Party these days are—without the slightest doubt—reactionaries.

As most of you know, I was born and raised in Kansas. I lived there until I was about 30 years old. I worked there. I played there. I became a conservative there. I was baptized into an evangelical faith there. The political Kansas I knew was mostly a right-of-center place, with pockets of leftish resistance here and there, and for the most part its politics was not radical or reactionary. Today, though, like a lot of red states Kansas has been radicalized and has turned into one of the most reactionary places in the country.

Nothing could better demonstrate the change from a mild, if not moldy, conservatism into a radical and fiery reactionaryism than what emerged in Kansas recently. Last week, as nearly everyone knows by now, the Kansas House passed a bill that, according to Time,

would permit businesses and government employees to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious principles. 

That Jim Crowish bill, which has been condemned far and wide by progressives, passed 72-49 and is now being considered by the state senate, which is expected to either water it down significantly or kill it. Apparently there are some Kansas Republicans left who haven’t been completely radicalized by religious zealots in the state. But the fact that such a reactionary piece of legislation passed one side of the legislature in 2014—2014 for God’s sake—says a lot about not only about the Republican Party, but it speaks to why it is that our national government is so profoundly, if not dangerously, divided.

At the heart of this ascendance of a rabid reactionary politics in Kansas and elsewhere—there is an anti-gay bill in Idaho that is even worse than the one in Kansas—is the anxiety that (mostly but not entirely white) evangelical and fundamentalist Christians feel deep in their bones over the loss of cultural dominance they and their Iron Age theology once enjoyed. Most of the theological angst started with the Supreme Court ruling in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale) that government-composed prayers could not be used in public schools, then just after that blow came atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s victorious lawsuit in 1963 (consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp) in which the Supreme Court put the kibosh on the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading in government schools.

If I heard it once, I heard it a gazillion times from the conservative church folk I knew back home: “They kicked God out of the schools! Why do you think things are so bad!”

So, it started with those two court rulings, but other rulings followed that were specifically related to Bible-based anxiety over a rapidly changing culture. There was Griswold v. Connecticut (which found that because of the Constitution’s now strangely controversial “right to privacy” states could not prohibit the use of contraceptives by married people; later this freedom was extended to all couples via Eisenstadt. V. Baird; and now we are fighting over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate). Skipping over the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade case (which isn’t necessarily—even though it has mostly become—a case involving evangelical theology), we come to Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case that effectively struck down all sodomy laws in the country and paved the way for the eventual legitimation of same-sex marriage, which is now driving right-wing Christians into convulsions not seen since the Gadarene Demoniac.

Along with—perhaps partly because of—these culturally significant court cases, public opinion has evolved in the direction of progress and against the forces of Bible-inspired conservatism. Holy Book-believing Christians have essentially lost the fight over whether the Bible or a secular Constitution will be the ultimate law of the land. This has led to a backlash, a serious and divisive backlash, among folks who take the Bible seriously and who genuinely—I repeat: genuinely— believe that America is going straight to hell because it has turned its back on God and his Word.

More important, though, than all the talk of cultural anxiety and ancient theology is what these Bible-believing folks have been up to lately. In order to turn their biblical notions and reactionary tendencies into public policies like the one proposed last week in Kansas, they have increasingly and fanatically turned to grassroots politics.

These religious reactionaries have educated themselves and essentially taken over the Republican Party’s organizational structure. One such reactionary lives right here in Southwest Missouri. I used to go to the same evangelical church he did and used to believe a lot of the same things he believes. His name is John Putnam. He’s from Carthage and he is the Chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party.

Mr. Putnam has essentially written his own bible on how to take over and transform the Republican Party from the ground up. He notes that there are some “183,000 precincts in the 50 states” and he outlines how the system works:

putnam's patriotsThe voters of each precinct, according to their state’s laws, can elect or appoint one man and one woman to represent the people of that precinct in their political party’s organizational structure (sometimes called the party “machine”).  The precinct chairs/executives become members of their county committee and elect their county committee’s Chair and Vice-Chair who, in turn, help elect their Party’s State Committee; plus, they largely influence which candidates will run (and most likely be elected) in their party’s primary election and who, subsequently, will carry their party’s banner in the November General Elections. 

All of this represents the nuts and bolts of party organization. It is how a political party can be commandeered by a zealous minority and how such zealotry can come to represent the face of the party. It it why the Republican Party is so schizophrenic. It is why its national leaders are so afraid to actually lead. It is why Washington is suffering from legislative paralysis. You think I am exaggerating? Putnam goes on to point out that,

Nationwide, half of these positions sit empty and most voters no longer even know they exist.  If Constitutional conservatives will fulfill the precinct leader’s role and elect Constitutional conservative chairs and vice-chairs to their county committees, we can cleanse our representative form of government in very short order.  This is assuming the men and women who fill the precinct position have the wisdom of  Cleon Skousen gleaned from The Five Thousand Year Leap and the virtue of George Washington (see Glenn Beck’s Being George Washington).

If that stuff about cleansing doesn’t scare you, then you don’t know who Cleon Skousen and Glenn Beck are. Perhaps now you can see why the Republican Party looks the way it does. This kind of tactical action is going on, has been going on, all over the country. Mr. Putnam provides local zealots everywhere, those who have a biblical ax to grind, with essential knowledge of how to go about that grinding. Become “party officials” at the local level, he says. Why? Because:

…party officials have a strong influence on who wins the Primary because of their influence in recruiting and endorsing candidates. They also influence whether the Party stays philosophically true to its platform. There is no reason why YOU cannot become a Precinct Patriot and be one who influences these decisions. 

If you ever wondered why a disturbed and disturbing man named Todd Akin became the Missouri GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2012, now you know why. Even after Akin was disgraced, even after his horrific views on women and rape were revealed, even after the Republican establishment abandoned him, John Putnam came to his defense and supported him. And even with that robust defense of a man clearly out of touch with reality, perhaps because of that robust defense, John Putnam remains in charge—in charge!—of the Jasper County Republican Party.

That tells you all you need to know about what is wrong with the GOP. At the ground level, where it often matters most, the reactionaries are running the asylum.

“To Transform A Nation” Means A Holy War, Man!

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

—I John 4:20

In case you didn’t know, there is about to be another American Revolution.

Or, take your pick, another Civil War.

Now, either this revolution or civil war will be fought by an Angry God, or by Angry God-worshipping fundamentalist Christians who are outraged that women want, and until recently were getting, control of their own reproductive lives.

Or the war will be fought by zealots who are outraged that people of the same sex can kiss each other in public and otherwise get treated as equals under law.

Or the war will be fought by folks who are upset about both reproductive and marriage freedom, mixed with a lot of outrage over ObamaCare.obama socialist

In any case, Christian jihadists here in America are letting it be known they are prepared for the worst.

Let’s start with Rick Joyner, a Christian pastor who is the founder and head of a right-wing religious group called MorningStar Ministries.  He is also the president of an organization called The Oak Initiative, which describes itself as,

a grassroots movement to UniteMobilizeEquip, and Activate Christians to be the salt and light they are called to be by engaging in the great issues of our time from a sound biblical worldview.

By its own admission, this group of Christian zealots exists to encourage its members “to transform a nation”—that’s this nation, folks—and to become “change-agents and facilitating change in every aspect of our culture as we, the Oak Initiative, become infused into the areas of social, cultural, and political impact wherever we find ourselves.”

The short of it is that this group, and others like it, have as a goal to remake America in ways compatible with fundamentalist Christianity, and these people are using the Republican Party, at the local, state, and federal levels, as a jihadist vehicle to accomplish their goal.

One of The Oak Initiative’s board members is Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin (retired), who, incredibly, at one time was the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence under George W. Bush. Boykin, a fundamentalist zealot, became relatively famous for his remarks in 2003 related to the War on Terror, remarks made while serving as the, uh, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and remarks that claimed that his Christian God was “bigger” than the Muslim “idol.”

In a follow-up statement—part of which was redacted by adults in the Pentagon—a statement meant to apologize for and explain the juvenile and stupid claims that upset so many here and abroad, Boykin wrote:

• I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of men, to include nations, as Benjamin Franklin so eloquently stated. Yes I believe that George Bush was placed in the White House by God as well as Bill Clinton and other presidents.

• As a Christian I believe that there is a spiritual war that is continuous as articulated in the Bible. It is not confined to the war of terrorism.

Nothing, I submit, articulates the mindset of right-wing Christians—who, again, have hijacked the Republican Party to do their dirty work—better than those two statements: God guides history and history is essentially a battle between Good Spirits and Evil Spirits.

Magical thinking like that is everywhere these days, in caves in Tora Bora or in, well, Virginia Beach, Virginia, home of Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.

Robertson, fresh off from citing the death penalty in Leviticus for gay folks and suggesting that two gay men kissing makes him barf—no word in yet on what two women kissing does to him, but I have my suspicions—and claiming that “the Bible didn’t talk about civil rights,” asked:

Which is going to take precedence, the Supreme Court of the United States or the holy word of God?

Apparently, the answer is “the holy word of God,” at least the version interpreted by Pat Robertson. On Wednesday the religious freak suggested that Americans follow the Egyptians and “rise up against” ObamaCare, which, of course, is “state socialism,” even though Republicans invented it. In any case, God, obviously, is opposed to folks having health insurance because if you just pray hard enough, and, more important, send Pat Robertson thirty-bucks a month, you don’t need no stinkin’ health insurance.

And if you think an Egyptian-like revolt here in America is only a figment of Pat Robertson’s twisted, fundamentalist mind, then you don’t know Larry Klayman, who founded Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch and writes a column for the popular source of Christian lies about Obama, World Net Daily. Klayman wrote on Tuesday that the President “is a closet religious Muslim through and through” and then suggested the possibility of a military revolt against him:

…given the state of affairs generally in this nation, which borders on total political, economic, moral and ethical collapse, is it inconceivable that one day the military in this country could rise up in support of not only the American people but themselves, and remove Obama and his radical Muslim, socialist comrades by whatever means prove necessary to preserve the republic?

Yes, he went there. But that’s expected from a zealot who is fearful that a non-peaceful revolution “could again prove necessary to restore the republic.”

But Barack Obama is not just an enemy of the United States. American Family Association talk show maiden, Sandy Rios, said about the President:

I long ago crossed the line in trying to be careful about how I speak about him because as far as I’m concerned he’s an enemy of the faith. I believe he is. He presses all things immoral, all things unbiblical and he claims to be a Christian which to me is even worse, it’s worse.

Okay, I can see how Obama is an enemy of America. He wants to destroy it and then turn it over to the Chinese or the Muslims or whoever else would want it at that point. What I don’t see is how he is “an enemy of the faith.” Perhaps, weirdly, it is his faithfulness to his, uh, one and only wife that makes him an enemy, or his two lovely children?roberson and trump

Whatever it is, we know that a real friend of the faith would be somebody like, oh, Donald Trump! Yeah, Trump is someone that right-wing Christians can get behind. And Bob Vander Plaats, that freaky Christian zealot from Iowa, is doing just that. He has invited the mammon-crazed, divorced (twice!) birther to speak at something called, falsely, the Family Leadership Summit. Praise God, who we are told, knows how many hairs are on Donald’s strange looking head, if not how few synapses are firing at any one time inside it.

Speaking of a lack of lively synapses, there’s Glenn Beck. Last week he said,

we are not fighting with the president of the United States, we are not fighting with the Democrats, we are fighting evil.

Except that the other day he said President Obama was a “ridiculous piece of garbage.” But, now that I think about it, I guess you don’t have to be an evil piece of garbage. On Tuesday Beck said:

…we are in so much trouble … if we don’t wake up and, as a nation, start to insist that our nation’s laws follow the laws of nature’s god and nature’s laws, we’re in trouble, man; we’re in real trouble. The darkness is astounding.

Yes, “we’re in trouble, man.” The darkness, the darkness of religious dogma, is astounding. But what is more astounding is that such dogma has a home, a relatively comfortable home, in the Republican Party.

And whether sober-minded Democrats, or even the few sober-minded Republicans left out there, want to admit it or ignore it, these dogma-loving zealots have taken over local precincts and local elective offices, state party committees and statehouses, and have a sizable contingent in the Congress of the United States.

Yep, we’re in trouble, man.

“Jus Niggaz Bein Niggaz”

Last night, while watching a segment on “All In With Chris Hayes,” I heard a reference to Nat Turner.

Now, these days, you don’t often hear references to the slave Nat Turner, so a little history is in order before we get to the reason his name was invoked on MSNBC last night.

Nat Turner—the surname being the name of his owner—was born in 1800. He became a religious zealot, who believed, essentially, that God had put it upon him to lead an uprising against slave-owners, starting in Virginia. His rebellion, which began on August 21, 1831, lasted no more than 48 hours, and resulted in (the estimates are problematic) the brutal deaths of 55 to 65 white folks, including women, the brutality, presumably, meant to “strike terror and alarm,” as one newspaper reported at the time.

When the slave-loving establishment was finished with its form of justice, an estimated 100 to 200 blacks were dead, including some who were executed by the state for allegedly being part of Turner’s rebellion and some, including some who had nothing to do with the revolt, who were summarily killed by reactionary white mobs with guns, affectionately known as militias. As Wikipedia put it:

Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia. “Their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation.”

Turner was eventually caught and tried for his ill-conceived rebellion. He was quickly strung up and killed, his dead body then flayed and ripped apart like an animal. As American Heritage.com put it:

His skin was made into a purse, his flesh turned to grease, his bones divvied up as souvenirs. His head was permanently separated from his body and made the rounds as a curio, reportedly spending much of the twentieth century at the College of Wooster, in Ohio.

Nice. Good Christian Justice.

I said all that to say this: since Nat Turner’s rebellion there has been a fear among many whites, sometimes open and sometimes not, that there is a sort of unruly animal spirit residing in black folks that is just waiting to rebel at even the slightest provocation, just waiting to get even with whites for the sin of slavery, for the disgrace of systematic and ongoing oppression.

Enter Fox’s Bill O’Reilly.

Billo was in typical form on Tuesday night, commenting on the George Zimmerman murder trial (which I have watched fairly religiously and about which I will likely have something to offer, if I can stomach writing about it).

Naturally, O’Reilly claims, journalists are responsible for distorting racial issues and for causing “racial division.” He cited a Rasmussen poll that purported to show that more than one-third of Americans—including almost one-third of blacks!—believe that blacks are the most racist group in America (one-half of the conservatives and one-half of Republicans surveyed believe most blacks are racist). He then, also following form, predicted:

If George Zimmerman is acquitted, there will be racial animus.

By “racial animus,” of course, Billo means Niggas Gone Wild. Blacks, being filled with the spirit of Nat Turner, ain’t gonna tolerate Zimmerman getting away with shooting to death an unarmed black teenager for the crime of being, among other things, a suspicious-looking black kid.

To be fair to the unfair Bill O’Reilly, he’s not the only one sounding the Nat Turner alarm. In Florida, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department “has coordinated a response plan in anticipation of the verdict.” The response includes the enlisting of “basketball star James Jones of the championship Miami Heat.” This is James Jones:

As you can see, Mr. Jones is well-qualified to urge certain pigmented “young people not to let their emotions get the best of them.”

This is the Sheriff of Broward County:

Scott J. Israel

As you can see, he is not necessarily well-qualified to urge certain pigmented “young people not to let their emotions get the best of them.”

The Blaze, founded by Glenn Beck, is no stranger to racial issues. It weighed in recently with an article with this header:

‘IF ZIMMERMAN GET OFF, IMA GO KILL A WHITE BOY’: TRAYVON MARTIN SUPPORTERS MAKE SHOCKING THREATS AHEAD OF VERDICT

The article consisted of stupid tweets from stupid people promising to do something violent in retaliation for an acquittal. Here was just one example among many:

Trayvon Martin Fans Tweet Death Threats If George Zimmerman Is Found Not Guilty

You get the point.

Naturally, a Glenn Beck-inspired outlet is going to document and promote such trash because doing so, predictably, results in a robust expression of the white angst that fuels so much of the subtle racism that flows through parts of conservative White America. Here is a sample of the nearly 700 responses the article received:

  • some of those tweets sound a little similar to the reports of what martin was saying the night he was shot. didn’t work out so well for him, but hey…
  • Well one more reason to own a gun and have a CCW permit. My father always said this country was ripe for a civil war of blacks vs whites and he would not live to see it. My father dies in 2011 [...]
  • The apes are throwing threats again what a surprise. All I can say is BRING IT BITCHES I have some lead pie filling for ya.
  • Wow, who knew Obama had so many “sons”?????
  • Negroes are all judging Trayvon based on the color of his skin, while ignoring the content of his character. It’s sad that 95% of negroes are racist.
  • Truth be told, the WORST racists in this country are blacks….taught to be that way by the constant divisive BS pounded into them by the democrats. I figured that out when I worked at Ford in the Detroit area for 32 years.
  • It is crazy, sick, destructive and evil and it emanates from the Oval Office “design team”. Maybe martial law enacted just prior to the 2016 election………
  • You have to recall that these are the descendants of the ex-slaves that missed the free boat ride to return to Africa and they are still angry.
  • Let them try. I’m not worried about these creatures. The gun I carry is bigger and carries many more rounds than Zimmerman’s little Kel-Tec PF9. Let them try. Let them die.
  • He will be found not guilty of course and many many folks will be waiting for you boys to misbehave.
  • Ok all you afro heroes, talk your sh+t, I’ve got lots of rounds, magazines, and replacement barrels. I wonder how quick you will run when your homies bodies are being stacked like wood,eh.
  • You boys are outnumbered, even if you add the bleeding heart lib whites to help you. The race war that you yearn for won’t end the way you want so by all means let’s get this party started.
  • Civil war anyone?
  • Even these animals can see that this pig star witness is a big time failure! Hehehehehehe!
  • why aren’t these douchbags all arrested for death threats?? Come on NSA you afraid to go after them because they’re black?? As for you black punks threatening to kill a whitey, I say bring it on MF. Bring your black ass on!!
  • A Cracke_r is a person who works for a living in the hot sun herding cattle. Black MOFO’s are lazy parasites..
  • Big word from behind a computer. I am a white guy and I will be ready for that day.

As I said, that kind of stuff went on for pages and pages. Tough talk from keyboard-courageous gun-toters. But there was one particularly insightful commenter on the Blaze story, who went by the name of “BANNEDFROMCNN,” who wrote:

Jus niggaz bein niggaz.

When you think about it, that’s not much different from what Bill O’Reilly, the most popular TV conservative in America, said on Tuesday night.

Congratulations, Billo.

Why There Is No “Liberal Movement”

Wanna know what’s wrong with the left in this country? This:

george w. obamaThat was from yesterday. Here’s today’s HuffPo header:

george w. obama

Some liberals and progressives, now joining libertarians in the wacky wing of the Republican Party, are aghast that the government—all three branches being involved—is snooping around the Internet looking for terrorists. What did people think was happening since the country—Democrats as well as Republicans, liberals as well as conservatives—demanded that 9/11 never happen again?

And the right wing crazies, those like Ann Coulter, have a slightly more nuanced take on all this:

Coulter Blasts Obama For NSA Snooping: Cares More About ‘Harassing Americans’ Than Fighting Terrorism

The un-delightful Ms. Coulter, as reported by Mediaite, sees things through a pair of Obama-hating glasses:

Ann Coulter did not object to the news about NSA phone snooping on principle, but does have a problem with it under this particular president. She told Sean Hannity tonight that under an “honorable administration,” the government should be able to collect phone records, but said that President Obama, with all the other scandals that have come out, has proven to be untrustworthy and he cares more about “harassing Americans” and his political opponents than actually fighting terrorism.

Those are the kinds of people that HuffPo and The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and The New York Times editorialists are getting in bed with, rolling under the covers with, and who knows doing what with.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the story on the allegedly widespread NSA surveillance scheme by publishing leaks about it, has been an Obama critic almost from the beginning, often getting credit for criticizing the President “from the left.” Bullhockey. Greenwald could jump in the political sack with Rand or Ron Paul, or both, and enjoy every minute of it. As the Rooted Cosmopolitan put it, Greenwald,

is not a liberal or progressive with a broad sense of the common good.

No, he’s not. I have followed his Tweets for months and some of them have shocked me in terms of their breathtaking hysteria related to President Obama.  Not only that, Greenwald doesn’t respect those on the left who don’t spend all their time denigrating the President. He once tweeted in support of someone who said of Obama supporters, “Obama could rape a nun on NBC and you’d say we weren’t seeing what we were seeing.” Greenwald’s reply:

No – she’d say it was justified [and] noble – that he only did it to teach us about the evils of rape.

The guy who wrote that, who doubled-down on the rape “joke,” is the one who broke the story on the NSA surveillance. That’s why I will wait until more sober minds have examined this issue’before I trash the man in the White House who has actually offered to hand back significant executive power to Congress.

By the way, Greenwald told CNN:

There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal, and that is to destroy privacy and anonymity, not just in the United States but around the world. That is not hyperbole. That is their objective.

If that sounds like Glenn Beck instead of Glenn Greenwald then you don’t know Glenn Greenwald.

There are questions that need answered related to this NSA story, for sure. But people can’t have it both ways. They can’t demand that the government keep us safe from terrorists who want to kill us, while expecting government officials not to use technical means to do so.

And all of this stuff is especially ironic in an age in which people share all kinds of private information with strangers on the Internet or through emails.

In any case, the hysteria from the left—Obama is now George W. Bush—is why liberals cannot have a “movement” in the way conservatives can. They almost always let the perfect not only be an enemy of the good, but kill it in its tracks.

The U.S. Government Bombed The Boston Marathon, Or Just Another Day In The World Of Right-Wing Nuttery

I only listened to a little Glenn Beck on Wednesday morning because, frankly, a little Glenn Beck goes a long way in terms of destroying brain tissue, and, to be honest, I don’t have that much brain tissue to spare these days.

Naturally, since Glenn Beck specializes in peddling conspiracy theories for cash, Glenn Beck has a conspiracy theory regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, which, as far as I can tell,  involves Barack and Michelle Obama and Joe Biden and the Saudi Arabian foreign minister and the Saudi ambassador and Janet Napolitano, who will, when this plot is unraveled, be “the first to fall,” says Beck.  Oh, yeah, I think the pigmented comedian Dave Chappelle is involved too, because he converted to Islam in 1998 and since then, well, the world has gone to hell.

Because he is a capitalist without a conscience, Glenn Beck won’t let a terrorist attack go to waste without least attempting to make a profit from it. And this latest conspiracy theory—involving a Saudi man who police—and, for Allah’s sake, even Fox News’ Bret Baier—says was merely a victim of the bombing and not a suspect or participant on behalf of the government, is so stupid and unbelievable that, of course, it has legs in the world of right-wing nuttery. (You can see Beck’s take on Bret Baier here.)boston marathon bombing

Let me tell you that the evening of  the Boston Marathon bombing, I was at a local high school baseball game watching my kid play. Standing beside me was a dad of another player on our team. I knew this guy to be a right-wing fanatic (chances are, around these parts, someone you are standing next to at a ball game is a right-wing fanatic), and, it happens, a Glenn Beck fan. He was checking his phone for updates on the bombing and, lo and behold, he told me that “they” just found out that the perpetrator was a “Saudi national.” “Who could have guessed that?” he said sarcastically.

Playing along, I said, “Of course!” Who else, I said only to myself, would want to kill spectators at a marathon but those damn Saudis! They’ve always hated long-distance runners, especially long-distance runners from Ethiopia who win, and they hate people who would stand and applaud their efforts. Kill the infidels!

Needless to say, I later found out the truth about the Saudi national and that Matt Drudge and Alex Jones and Glenn Beck and others were trying to make a buck off the whole thing. And I sort of felt a little guilty for not telling the guy at the baseball game that he was, dammit, out of his mind for believing anything that came from his right-wing “sources.”

In any case, all of this embarrassing nonsense leads me to post the segment below from Wednesday night’s Rachel Maddow Show, which, in case you think this conspiracy stuff is harmless fluff, will change your mind about how pervasive, sick, and thus, dangerous, it is in terms of our national well-being. Because people like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity can, thanks to Fox “News,” talk radio, and the Internet, reach millions of folks, they are making us dumber as a society.

As Steve Benen wrote:

…let’s not overlook the fact that last week, Beck used his Internet show to push a bogus claim about a Boston suspect, but his arguments quickly drew attention from the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the chairman of the House subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, the chairman of the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and the chairwoman of the House subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security — all of whom are Republicans, and all of whom took Beck’s nonsense seriously.

There’s a strain of madness running through contemporary Republican politics…

To Hell With The Republican Party

GOP dying? Good!”

Glenn Beck

Okay. I’m warning all of you who don’t like profanity to click away.

On Tuesday I heard yet another segment on television—perhaps the millionth by now— about what Republicans need to do to reform themselves.

Finally, I am here to say: Who gives a damn? Who cares what Republicans need to do to reform themselves? I used to. I used to care. Now I don’t. You know why? Because the party is beyond reform, that’s why.

As we get some bad economic news today—the economy didn’t grow last quarter—just think about why that is. The Republican Party has done its best to sabotage the economic recovery, mostly just because it hates Barack Obama and loves political power.

And think about this: My own senator, Roy Blunt, practically begged for funds for his constituents in Joplin, after a tornado ripped through our town in 2011. But then, when a super storm named Sandy ripped through the northeast, blunt2where all those goddamned liberals live, he said to hell with the goddamned liberals. He, and thirty-five other Republicans—most of whom have taken federal funds for disasters in their own states—voted “no” on Sandy relief.

Well, to hell with him, to hell with them, and to hell with the Republican Party.

I don’t like the GOP. I hate what it stands for. I want it to die and go away. I don’t want to waste time worrying if it can reform itself because those who mean to reform it sometimes sound as ridiculous as those who want it to remain the way it is, or, God forbid, make it worse.

Example: David Brooks is by all accounts one of the most reasonable Republicans on the planet and one who liberals love to cite. But when he can say that there ought to be a “second G.O.P.” and that this new G.O.P. would “be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power,” there is no real hope for the party.

Did Brooks even watch that inaugural speech before he wrote that “excessive faith in centralized power” phrase? Are you kidding me? President Obama, in that speech, said this:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

Can David Brooks hear? Can he read? Is he having a love affair with Rush Limbaugh’s brain? Brooks said the new reformed group of Republicans would be one that “recoiled” at the “excessive faith in centralized power” that Obama expressed in his speech. Except that Obama expressed no such a thing.

What the President did do was explicitly acknowledge our national “skepticism of central authority” and called government-only solutions a “fiction,” and celebrated “initiative and David Brooks, serious typist for the Timesenterprise” and “hard work and personal responsibility,” which he called “constants in our character.”

Maybe David Brooks thinks only Republicans can seriously use language like that, I don’t know. But I do know there is something seriously wrong with a political party when a moderate member, one who gets accolades from Democrats like me for not being a crazy conservative, can grossly mischaracterize a Democratic speech and remain a respected “moderate.”

Okay, I admit I could tolerate a party full of David Brooks types, even if they say stupid things like “excessive faith in centralized power” when there was no excessive faith in centralized power.

But I can’t tolerate a party that would put a man like Reince Priebus back in charge. Priebus has been reelected as Republican National Committee chairman. He’s once again the official spokesman for the party.

Someone explain to me why a political party that supposedly wants to reform itself would put one of its most disgusting leaders of all time back on top. Oh, let me remind you of what this slimy bastard said while the tragedy in Benghazi was still warm:

reince priebus

If there were a God who gave a damn about this world, Reince Priebus would be putting out fires in hell about now. But instead, the creep has been put back in charge of the Republican Party, which may amount to the same job.

Not only is Priebus the leader of the Republicans’ War on Decency, he recently was auditioning for a part in the GOP’s War on Democracy. He favors Republican-controlled states “looking at” an outrageous scheme to thwart the will of the people by changing the way those states allocate Electoral College votes.

As if the Electoral College isn’t stupid enough without the Republican Party devising a way to make a future 47%-of-the-vote-getting presidential candidate the winner. Does anyone think a party that would even contemplate such a thing is redeemable? Huh?

Want more? I finally heard about remarks made last Saturday by newly elected Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz. The remarks were about two of President Obama’s picks for cabinet members, Democrat John Kerry—who has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star and a Bronze Star from his service in Vietnam—and Republican Chuck Hagel—who has two Purple Hearts and flesh-wrapped shrapnel from his time in Vietnam.

Here’s how HuffPo reported the remarks Cruz made on Saturday: 

“Okay, we’ve got two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel,” he said in responding to a question at the National Review Institute summit in Washington. “Both of whom are very prominently — “

Cruz took a pregnant pause. “Anti-us?” said a moderator.

“Less than ardent fans of the U.S. military,” he continued.

Can you believe that? Can you believe a man would first tolerate the moderator’s disgusting “anti-us” remark and then say that combat veterans and war heroes were not fans of the military? I can. That’s what this goddamned party has come to.

You can Google “Ted Cruz military service” and you will find that the arrogant SOB never served a day in the military, let alone won any medals, as did Kerry and Hagel. Cruz was, however, a champion debater at, uh, Princeton. Good for him, the brave asshole.

Lest you forget, Ted Cruz is one of the bright lights in the Republican Party. Political strategist Mark McKinnon, who like David Brooks gets credit for being a “moderate” Republican, called Cruz, “the Republican Barack Obama.”

That, my friends, is from the lips of a moderate Republican. There’s no hope for the party, is all one can conclude.

And there is no hope for a party that encourages law enforcement officials, in this case sheriffs, to disobey the law. All over the country these “lawmen” are saying they will not obey any of Obama’s executive orders related to guns. Here in Missouri, the Republican-drunk legislature may soon entertain a bill introduced by a gun-slinging legislator,

making it a felony to enforce any executive order or federal law that bans the possession of a semiautomatic firearm, among other provisions.

You tell me if such lawlessness by a political party can be fixed.

Finally, I will end this tirade with more on the gun issue and with what happened to Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old boy was killed at Sandy Hook. Heslin was testifying emotionally during a public hearing in Hartford, Connecticut. He was in favor of doing something positive, like changing our insane gun laws, sort of as a way to memorialize the dead.

Initial reports on Tuesday were that Heslin was “heckled by gun nuts” in the audience. That heckling meme made it all around the country in no time. Then what followed the heckling meme was another meme pushed by right-wingers:

No, a Sandy Hook parent did not get “heckled by gun nuts”

Well, I have seen the video. I watched Neil Heslin’s face. I heard his tortured words. I felt his pain. He was obviously still stunned by the death of his little boy. He was understandably full of emotion.  ‘THAT WAS THE LAST I SAW OF HIM’: Neil Heslin dropped off Jesse yesterday morning and planned to go back in the afternoon to help him make gingerbread houses.He was trying to find something good from the tragedy. He asked a rhetorical question,

Why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault style weapons or military weapons or high capacity clips?

Greeted with appropriate silence, Heslin then said,

And not one person can answer that question or give me an answer.

At that point, more than one person mouthed out ridiculous statements like “Second Amendment shall not be infringed” and “you will not infringe our rights.” Real classy folks.

Now, I don’t give a damn what you call this, whether you call it “heckling” or whether you call it something else. What I call it is indecent. And it is the Republican Party that has made the world safe for extremist gun freaks who don’t have the decency to respect a still-grieving father in a moment like that.

And it is the Republican Party that not only enables such indecency, but also enables those gun freaks who demand that they have the right to play with military-ish guns and fantasize about how they need those big-ass guns and clips to combat a tyrannical government. The Republican Party makes that possible.

Add all this up and more—I didn’t even mention the party’s still hot War on Women or that Marco Rubio had to kiss Rush Limbaugh’s ass and get his blessing on immigration reform—and, as far as I’m concerned, the once-great party of Lincoln is irredeemable, hopeless. And I don’t want to hear any more bullshit about its agonizing efforts to reform itself.

____________________

To sort of follow up on my outburst, I present below a stunning “Rewrite” segment from Lawrence O’Donnell’s Tuesday evening show. It’s about what happened to Neil Heslin:

Shyst!

“Let’s just call Beck and Limbaugh FreedomWorks’ whores and be done with it.”

Crooks and Liars

I don’t know how many of you out there caught the following from Media Matters, but it is just too sweet to ignore:

Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey says the conservative outlet that helped launch the Tea Party paid Glenn Beck at least $1 million last year to fundraise for the organization, an arrangement he said provided “too little value” for the money. 

“The arrangement was simply FreedomWorks paid Glenn Beck money and Glenn Beck said nice things about FreedomWorks on the air,” Armey, the former House majority leader, told Media Matters Friday. “I saw that a million dollars went to Beck this past year, that was the annual expenditure.”

Armey, who left the organization this past fall after a dispute over its internal operations, said a similar arrangement was also in place with Rush Limbaugh, but did not know the exact financial details.

I urge you to follow the Media Matters link and read it all. And if anyone out there, and I am talking to conservative lurkers, doubts that much of the conservative movement these days is nothing more than a vehicle for shysters to, well, shyst and enrich themselves, then, as usual, scribble your doubts in the margins of a $100 bill and send them to me.

I will get back to you with more evidence in due time.

“Stupid FEMA Trucks”

By now we have all been reminded, through various statements he has made in the past, how Mitt Romney feels about FEMA and firemen and policemen, about those faces of government that folks in a heap of storm trouble rely on, in this complex society, whether the need is rescue, recovery, or rebuild.

We know all about that in Joplin. More than a dozen federal agencies were on the ground here after our tornado, and in our community of about 50,000 folks, more than 800 FEMA employees were doing their thing here, so much so that people normally a little suspicious of government, like the president of our Chamber of Commerce, said,

FEMA was an absolute champion.

Millions upon millions of dollars from American taxpayers have flowed into this area for all kinds of purposes, from housing to debris removal. President Obama has been here two times, pledging each time to keep government’s commitment to partner with private efforts to get Joplin back on its feet.

As we see the horrendous pictures on television of the destruction brought on by a much larger storm than the devastating Joplin tornado, as we see government workers of all kinds on the ground doing what it is they do in the wake of such destruction, we should remind ourselves of how strong is the anti-government spirit that animated Mitt Romney to say “we cannot afford” to do the kinds of things that those government workers, firemen, cops, and, yes, FEMA folks, are now doing all over the Sandy-ravaged Northeast.

Or animated Romney to say, in the context of FEMA and disaster relief:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

That anti-government spirit is strong, indeed. Last year, the popular conservative, Glenn Beck, announced that he was going to bring ordinary people, including religious leaders, together to, as one report put it,

step up and help the less fortunate by providing goods and services for the poor and for people who are faced with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

“God forbid if there is a Joplin or Katrina,” Beck said. “If we have done our job so well that when the stupid FEMA trucks come rolling down, we say ‘Man, turn around, push off,’ that’s when Man will be free again.”

Stupid FEMA trucks.” I wonder how many Glenn Beck, anti-government conservatives in the path of Hurricane Sandy feel that way about FEMA trucks today?

Locally, here where FEMA and the federal government has played such a crucial role in our post-tornado recovery, a local blogger, a man who sometimes writes the in-house editorials for the Joplin Globe , a man who is often a guest Globe columnist, wrote earlier this year:

America was great because of the lack of government controls, by and large. I want to go “back” to that principle and simply allow government to do the minimum needed to prevent anarchy. Otherwise let the “people” sort it all out on their own. I don’t care how “complex” society becomes. The Constitution is so basic to any society that it will work fine regardless of new technology.

As for “needs” of people, That has NEVER changed in history. And by and large the Constitution ignores those needs other than defense against foreign “needs”.

Give people freedom and they will by and large as a nation do fine.

This writer, again a man with a voice on the Joplin Globe’s editorial page, including authoring some of its own editorials, said he wants to go back to a time when there was just enough government to “prevent anarchy.” Let people “sort it all out on their own,” he said, no matter how “‘complex’ society becomes.”

Hmm.

Give people freedom,” this writer says, and “by and large” they’ll do just fine.

By and large. I wonder, as I see folks all over the Northeast in shock at what has happened to them, what has happened to their communities, if they are by and large doing just fine. I wonder if all those storm victims, including conservative ones, want to sort it all out on their own. I wonder if those victims long for a shoestring government just big enough to prevent anarchy.

Yes, I wonder.

Akin Is “Our Guy” Says Ozark Billy

Southwest Missouri congressman Ozark Billy, who recently and stupidly said, “We’re not the land of the free anymore,” has now thrown his considerable weight—that’s not really a metaphor—behind the embattled Todd Akin, according to Politico:

First-term Rep. Billy Long, who represents the conservative southwestern portion of the state, said Akin was the party’s candidate, whom he planned to support.

“The people of Missouri voted for him, and he’s our guy,” Long told POLITICO. “And either you’re for Todd Akin and I’m not for Claire McCaskill. … He’s been an underdog his whole life, he won a lot of races he wasn’t supposed to win, so I think he can win.”

Yep, against the stream of establishment sentiment, our own Ozark Billy is making a gallant stand for ignorance and bigotry, but he’s not the only local embracing  Todd Akin’s “gaffe,” which, of course was not a gaffe but a rare moment of honesty and clarity.

Jasper County pooh-bah and resident Christian moralist-slash-Glenn Beck fan, John Putnam, said Mittens “needs to rescind” his demand that Akin give up the fight, and he offered this:

I think Reince Priebus and Roy Blunt and all the people need to support the candidate that the folks from Missouri nominated and picked in the primary. I think the GOP party bosses that are trying to drum him out are creating a bigger split in the party than Todd Akin is.

We’ll see whether Romney, true to form, or Priebus or Blunt waffles on Akin and accepts the Jasper County Republican’s godly counsel, but I have to admit that, for once, I agree with John Putnam. Party bosses—and right now there ain’t no bigger boss than Mittens—are creating a “split” in the party between evangelicals, who actually believe the nutty stuff they say, and regular party guys—characters who wouldn’t know Jesus if he jolted them with a bolt of overdue lightning—who use those evangelicals to obtain political power.

But my guess is that the evangelicals who are being used will, despite their Akin-induced dissatisfaction with the party honchos, nevertheless come to GOP Jesus and work hard to get their superiors elected, what with that Black Devil, Barack What’s-His-Unholy Name, lurking in the electoral shadows.

Meanwhile, the Black Devil’s Missouri handmaiden, Claire McCaskill, will likely save her job, despite the fact that the faithful, led by conservative crusader and buffet king Billy Long, will try their best to exorcise her evil self from the United States Senate.

Speaking Lies In Love

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love…

—Paul the Apostle

hile I was on my daily walk this morning, I thought I would check in on Glenn Beck, who without his Fox gig hasn’t been as prominent in the political news—a commentary itself on how Fox legitimates weirdness.

On Beck’s radio program was a man named James Robinson, a televangelist who has fallen madly in love with Glenn Beck and who is helping to make Mormonism safe for evangelicals to embrace as part of the Christian brotherhood.

Robinson, who believes progressives want to impose a “secular progressive theocracy” on America, was on Beck’s show this morning to express his affection for Glenn and to promote a so-called leadership conference—”Under God: Indivisible“—Robinson is holding in Arlington, Texas, on July 27. (His event precedes by a day one sponsored by Beck, which he laughingly calls: “Restoring Love: Coming Together To Heal A Nation ♥“).

I want to quote from a website Robinson set up, which explains the purpose of his conference:

The afternoon session is for pastors, priests, rabbis, and any other concerned citizens who want to join in leading America back to our foundational values of Family, Faith, and Freedom. Topics covered in this session will help teach leaders how to discuss moral concerns and current issues without being partisan. The afternoon session will include an open discussion and will provide critical information to leaders concerning how to make a positive impact on the culture and on national direction.

Let me pull out something that should have caught your eye:

Topics covered in this session will help teach leaders how to discuss moral concerns and current issues without being partisan.

Without being partisan.” What can that mean? Before I comment on that blazing bit of dishonesty, let me cite Proverbs 6: 6-19:

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Now, there is only one valid interpretation of what Robinson is up to with this gathering of prominent right-wing Christians and professional fleecers. The evangelist is trying to educate the attendees, whom he calls “leaders,” on the art of deception, in terms of talking about fellow-Christian and brother-in-the-Lord Obama and the Democratic Party without using the words “Obama” and “Democrat.”

Some of the leaders, having perfected partisan hate-talk, apparently need some remedial training in public-speaking dishonesty, such being necessary to better serve the Lord.

Among those leaders who will be speaking and presumably “learning” how to disguise their Obama-hate as constructive, non-partisan criticism is Father Jonathan Morris, a regular contributor to Fox “News” with the awesome responsibility of obliquely blessing the network’s nattering nastiness toward Obama. Morris recently said of the Administration’s attempt to ensure women have access to contraception through their health insurance:

Any national media outlet that fails to report the obvious raping of our First Amendment rights by this Health and Human Service mandate, is trumpeting either woeful incompetence or shameless bias.

Obviously, Robinson has some work to do on Morris. Likewise with another speaker he has invited, Ralph Reed. In case you don’t know, Reed, who loves Jesus almost as much as he loves money and the Republican Party, was the head of the Christian Coalition throughout much of the 1990s, when the group went after Bill Clinton with a vengeance normally reserved for the Almighty (oh, that’s in Romans 12:19).

So obviously partisan was the Christian Coalition that The Washington Post began a story on it this way:

The IRS has rejected the Christian Coalition’s 10-year struggle to win tax-exempt status, dealing a major setback to a mainstay of the Republican Party and to the political-business empire that turned broadcaster Pat Robertson into a power broker of the religious right.

Morris and Reed are just a few of the speakers—including Glenn Beck himself—who might find it difficult to learn how to bash Obama and the Democrats without sounding partisan, but come to think of it, when you make a living shaking down religious folks with sophistry and fear, learning how to do so without sounding like the partisan hack you are will probably come easy.

As for Beck, if you visit his website today, you will find just why he needs Robinson’s reorientation session, as he promotes the event right next to a story on Obama, complete with skull and crossbones:

Stomp The Roaches

Emerging from three days of near-isolation from politics, I woke up today to this:

And this:

And this:

You know, normally when you turn on the light the roaches scatter and head for the cover of darkness.  In this election cycle, the roaches of extremism, nesting in the brains of GOP candidates, not only don’t scatter when the lights come on, they send for their friends.

I have found quite disgusting most of what Republicans have said and done this campaign season, much of that disgust registered on this blog since campaigning began. But I don’t think I have been more disgusted by anything said so far as I am by the attacks on President Obama for trying to protect American soldiers, via his apology to the president of Afghanistan for inadvertently burning Qurans.

It is almost beyond words.  Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, apparently has learned diplomat-speak very well, since she totally understated the problem:

I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would inflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan.

Somewhat troubling“?  She finds it somewhat troubling that candidates for the highest office in our land would “inflame a dangerous situation“—thus putting our troops at even greater risk? Well, I find it somewhat troubling that we should use such mild language to call out Republicans for their cynical exploitation of this issue.

Obama is the Commander-in-Chief, for Allah’s sake. His responsibility in this matter is to do all he can to calm nerves and not expose our soldiers to even more danger than they already face. To criticize him for doing his job is really unbleepingbelievable.

When the roaches are out running around in the light, you don’t just find it “somewhat troubling.” You stomp your rhetorical foot on them—no, both rhetorical feet—crushing them, knowing that the uncomfortable crunch is the first step in stopping the infestation because, if you don’t do it now, they will simply go back to their conservative nests and breed more extremist ideas.

When Rick Santorum says, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” you don’t just find that “somewhat troubling” either.
We all should find that disturbing, frightening, terrifying.  And we should say so. Loudly. And often.

When Rick Santorum, playing to the weird crowd that makes up his base, says, “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob,” he should be mocked endlessly, until his extremist ideas aren’t even comfortable nesting in the brain of the host.

Santorum said to Glenn Beck, the father of a lot of extremist roaches, the following:

I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.

Now, what do you do with such fanaticism but crush it? What do you do with such zealotry but turn on the light and start stomping your feet?

David Brooks Goes Far, But Not Far Enough

David Brooks, noted conservative columnist (although not many current conservatives note him or claim him, such has been the deterioration in conservative taste since the Age of Limbaugh), has put into words what most old-timey Republicans surely know in their hearts:

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

The joke, of course, is on David Brooks.  Other than himself, “responsible Republicans”—once part of a respectable class of politicians in this country—have shipped away not just American jobs but American common sense from our political shores.

The Republican Party may no longer be a normal party,” Brooks observes.  It has been “infected by a faction” we all know as the Tea Party, members of which:

“…do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms.” (And, as Brooks points out, the terms are very sweet indeed, thanks to less-than-stellar Democratic negotiating.)

“…do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities…” (Brooks was speaking of the gazillion economists who have told the GOP that their stance on the debt limit is nuts, but I prefer to think of how some teapartying folks disregard the intellectual authorities regarding evolution and climate change and other such “hoaxes.”)

“…have no economic theory worthy of the name…” (But they do have what Brooks calls a “sacred fixation” on tax policy, which is important, but not all important, and certainly not important enough to ruin our economic future.)

“…have no sense of moral decency…” (They are willing to “stain the nation’s honor,” Brooks says, by not acknowledging ” the “sacred pledge” we made when borrowing money.  That pledge, in case anyone with teabags hanging from their foam ballcaps has forgotten, has to do with paying the lenders back.) 

The problem with Brooks’ analysis here is that it doesn’t go far enough.  He says, obviously referencing the Tea Party, the faction that has infected the GOP and that is responsible for the irresponsibility of Republicans, happened “over the past few years.”  Not so.

The Tea Party movement is just the latest incarnation of the kind of distorted, perverted conservatism practiced for a generation now by wildly popular Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and promoted by Fox and the Murdoch empire. 

Talk radio and later Fox enabled those who infected the Republican Party and continues to push the idea that compromise—especially with a “socialist” in the White House—is a dirty word;  that scholars and intellectuals have a hidden “liberal” agenda and are not to be trusted; that during this era of historically low taxes, taxes are still too high; that moral decency means gays can’t get married, but fiddling with the full faith and credit of our country is okay.

Brooks claims the Republican Party is infected, when, really, the entire country—from “sea to shining sea,” as the ubiquitous Limbaugh says on his three-hours-a-day-five-days-a-week radio show—is to some degree or another ravaged by the disease.

Oddly, Brooks himself demonstrates just how far the sickness has spread, when he makes this point about Democrats:

Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.

Astonishing, indeed. And what have Democrats received for giving up so much ground to Republicans?

Nothing.  Nothing except more Republican irresponsibility, as they push Democrats, and more important, the economy to the brink of collapse.

Remarks And Asides

Jon Huntsman, for a brief shining moment the only adult in a room full of Republican presidential hopefuls, essentially sealed his doom in the Republican primary by making the following statement about the Evil One, the America-hating Kenyan socialist, Barack Hussein Obama:

He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who’s the better American.

Nice knowing you Jon, even if it were only for a few hours.  Once upon a time, most Republicans were like you.  We will miss your kind.  How about becoming ambassador to, oh, I don’t know, say, China?

                                                                           [Photo by Pool/Getty Images North America]

________________________________

Speaking of Huntsman, even if his civility toward Obama doesn’t do him in, his expressed tolerance and “respect” for states that have legalized or may legalize gay marriage will.  Again, thanks for the memories, however brief, Jon.

________________________________

Speaking of “the gay,” former Texas A&M cheerleader and long-time governor of Texas, Rick Perry—who had a one-night-stand with secessionism—will be prepared, should he decide to run for president, to combat old rumors that he is, well,  a Kenyan homosexual.  According to Politico, Perry’s top strategist said:

…unfortunately there are always going to be some people who feel the need to spread false and misleading rumors to advance their own political agenda. 

Noooooooo.  Really? 

I don’t know just how Governor Perry can prove to conservative Republican primary voters that he doesn’t have the gay.  We all know by now that a Certificate of Live Heterosexuality won’t do. 

I guess we’ll just have to “take him at his word,” won’t we, Ms. Bachmann?

_____________________________ 

Fox “News” and other conservatives got their prayer shawls in a tangle over NBC Sports godlessly excerpting “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance during its golf telecast.  Now, I for one am comforted to know that conservatives, always eager to embrace policies that would take us back to the good old days, are content to stop at 1954, the year “under God” was wedged into the pledge.

That is progress.

_____________________________ 

Speaking of Fox, Ann Coulter, who makes a good living from saying dumb and outrageous things that have the virtue of being consumable by gullible conservatives with disposable income, said on Bill O’Reilly’s “show” Tuesday that Afghans are “perfectly happy being poor, ignorant and having a 30-year lifespan.”

That, my friends, passes for high-brow Christian comedy on Fox “News.”

Or, maybe it’s serious commentary.  It’s hard to tell.

_____________________________ 

Finally, and speaking of high-brow Christian comedy or serious commentary, I found the following on “The Blaze,” a website founded by the caliphate-obsessed, Obama-hating Mormon, Glenn Beck.  By the way, OIL_ROBB‘s comment, complete with misspelling and dumb insult, reads like it was written by a certain Globe blogger I know: 

Remarks And Asides

According to himself, conservative Globeblogger Anson Burlingame is going to work for the Obama administration as a consultant on “nuclear issues resulting from the Japanese quake and Tsunami.”

Now, I don’t know if the President himself called Anson to work for the Centers for Disease Control, but Obama does have a reputation for neutering his political enemies by appointing them to positions in his administration.

In any case, Mr. Burlingame offered a parting shot at yours truly:

But I will have my computer and will be watching carefully as local liberals try to destroy the country, piece by piece or blog by blog.

I hope you are as comforted as I am by the fact that Anson, who has such an odd relationship with reality, will be hard at work making us safe from Japanese radiation, or whatever it is he will be doing in Atlanta.

____________________________

Hamstrung by Congress, the Obama Justice Department will now have to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.  The announcement comes on the same day Obama is launching his 2012 campaign, a campaign, no doubt, that will feature less promises like the 2008 pledge to close Gitmo.  He promised. He tried. He failed.  

Ironically, Republicans, who are mostly—but not completely—responsible for this decision and who have demonstrated a lack of confidence in U.S. civilian courts, may have made it easier for KSM to avoid the death penalty (even if he doesn’t want to) because there is some legal uncertainty as to whether the tribunal can sentence him to death upon a guilty plea.

So, if KSM lives on at the expense of American taxpayers, we have the GOP to thank.

[KSM photo: AFP/Getty]

____________________________

Joke Of the Day:  On Fox News Sunday, Paul Ryan, the GOP budget czar, said his soon-to-be-released plan for “saving” (it’s safe to read: “dismantling”) Medicare and Medicaid and “repairing” (it’s okay to read: “killing”) entitlements,

will be giving our political adversaries things to use against us in the next election—and shame on them if they do that.

Yes, shame on them for doing to Republicans what Republicans did to Democrats before the last election.  Remember how Democrats were slashing Medicare to pay for Obamacare?

In any case, why is Ryan so afraid, if his proposal will save the day?

____________________________

Bonus Joke of the Day: Glenn Beck is “uncomfortable” with all that Trump-talk about Obama’s birthplace.  Leaving aside the strange fact that someone has actually out-Becked Beck, here is the joke:

On Bill O’Reilly’s show, Beck said, laughing all the way to Wells Fargo Bank,

The last thing the country needs is a showboat…I would hope we could get serious candidates who could shake things up by not saying provocative things…

____________________________

According to Roll Call, John Boehner’s “top lieutenants”—Cantor, McCarthy and Hensarling—are warning him they can’t guarantee passage this week of the please-don’t-shut-down-the-government bill unless it has at least $40 billion in cuts.  And even that much may not work.  Some Tea Party Republicans are demanding the whole enchilada.

Democrats, who have been too quick to play this one on Republican budget-cutting turf, do seem to be sticking to their $33 billion offer and it is now likely that any deal with that number in it will have to pass the House with Democratic votes. 

All of that will mean that Boehner will lose face this time with the Tea Party and during the upcoming debt ceiling debate will have to try harder to prove to teapartiers that he is as mad—in both senses—as they are. 

That should be fun.

Conservative “Journalism” And NPR

In yet another sad example of how conservative “journalism” is ruining real journalism, we now know that “several influential journalists” “regret” giving the fraudulent James O’Keefe’s video sting of NPR “wider circulation without scrutinizing them.”

That bit of melancholic news was reported today in a story broadcast on NPR, which finally got its act together and did some digging into the raw, unedited two-hour footage of the O’Keefe operation.  And to no one’s surprise this side of Bill O’Reilly, O’Keefe has been exposed—again— for the miscreant he is.

I saw O’Keefe on CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, where he claimed he was a real journalist and where he said, as NPR quotes him,

The tape is very honest. The tape cuts to the core of who these people are.

Never mind that O’Keefe, who ran afoul of the law in Louisiana trying to conduct another unprofessional sting on Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, attempted to judge an entire news organization by the words of a fundraiser. 

But one would think O’Keefe would at least present what that fundraiser said honestly, if what he said was so egregious.  But nope. He couldn’t even do that.

NPR reporter David Folkenflik quotes former broadcaster Al Tompkins who now teaches journalism at the Poynter Institute:

“What I saw was an executive at NPR expressing overtly political opinions that I was really uncomfortable with,” Tompkins said. “Particularly the way the video was edited, it just seemed he was spouting off about practically everything.”

But Tompkins said his mind was changed by watching that two-hour version.

“I tell my children there are two ways to lie,” Tompkins said. “One is to tell me something that didn’t happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think they employed both techniques in this.”

Many of the same dishonest techniques used to distort what ACORN employees said and did—which led to the death of that organization and made O’Keefe famous on Fox—were used to distort the picture of what NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller said to whom he thought were potential Islamic donors.

O’Keefe’s point was to taint NPR by portraying Schiller (and his associate who was present) as typical representatives of the news organization who were sympathetic to sharia-loving Muslim donors who also saw “Zionist influence” in our news coverage. Except Schiller—six times—made the following point on the unedited tape:

There is such a big firewall between funding and reporting: Reporters will not be swayed in any way, shape or form.

NPR asked a digital forensics consultant to review the tapes, who personally said he found some of Schiller’s responses disturbing. But the story continues:

But by analyzing time stamps, Menz concluded that many of Schiller’s remarks in that shorter video are presented out of sequence from the questions that were posed.

“For me, in my background, it immediately puts things into question,” Menz said. “You really don’t know what context these were in, what was going on in the 20 minutes before and after this question was asked.”

Take the political remarks. Ron Schiller speaks of growing up as a Republican and admiring the party’s fiscal conservatism. He says Republican politicians and evangelicals are becoming “fanatically” involved in people’s lives.

But in the shorter tape, Schiller is also presented as saying the GOP has been “hijacked” by Tea Partiers and xenophobes.

In the longer tape, it’s evident Schiller is not giving his own views but instead quoting two influential Republicans — one an ambassador, another a senior Republican donor. Schiller notably does not take issue with their conclusions — but they are not his own.

Today’s NPR story characterized Al Tompkins’ assessment of O’Keefe’s video as “repeatedly and blatantly unfair.”  He also said,

I think that Ron Schiller actually did a fairly remarkably good job of explaining how NPR works and what you can and cannot expect if you contribute money to the NPR Foundation.

And none other than the editor of Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Scott Baker, told NPR that he had what must have been a rather grudging respect for the professionalism of the two NPR fundraising executives:

I think if you look at two hours in total, you largely get an impression that these are pretty — they seem to be fairly balanced people, trying to do a fairly good job.

Well, it’s much too late for that accounting, given that mainstream media ran with the phony story and NPR’s board overreacted and handed heads to O’Keefe and his Fox supporters.

But maybe, just maybe, next time real journalists won’t be so quick to act on the word of a conservative activist pretending to be a muckraker.

George Will Rats Out Wisconsin Governor

George Will has done us a favor by ratting out Governor Scott Walker.

But first:

Will’s latest assault on public employee unions is full of his usual lack of candor dressed up as an excess of it.  Writing about the goings-on in Madison, Wisconsin, he says:

This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election.

The convulsion is, of course, a convulsion of democracy, which Mr. Will and his fellow conservatives like Glenn Beck—whom Will resembles more and more with each column—just don’t seem to like all that much.

Unless the convulsive sowers have tea bags hanging from their hats.

Beck said on his radio show on Tuesday:

What is the job of he AFL-CIO?  I contend the job of the AFL-CIO is to create a global disruption…sowing the seeds of a global revolution.

So we have:

Will: “government employees sowing disorder.”

Beck: “AFL-CIO…sowing the seeds of a global revolution.”

As they say, paranoid minds think alike.

George Will (or Glenn Beck) never once characterized Tea Party town hall protesters as sowers of disorder, whose delirious democratic seizures were by design intended to repeal the 2008 election.  Not once. 

But nevermind that inconsistency. Here’s the ratting-out part:

In his Beckish column, Will’s Reaganization—deification, for conservatives—of Governor Scott Walker merely repeats the half-truths, quarter-truths, and lies that is the “it’s my story and I’m sticking to it” strategy of the Governor and his Republican allies. 

But we’ve heard all the misleading statements of the Governor.  No need to recount those. What we haven’t heard, and what Will contributes to the controversy, is this little paragraph about Walker’s motives:

I am convinced,” he says, “this is about money – but not the employees’ money.” It concerns union dues, which he wants the state to stop collecting for the unions, just as he wants annual votes by state employees on re-certifying the unions. He says many employees pay $500 to $600 annually in union dues – teachers pay up to $1,000. Given a choice, many might prefer to apply this money to health care premiums or retirement plans. And he thinks “eventually” most will say about the dues collectors, “What do we need this for?”

There it is for all to see.  No need to learn it from a Democrat or a union leader. The Governor’s goal is to make unions unnecessary by starving them to death, sort of the way Republicans have starved government through massive tax cuts, hoping to shrink it small enough to drown it in a Koch cocktail.

From the start, this was all about killing the public employee unions and there is no hiding that fact now.

And we have George Will, who had hoped to apotheosize Scott Walker, to thank for it.

A Conservative Intellectual Punts On MSNBC

The Republican “News” Channel’s Bill Kristol made a rare appearance on MSNBC this morning on Morning Joe.  He was promoting a collection of essays written by his father, Irving, the New York intellectual who is credited with fathering neoconservatism.

Kristol was asked, of course, about his recent editorial, which criticized Glenn Beck for his “rants about the caliphate.” Kristol didn’t exactly take the bait and go after Beck:

I’m not gonna get in a debate with Glenn Beck here on MSNBC.  I’ll debate him on Fox where we’re  “fair and balanced,” where we have these debates among ourselves.

Ha.  Don’t put too much money on that debate materializing.

But Kristol did make some slight news regarding Sarah Palin, for whom he lobbied hard to make her not only the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008, but, God help us, the Vice President of the United States.  Willie Geist asked Kristol if he overestimated Palin and if she was still “fit to be a national Republican leader“:

KRISTOL: Well, I think she’s still “fit” to be a national Republican leader. One thing I’ve never liked is a bunch of people like me telling everyone who’s fit to do what. If she wants to run she’s more that entitled to run. She’s earned the right, I think, to put herself before the voters…I have quite a lot of confidence in Republican voters to take a look at these ten or twelve or fifteen people who will be on the stage in debate after debate…and I think we’ll learn a lot as we go through that…I have a high regard for Sarah Palin, but I will say I’ve been a little disappointed since she resigned as governor.  I thought she had a real chance to take the lead on a few policy issues, to do a little more in terms of framing the policy agenda.  I don’t think she’s particularly done that, but she’s a shrewd woman and I certainly wouldn’t underestimate her.

GEIST: Has she lived up to the potential you saw in her in Alaska?

KRISTOL:  Maybe not quite.  But she’s young and she could do it in this campaign or she could do it four or eight years from now.

That, my friends, is the way it is on the intellectual Right these days.

Given a chance to thoroughly discredit Glenn Beck, who is clearly a citizen of a very strange and dark land, Bill Kristol punted. 

Given a chance to say what nearly all right-wing brains will admit after several glasses of Boehner-approved Merlot—that Palin is in over her head and will never become President of the United States—Kristol says he is “a little disappointed,” but she is a “shrewd woman,” who could still live up to her potential.

And so, the intellectual decline of conservatism continues.

Madman

 “What I am saying to you is that we have all the conditions for millions of dead, if we don’t calmly and rationally fix reason firmly in her seat.”

—Glenn Beck

“Madmen never have doubts.”

—G. K. Chesterton

 

I have watched Glenn Beck this week. 

Amid his blackboard jungle, he pieced together his “theory” of what is happening in Egypt and why it is happening. And I couldn’t help but think of a quote from G. K. Chesterton: 

The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. 

This week, as nearly every week before, on his Fox loom Beck has woven an assortment of disparate and diverse facts, misinterpreted and misunderstood and misrepresented, into a simplistically reasonable narrative, designed for consumption by eager and earnest students of dark and demonic conspiracies.

A madman impregnates nearly every fact with Meaning. Nothing much happens that is not somehow connected with something else in our orchestrated, if atonal cosmos.  There are protests in Egypt. There are communists. There are socialists. There is the Muslim Brotherhood. There is Barack Obama. What is lacking is a story teller, a simple, humble Dream Weaver, who can put the pieces of the plot together for us; who can see what others cannot; who can pick up the scattered threads of experience and fashion a wonderfully descriptive tapestry and sell it to the gullible, to the blind who see through everything. 

Chesterton again: 

Such is the madman of experience; he is commonly a reasoner, frequently a successful reasoner. Doubtless he could be vanquished in mere reason, and the case against him put logically. But it can be put much more precisely in more general and even æsthetic terms. He is in the clean and well-lit prison of one idea: he is sharpened to one painful point. He is without healthy hesitation and healthy complexity.

That is Glenn Beck. He is in a clean and well-lit prison of one idea. He is sharpened to one painful point. He is without healthy hesitation and healthy complexity. 

Here is what he said yesterday: 

Planet Earth. I find myself in an exceptionally humbling position. That for the first time in mankind, one man can stand in a—quite honestly—a dumpy little studio in New York City and his voice can be heard all around the world. Hear me carefully: Humans, we made a promise to each other—didn’t we?—to never forget. It is at this point in the monologue that I could just say Hamas and Code Pink and those on the Left are just anti-Semites. I could question their motives about policies. I could connect them to the White House. I’m not saying any of this now. What I am saying to you is that we have all the conditions for millions of dead, if we don’t calmly and rationally fix reason firmly in her seat. This is pretty important, don’t you think? Look at the cold, hard facts. 

Those facts of course are that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and Van Jones and other Leftists are conspiring—not just overseas in places like Egypt, but here in America—to engineer a socialist revolution and “to put an end to the Western way of life,” even if it means millions of dead Jews and millions of dead Americans. 

There simply isn’t any way of doing his madness justice without actually sitting down and watching it unfold before your eyes and ears. Beck is the Braveheart of straw man warfare. He is fearless in attacking a brand of liberalism that at best is or was held by only a handful of misguided maniacs. His husbandry is dramatically efficient at rooting out the rootless. He is the sleuth who can solve the uncommitted crime. He can see the scaffolding around a house no one is building, while he erects a cathedral of conspiracies in which his paranoid followers can worship their unknown and unknowable gods. 

After playing a short video segment from a Common Cause rally in Palm Springs, created by the discredited conservative zealot Andrew Breitbart and featuring a few unhinged people and their racist and murderous comments, Beck said this: 

If you are a Democrat, this is not who you are. But this is the people that your party has gotten into bed with. And it’s like an STD. If you sleep with them you’re infected. And look at who they’re sleeping with. People who want to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews!

That’s how it works. From a few disturbed people at a rally in California to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Hamas in Gaza and back to the Democratic Party in America. It’s a conspiratorial circle. As Chesterton noted about the madman’s argument: “We have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out.” 

“Madmen,” Chesterton tells us, “never have doubts.” But what they do have, he avers, is “the combination of an expansive and exhaustive reason with a contracted common sense.”

As I said, I have watched Glenn Beck this week. And I have seen in action a gifted madman with an expansive and exhaustive reason, which he uses to construct a reality that not only reveals a contracted common sense, but no real sense at all.

Egypt: The View From The Paranoid Right

Since nearly every sensible thing that can be said has been said this weekend regarding the upheaval in Egypt, I thought I would look in on what the right-wing is saying.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are so far playing it safe, essentially approving of the Obama administration’s cautious response to the crisis. But it’s only Monday.

Unfortunately, Egypt is not observable from Wasilla, so Sarah Palin hasn’t yet tweeted her foreign policy advice to the world.  But it’s only Monday. I’m sure after she catches up on her weekend reading, she will offer up some profound analysis.

Bill Kristol, a Fox “News” neocon who agitated for war against Iraq as early as 1998 and who has urged the U.S. to launch a military strike against Iran, has not yet called for invading Egypt and ousting Mubarak.  That’s always a good thing, but it’s only Monday.  

Kristol, who always knows what we should do in every tricky situation, did say the Administration was “a little slow in reacting to events and said a couple foolish things.”  Apparently, patience and deliberation is not a virtue in the Kristol family.

Speaking of a lack of patience and deliberation: The Glenn Beck News Service, The Blaze, featured this headline:

The story, written by Jonathon Seidl and complete with a Goldline ad, is one of those “connecting the dots” specials, which are the forte of the paranoid Right. It seems that the American Left, some of whom rallied this weekend in support of the Egyptian people, is encouraging the uprising because,

the power vacuum that would result from a government collapse would make the country a prime target for a socialist takeover.

Even though the protests in Egypt have been decidedly unrelated to Western politics, that’s not the way it is seen through the eyes of fearful right-wingers, at least when it comes to the motives of those Americans who support Egyptian freedom:

Is it really about democracy, then, as some of the signs suggest?

Not really. The reality seems to be closer to something like this: when a revolution opposes a leftist dictator, leftists and socialists ignore it. When a revolution opposes an American ally (particularly an ally as pivotal to U.S. security as the Egyptian alliance is) leftists and socialists support it. Succinctly put, the groups have a vested interest in the current American system being defeated (a goal shared by leftist dictators). That’s why they can support Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and even Hussein, but rally against someone such as Mubarak.

In the same vein, Red State, a popular right-wing site operated by Erick Erickson, now a CNN commentator, featured this headline:

The story takes the Beckian view one step further and involves the Obama administration in the plot to make Egypt and the Middle East a socialist paradise:

For all the lack of clarity on where the Obama administration stands, one thing is becoming more and more clear: Signs are beginning to point more toward the likelihood that President Obama’s State Department, unions, as well as Left-leaning media corporations are more directly involved in helping to ignite the Mid-East turmoil than they are publicly admitting.

Meanwhile, Dick Morris, another Foxinating right-winger who sees an Islamic terrorist hiding behind every crisis tree, is urging the U.S. to “send a signal to the military that it will be supportive of its efforts to keep Egypt out of the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists.He wrote:

The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran…

Now is the time for Republicans and conservatives to start asking the question: Who is losing Egypt? We need to debunk the starry eyed idealistic yearning for reform and the fantasy that a liberal democracy will come from these demonstrations. It won’t. Iranian domination will.

It appears that some on the Right, who night and day lie and stoke fear about Obama’s imaginary disregard for the freedoms of Americans, don’t mind if he helps squash the yearnings of Egyptians who want liberty—and jobs—in their own land.

We really run the risk of some Iranian style regime emerging in the end here,” foreign policy expert Sean Hannity said on Friday.

And even though the real experts discount that possibility (the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly represents around 20% of the population), it doesn’t matter. What matters is that however the situation in Egypt ends, Obama will have either done too much or too little.  He will either have sided with the Egyptian dictator or sided with the Muslim Brotherhood or engineered a socialist revolution.  

And to think it’s only Monday.

 

Martin Luther King Day, 2011

Martin Luther King was in many ways a conservative. 

He preached a brand of Christianity that at least in words, if not in deeds, most conservative evangelicals could embrace. 

He had no desire to injure or destroy America, despite its injustices to blacks and to the poor, often one and the same. 

He argued for peaceful change within the rules of society, a highly conservative stance. 

But Martin Luther King was also and obviously a liberal. 

And to honor that liberalism on this MLK day, I offer an excerpt from his, “imaginary letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul,” from November of 1956

I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism….

The misuse of Capitalism can…lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept.

You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe “enough and to spare” for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.

I have often heard Glenn Beck praise Dr. King on his radio and television shows. Other conservatives, too. But I’ve never heard them embrace the sentiments expressed above, through the voice of Paul the Apostle, which were central to King’s activism.

Why not?

Glenn Beck: Billy Long Must Be A Democrat

Not only did the stars of right-wing media, Drudge and Sean Hannity and Alex Jones, get wind of and make wind of the Clay Bowler-Billy Long-FBI issue, but perhaps the biggest (I mean, nuttiest) star of all did too: Glenn Beck.

On Friday’s radio show, Beck led with this:

Clay Bowler has become active in politics. Starting last year, he didn’t support Billy Long, the Democrat running for Congress in his Missouri district, so he started a website, he began attending campaign events.  He even started asking the candidate tough questions.  But when Long eventually won, Bowler and his website, Long is Wrong, went away.  So, when the FBI showed up at his door recently, saying he was perceived to be making threats to the congressman, he was shocked.

Get that?  Long is a Democrat!  A bleeping Democrat!  No wonder he trampled the Constitution!

Now, anyone can get a name or a party affiliation wrong, but it’s not surprising that Beck assumed Long was a Democrat because Long, along with Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, were apparently worried about a Tea Party conservative blogger.  What else could Long be?  If you’re not from southwest Missouri and you’ve never heard of Ozark Billy, you just assume he’s a Democrat because Democrats routinely ignore the Constitution to do things like sic the FBI on right-wing bloggers. Right?

Even Clay Bowler found it necessary to correct Mr. Beck:

Glenn Beck led off yesterday’s show condemning Congressman Billy Long for abusing his powers and launching an FBI witch hunt of a blogger who simply disagreed with him. Beck told his large radio audience, “American citizens are being investigated for simply asking their congressmen questions.” If you listen to the audio, Beck assumes because of Long’s actions that he is a Democrat. No, Long, who has been telling the Washington DC Press Corp, he was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, abused his federal powers to come down on a Tea Partier who criticized him and is a Republican.

Whew! I’m glad we got that cleared up. 

Here is the Glenn Beck audio, courtesy of Mr. Bowler:

Ideas Matter, Otherwise Why Bother?

Naturally, conservatives are on the defensive.

I want to say up front that I will agree with any conservative who protests that what happened in Tucson is not directly related to anything said or done by anyone on the near or middle or even the far Right.

But as George Will demonstrated in his column published today in the Joplin Globe, conservatives have a problem with that choice of words:

On Sunday, the [New York] Times explained Tucson: “It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But . . .”  The “directly” is priceless.

The basis for Will’s snooty objection is that progressives, acting as charlatans and political opportunists, always use “bad sociology” to explain to superstition-riddled minds that there is a connection between ideas and behavior. 

The argument, which Will has used frequently in some form or another, goes like this (using my George Will Disgronificator, the translation is in the parentheses):

1. There exists a “timeless human craving” for “banishing randomness and the inexplicable from human experience.”  (Translation: People don’t like leaving things to chance or mysterious forces.)

2. “A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment.” (Translation: Non-conservatives are gullible and believe that every single act by a human being can be traced to something in society, often something bad.  Conservatives, of course, know better.)

3. Progressives have created a “political doctrine” (“the crux of progressivism”) that exploits the above two Facts about humanity. The doctrine goes like this: “given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected.” (Translation: Liberals tell the gullible masses that if we just get rid of all the bad stuff in society, people will stop doing bad things.)

Now, if you are a liberal or a progressive and you don’t recognize yourself as the charlatan in Will’s argument, don’t feel too bad about it.  I am a liberal and I know a lot of liberals and I don’t know one single liberal who believes what Will claims we believe. 

I’m not saying there aren’t such people; I’m just saying that I don’t know any of them.  It may be that, in the lofty world George Will inhabits, people with frontal lobes the size of watermelons say such things.  I suppose that’s possible.

But I and the liberals I know don’t think human beings can be perfected by any means here on earth.  What we do think is that we can make society a better place to live and we don’t have to leave things completely to chance, or to the Darwinian brand of conservatism in fashion today.

Indeed, Will himself has been a critic of that Darwinian brand of conservatism—libertarianism.  Early into the Age of Reagan, he said that the label “Libertarian conservative” is as self-contradictory as “promiscuous celibate.”  He wrote that a misplaced attachment to laissez-faire philosophy makes conservatives,

deeply ambivalent about government, and reluctant to use it as an instrument of conservative values, tempering and directing social dynamism… Real conservatism is about balancing many competing values… and always requires resistance to libertarianism (the doctrine of maximum freedom for private appetites) because libertarianism is a recipe for the dissolution of public authority, social and religious traditions, and other restraints needed to prevent license from replacing durable, disciplined liberty.”

This was, of course, long before the rise of the anti-government Tea Party and a revival of Ayn Rand’s ideas of dog-eat-dog capitalism, but it demonstrates, as does Will’s 1983 book, Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does, that once George Will understood that in any society ideas have consequences, although it is often hard to measure with precision the exact causes and effects.

No, conservatives or libertarians or libertarian-conservatives or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck didn’t directly cause the massacre in Tucson.  And it is entirely possible that the anti-government propaganda shouted night and day on television and radio by people on the Right—aided and abetted by Republican politicians—had no indirect effect either. 

But it is unworthy of an intellectual spokesman of the Right—who makes a living by sharing his ideas—to argue that liberals are charlatans who exploit the superstition of the masses because we take seriously the notion that cultural ideas do have cultural consequences, as hard as they are to measure.  And it is folly to criticize us because we also take seriously the notion that we may be able to avoid the bad cultural consequences by countering the bad ideas.

As Edmund Burke, one of George Will’s heroes, said,

The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.

Does Antonin Scalia Have Alzheimer’s?

Whatever Glenn Beck has been smoking the past few years, he must have passed the pipe to Antonin Scalia.

Or maybe it’s just an early sign of Alzheimer’s.  In both cases.

Whatever it is, Scalia has managed to make himself look like a Tea Party nut, which really isn’t that hard for a Republican to do these days.

When asked whether “we’ve gone off in error” by applying the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to both sex discrimination and sexual orientation, the judicial fundamentalist said:

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that…

I’m not going to bother quoting the rest of his statement, but I will bother to quote the relevant language in the Fourteenth Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You may wonder how anyone can misunderstand the words “nor deny any person…the equal protection of the laws.” You may wonder, but not a man who fashions himself an “originalist,” which is just another way of saying he is the Jerry Falwell (Devil rest his soul) of constitutional interpretation.

You see, the Bible says God created the world in six days, science be damned. And the Constitution says women and gays (and by logical extension, Latinos, Jews and female Blacks) don’t have equal protection because those who wrote and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t particularly have women or gays or Latinos or Jews or female Blacks in mind when they did so.

So, under Scalia’s Falwellian judicial philosophy, if women, and others not originally and explicitly envisioned as deserving equal protection of the law, want that equal protection, they will have to get the legislature to guarantee it. “Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law,” Scalia says.

Never mind that conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger—and all of his colleagues—ruled in 1971 that women were protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. And never mind that here in 21st century America it is just plain silly to construe the Constitution in such a way that eliminates equal protection of the law for more than half of the population.

And never mind that Scalia’s originalist interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment turned to goo when it was politically convenient. As Adam Cohen pointed out:

Justice Scalia doesn’t even have consistency on his side. After all, he has been happy to interpret the equal-protection clause broadly when it fits his purposes. In Bush v. Gore, he joined the majority that stopped the vote recount in Florida in 2000 — because they said equal protection required it. Is there really any reason to believe that the drafters — who, after all, were trying to help black people achieve equality — intended to protect President Bush’s right to have the same procedures for a vote recount in Broward County as he had in Miami-Dade? (If Justice Scalia had been an equal-protection originalist in that case, he would have focused on the many black Floridians whose votes were not counted — not on the white President who wanted to stop counting votes.)

I think this is an appropriate time to remind everyone that Antonin Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986.  He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a remarkably close vote: 98 to 0.

Can anyone today imagine a judicial nominee who is as far to the left as Scalia is to the right getting a seat on the court with a 98-0 vote?  Heck, such a nominee wouldn’t even get all the Democratic votes.

In any case, Scalia was chosen by Reagan for two reasons: he was very young and he didn’t have too many of those tell-tale opinions floating around that would clue us in to his Falwellian fundamentalism.

It’s sort of like if the Falwellian Jerry Falwell wanted to infiltrate the Unitarian Universalist Church, he would have to do so before they discovered he was a uber-Baptist who believed that Unitarians were headed straight for hell.

But for all his talents (his opinions are fun to read), we can now regard Antonin Scalia as, in the best case but still sadly, Glenn Beck with a law degree.  Is Goldline a sponsor of today’s conservatie Supreme Court?

Or, in the worst case, we are observing the first ravages of dementia, as Alzheimer’s sinks its teeth into the brain of a man whose faulty fealty to literalism seemingly knows no bounds.

I say “seemingly” because maybe we are merely observing the behavior of a man who is nothing but a hack for the Republican Party. Here is Adam Cohen again on the Citizens United decision, in which Scalia and is conservative colleagues anthropomorphized corporations:

It is a strange view of the Constitution to say that when it says every “person” must have “equal protection,” it does not protect women, but that freedom of “speech” — something only humans were capable of in 1787 and today — guarantees corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

A strange view, indeed.  But not if you are a Republican.

Glenn Beck’s Toasty White Friends

On his radio show this morning, Glenn Beck, who peddles fear for ca$h, said during a particularly inane conversation with a particularly inane caller:

If you are white or you are an American citizen or a white American citizen you are pretty much toast.

Ca-Ching! 

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for November, 2010:

Black folks: 16%,

Hispanics: 13.2%

Toasty Whites: 8.9%.

Meanwhile, the median household income for 2009:

Blacks: $32,750

Hispanics: $38,039

Toasty Whites Alone, not Hispanic: $54,461 

Meanwhile, the median family net worth in 2007 dollars:

Non Toasty White or Hispanic: $27,800

Toasty White, non-Hispanic: $170,400

Meanwhile, millions of Americans who follow Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh pretend that there is absolutely no racial ingredient in their toxic stew of sudden solicitude for the wellbeing of America, by which they mean the wellbeing of white folks.

And those white folks seem to be doing just fine compared to those scary, if underachieving, dark people.

The Glenn Beck Paradox, Part 2

I wrote the following in response to some very thoughtful comments on my post, “The Glenn Beck Paradox.”  If  philosophy-talk is not your idea of a good time, then avoid the following:

_____________________

To all,

I just love these philosophical discussions.

First, of course it is good advice not to just put trust or faith in any one person or idea, but to seek out all the information one can in a finite period of time.  But at some point, one has to stop looking and make up one’s mind.  G. K. Chesterton said,

The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

The point of the post was to raise the sticky issue of epistemology (“What is knowledge and how do we come to know what it is we think we know”) in the context of someone (Beck) who clearly wants people to take his word for things, despite his urging them not to.  That is one of the oldest tricks in the Book of Demagoguery.

Despite Beck’s pleading, “Don’t take my or anyone else’s word for anything,” I was simply trying to point out that there are limits to skepticism.  Even science makes assumptions about the universe which cannot be proven, and without those assumptions, we would not have “knowledge” in the sense most of us use the word.

Fundamental among the assumptions of science would be the “real” existence of the physical universe (and other minds).  Science also assumes natural causation (the root of most conflicts between religion and science).  Scientific reasoning assumes that explanations for things happening in our universe can and will only be found in nature itself.  And, further, the evidence supporting those explanations will only come from the natural world, which, science assumes, has an operating consistency we would call predictability or “order.”

Oddly, none of these assumptions in science can be proven by science.

But notwithstanding the epistemological (and causation) problems in science, I raised the epistemology issue in the Beck post because it has always been a mystery to me how we come to know what we believe we know. 

Given the fact that none of us have infinite time to explore issues, how do we come to sound conclusions?  How much do we need to read and from what sources?  How much weight do we give a particular source?  Don’t we naturally give more weight to sources who share our worldview?  But, then, why do we have that worldview in the first place?  Where do we actually get our basic views?  Our opinions?  Even our assumptions?

I realize a lot of folks know the things they know because their truth meters are calibrated by their parents or priests or pastors.  But I know a lot of people who have rejected their childhood training, some radically so.  What’s the difference between those that do and those that don’t?

These things have fascinated me even before I did a 180 degree turn, as far as my political (and for the most part, my religious) views are concerned.  I can tell you what real-world events I think (I “assume”) led me to change my mind about conservatism, but I can’t tell you how those events actually “caused” that change, if in fact they really did.  Lots of people confront things that challenge their philosophy, but they don’t change their views.  They mostly stick with them.  Why is that?

I was so fascinated by this topic that I once e-mailed Alvin Plantinga, the great Christian philosopher, who is a first-class thinker and who is credited with rehabilitating theism’s respectability among professional philosophers.  I had understood his explanation of a belief in God as a “properly basic belief,” but I wondered how he could also consider confidence in the veracity of the Bible as a properly basic belief, too.  He referred me to a chapter in one of his books, in which he explains how the “conditions” for such a basic belief can be met.  Is he right?  Beats me.  Wish I knew.  I can only say I don’t believe he is.

But I do believe we have to have some sort of confidence that we can reason our way to justifiable beliefs and that what we then believe corresponds to the way things are, which in turn leads us to the way things “ought” to be.  

I am at present reading Sam Harris’ new book, The Moral Landscape, in which he argues that not only can science “determine human values,” it is our only reliable guide for doing so.  I started out as being somewhat skeptical of his claim, but I am becoming more convinced.  Again, how does such “convincing” work?  Beats me. Wish I knew. I can only say I am coming to believe he is right.

Finally, I believe in the power of scientific reasoning because it appears to represent the best hope we have of not only discovering valuable and useful knowledge about the universe, but about ourselves.

Oh, I do believe something else: Glenn Beck doesn’t have the foggiest idea what scientific reasoning is, and his lack of understanding is infecting others, as this audio clip demonstrates:

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